Music has always had a strong control over me, despite the fact that I’m not musical. I can’t play a single instrument and when I sing, there is plenty left to be desired. But that doesn’t stop me from making music a part of my everyday life. This is not unique to me; much of the world loves music the way I do.

Music enhances everything I feel or do. Chores are made easier, and lonesome nights are made less so. It comforts, yet it also draws my deepest feelings to the surface, adding a layer of intensity to whatever is already going on. Music enhances everything I feel or doGood lyrics speak to my mind, a perfect melody speaks to my heart, and sweet music nudges my soul.

But there is only one genre that encompasses every part of me—waking up my mind, my heart and my soul, forcing them together to create an orchestra of fragile emotions. Heartfelt in every way, it has been passed down through the ages. I speak about a niggun, which is sung without any words.

I ask you to join me. Put on a pair of your best headphones or earbuds. Do not continue reading until you hear the music in your ears.

The tablecloth is white, the candles flicker, shadows dance on the wall. The food on the table is halfway between the first and third courses.

The house is quiet, the children’s bellies full of chicken soup. My father is singing. My mother, never one to belt out a tune, is sitting alongside him, surveying the scene in front of her. I always wondered what it might be that she sees when she looks at us, her homemade brood.

As a child, Friday night was the crux of my week. As an adult, I look forward to it eagerly as well. My parents handcrafted aMy soul is awakened, as if it could hear someone warm, wonderful, sweet feeling that I now am able to feel even when they are far away. Deeply embedded in this warm feeling is the sound of niggunim. My father always sings niggunim at Shabbat meals—beautiful ones, unique ones, and it was my greatest joy to sing with him. Even I, who yearns to put everything I feel into words, cannot accurately describe that feeling. This is why a niggun has to be listened to and not imagined because there are things only a niggun can say.

My soul is awakened, as if it could hear someone calling its name. It stirs slowly at first and then begins to become fully alive, as if it finally has a purpose. I hear my soul’s wants and needs, feeling its tears as they come forth. My soul pushes through the barriers I have built and allows itself to be heard, standing up for itself. My soul yearns for its other half, calling out, desperate to be whole.

I’ve lost things in my life; I’ve been broken and trod upon; I’ve been hurt and I’ve hurt others. I have made so many mistakes, and often, my dreams are not as shiny and beautiful when they come to fruition. With each passing day, I leave childhood a little further behind—the safe, warm comforts of my parents’ home—and even though I willingly and eagerly take each step forward, a part of me cries for the chicken soup and niggunim at my parents Shabbat table.

As the niggun climbs—and my family joins in—I feel the rich feelings of victory and excitement. My soul, the master of my body, holds the controls. My feet tap and my heart soars, completely encompassed in a spiritual charge. I feel a deep sense of longing to be more and to connect more. A longing to be a part of something bigger and better than I am.

My soul may live in a forced hibernation at times, forced by my heart and mind to keep quiet, but now it refuses to be silenced. It feels the warmth of the Shabbat candles; the sound of life is all around it. Amazingly, my soul is choosing the direction of my feet, the thoughts that flood my mind, and the wants of my heart. Suddenly, I feel so holy. It is a reassurance that my soul is in the right body; my soul and I have more in common than I think, and when I allow it to speak, it will never be wasteful or unwelcome.

Although I was introduced to niggunim at my parents’ Shabbat table, my father’s voice guiding each one, niggunim have not been left in my childhood. They have followed me, as I have welcomed them into my life at will.

But perhaps the most powerful experiencesMy soul knows that it is not being silenced I’ve had with niggunim is witnessing a large group of people who had not grown up with niggunim in their homes sing together, finding every note, traveling the same journey that I do when I sing a niggun. No matter at what age they learn it—no matter what memories or feelings the niggun brings to the surface—the niggun works its magic on all who listen and sing.

As the niggun ends, my soul feels the absence; it feels the sudden cold harsh feeling of reality, coupled with the heartwarming feelings of finally being listened to.

But my soul knows that it not being silenced forever. Every time I open up the locked doors to its chambers, the locks get a little looser. Because every time I open up that door, I want to spend more time with it. I want to hear more of what my soul is saying; I want my heart and mind to learn from it.

This is what my soul says during a niggun.

Listen to the niggun again. This time, listen to your soul. Let it be heard!