I’m hiking up Boulder, Colorado’s, famous Flatirons, dripping with sweat and nearly out of breath. I hope to beat my previous record by even just a few minutes, so I keep pushing myself to jog just a bit faster. I’m nearing the top. I’m aching. I force myself to keep going. And then, finally, my pains take second place to the triumphant feeling that overtakes me when the Royal Arch finally comes into view. I hope to beat my previous recordI spend a few minutes on the peak, breathing deeply, enjoying my well-earned break. The view is magnificent. I feel completely content.

Abruptly, I stick my headphones in my ears, jump down from my high rock, and begin running down the rocky trail. Euphoria races with me, zigzagging through my veins. The music propels me, and each high note elicits a more daring leap.

Earlier I had been a beggar, pleading with myself for rest and greedily gulping air when the folks ahead of me slowed; now I am king. Other hikers scramble to the side as they hear my pounding footsteps. I don’t listen to their conversations, I don’t notice their gear, I don’t even feel the ground. Endorphins are rushing out to cheer me on and lift me in the air.

I’m flying and nothing can stop me. I’m flying and flying and WOAH—!

I stop. I stop because my music stops.

Not a few-seconds-in-between-songs-that-you-barely-notice-because-the previous-notes-still-linger kind of stop, but a music-is-absolutely-over-because-the-battery-is-absolutely-dead kind of stop.

I examine the lifeless piece of metal. Sigh. Faced with no other option, I pick up my pace to continue my exuberant run. But alas, with no music, there is no exuberance and there is no run. I just can’t seem to propel myself forward without the music fueling me.

I slump my way downhill, and it suddenly dawned on me how foolish I had been. Just moments before I had taken incredible leaps and bounds, but now, without my music player, I am starkly aware that all my energy came from my music, and without it I’ve got nothing to keep me going. All my jumps and spurts and dives were not me; they were just my music. I was living—and running—a lie.

Oh, c’mon! I think to myself. That’s ridiculous. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You can still do your hike; the only difference is that it’s just not as fun and easy and you can’t run as fast and happily and—aaaahhh, why did I ever think that this hike would be a good idea?!


The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything we see and hear should be a lesson in our service of our Creator, so I reflect upon other “musics” that keep me going in my life.


When I prayed in the Me’arat Hamachpelah for the first time, the words of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer had never seemed so bold and so precise: “The G‑d of Abraham, the G‑d of Isaac, the G‑d of Jacob.” I’m HERE!!! Not only am I praying the prayers that our forefathers composed, but I am actually standing right here where they are buried!

I was electrified. I felt all of history pouring into my mind, deep into my soul, and then out through my lips. I was one. I was here. This was it.

The drama of that moment buoyed my concentration during prayer for a good few weeks, and enabled me to maintain the appropriate awe of communicating with the King of Kings. But then it fizzled. Leaving Hebron, other scenes were outside my windows in Tel Aviv and Sweden and California, and other thoughts accompanied my words of prayer. Only when I’d gaze upon my posters and personal photos of the historic Cave would I feel myself transported and enveloped by our ancestors, and their words would take over mine. So I began to develop a little game: As soon as I felt my prayers were wanting, I’d hit “play” on the “Machpelah Soundtrack,” and voilà, I was back on the field.

That was the music for my prayer.


And then there was the time I had to bravely face Shabbat without its usual accompanying music.

“Plantar fasciitis,” Dr. Goldstein had proclaimed.

My blank look invited further explanation.

“You’ll never get into the Arch of the Year Club.”

I laughed nervously.

The doctor carried on talking, explaining that my condition of plantar fasciitis meant that there was an inflammation of the thick tissue that connects my heel bone to my toes and creates the arch of my foot, namely the plantar fascia. He prescribed custom-made orthotics and told me to schedule an appointment for the casting. He wrote down which sneakers would be best to wear, even before the orthotics would be ready, and I hurriedly limped off to the shoe store. I handed my note to a salesperson, who led me to the Dorky Shoe Section and pointed out the two pairs that the doctor recommended. I tried them both on, gasped in delight at the comfort they provided, and chose the better-fitting one, gratified, if not a bit dazed, that I suddenly could walk on two solid feet again.“Plantar fasciitis,” the doctor proclaimed

With only a few hours until the onset of the holy Shabbat, I quickly drove home, my mind reeling. I had gone into the office thinking that he’d tell me I was imagining the pain, and the next thing I knew, I was thrown into a fierce world of fascia and frighteningly unfashionable footwear.

Shabbat.

Holy, pure, majestic, regal.

Shabbat.

Exquisite finery, delectable cuisine, sparkling quarters and . . . chunky white sneakers.

