Some 30 musicians gathered in Rechovot, Israel, to examine the power of their craft to spread authentic Jewish values and messages. The groundbreaking conference looked at the topic from many angles, including music’s innate ability to touch the soul.

“Music is a vessel of influence,” said Mordechai Brodsky, the acclaimed violinist who spearheaded the conference. “We must first know what we have in our hands so that we can use it correctly.”

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluckowsky, director of the Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinate in Israel, informed the attendees about clear-cut red lines governing behavior on the part of musicians and fans at concerts. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg presented the Kabbalistic analysis of music’s spiritual power.

“Because it affects people’s emotions, music can be very elevating,” said Gluckowsky. It has a tremendous potential to bring people closer to G‑d, he added.

The flip side, however is also true, asserted Gluckowsky. “Some songs can arouse” the exact opposite of holiness. Therefore, “this is a time for introspection. People need to develop a sensitivity” to music’s power.

“The way we play music depends on the type of music, on the musician and on the audience,” said Brodsky. “Ultimately, the musician must want to help those who listen to it.”

Still, sometimes, a traditional work – like a classical Chasidic melody known as a nigun – must not be tampered with.

Since nigunim, in particular, are rooted in the spiritual worlds, they can affect listeners on the spiritual plane, said flutist and composer Avi Piamenta. “We are trying, with G‑d’s help, to reach the inner point of every Jew, and arouse them to come closer to the ways of G‑d.”

Ultimately, said Brodsky, musicians must have respect for their craft.

“One cannot think of music as pareve,” he explained, using the Hebrew term for foods that are neither meat-based nor dairy. “The question is in which direction the music will influence” both the performer and the listener.