My stomach in knots, I felt ill. I wanted to dress in a regal way to honor the Shabbat Queen, but I couldn’t take any steps without my sneakers. I was torn. I couldn’t walk without them, but I felt too embarrassed to walk out with them. Tears sprang to my eyes. I paced. I heard the guests arriving, bubbling with joy and friendship. I felt horrid. With my weekday appearance, Shabbat had lost its glow. My outfit was a joke as soon as the sneakers came into view.

I stayed in my room for hours. And the next Shabbat as well.

During the week, I learned how to somewhat disguise the very unfeminine and awkward sneakers, but when Shabbat would roll around, I’d be stuck in misery. How could I feel like it was Shabbat when I was dressed for a soccer game?!

But wait, was sitting in pain and self-pity a more fitting offering for the Shabbat Queen?

Was it possible to honor Shabbat even when the festive, elegant and respectful “music” that had regularly accompanied the Shabbat day was silenced?

Yes. Because I could create new music. The glory wouldn’t come from my clothing, but from my inner peace, and I would walk to its beat, head held high.

That Shabbat, I’m pretty sure I saw the Queen nod smilingly at my gift offered from the depths of my soul rather than merely the fabric on my sole.

When the music stops, I can create my own.


This past Chanukah, that ability was uncovered to a greater degree.

Chanukah is a pretty easy holiday, compared to the fasting and praying for nearly 26 hours of Yom Kippur, or the building of and eating in vulnerable sukkah huts for a week, or preparing for and celebrating an eight-day chametz-free Pesach. All we have to do is kindle the menorah in our homes for eight nights. Ok, and maybe taste a jelly doughnut here and there. Somehow, though, every year I manage to schedule at least one trip during the festival, and this year I had to move about a few times, which made things a bit complicated. Transporting my oily equipment time and time again, and finding the most kosher place to light my menorah, proved to be slightly frustrating, and I envied the simplicity of everyone else’s celebrations.

One night, I think it was the sixth, I sat there brooding about my plight. “Everywhere I go, I have to shlep these lights with me.” Whoosh! A flash of realization suddenly illuminated my words. Everywhere I go, I take lights with me. That’s fantastic, not burdensome! Every darkness I encounter sees me equipped with effective weapons of light, effortlessly claiming territory. This Chanukah taught me that I have a light inside my soul, so when the lights go out on the outside, I can and should light up my surroundings from the inside.

After all, who asks for light during the day? Who seeks music during a concert?

It’s when the music stops and the lights go out that we’re called on to dance and to shine.


It’s been nearly six thousand years since the creation of the world. We’ve had brighter periods and darker periods, waxing and waning like the moon, but we’ve yet to experience an ultimate and eternal light.

Today is the eleventh day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. On this day, in 1902, the rhythm of the world was dramatically altered with the birth of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson in the Ukrainian town of Nikolayev. Everywhere I go, I take lights with meAt the age of 48, Rabbi Menachem Mendel officially accepted the mantle of Chabad Chassidic leadership with the call to his followers to bring the G‑dly Shechinah light down to our world for infinity, ushering in the final redemption.

A grand command, but with his constant encouragement and guidance, his disciples set forth at full force and brought back stories of success to their beloved Rebbe, who would appreciate their results and immediately challenge them to double them. And they would.

So, what happened when the seventh and final Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch passed on to the World of Truth?

“Oh, they’ll never last,” people confidently predicted of the chassidic group. “Shame,” they lamented, “they were a pretty solid movement, but now that their leader is not here to lead them, they’ll fall apart.”

But the Chabad chassidim still heard the songs of the Rebbe reverberating loudly in their ears, and they carried on living and spreading his message of preparing the world for the complete and ultimate redemption. Years passed. Two full decades later, and the young children of then are now blazing ahead as if they were “front row seat–ers” at the Rebbe’s empowering gatherings of divine inspiration and mission, but in reality most were never even there.

Their memories are vague at best, and their connection seems to be secondhand, so where does their drive come from? What is setting the tone for their storming the world with goodness and passion? And how do their elders still hear a voice that has been silent for 20 years?

These extraordinary men, women and children have created their own music.

They can’t rely on physical interactions with their Rebbe; no more can they be urged on by a literal swing of the hand, an encouraging remark made face-to-face, or even a focused gaze from across a packed room. No more can they survive on the fuel of years past, so the Chabad chassidim have dug within themselves and found a faith and focus not dependent on the physical presence of their leader. The truth to which he led them years ago is now firmly their own, and now each moves to the unique song he has created. It is their individual yet collective music that propels their outstanding growth and success. And it is this harmony that the world hears, and is causing them to slowly but surely sing similar tunes of determined outreach and loving conquest.


Recently, jogging down Los Angeles’ Runyon Canyon, I saw a girl wearing a T-shirt that read, “Feel The Music.” I smiled, my mind wandering in anticipation of the day when the lights will be so bright and the music will be so resounding that more than seeing and hearing, we will actually feel the unifying and redemptive music of the divine light.