There is a place in the world of Facebook that was created as a refuge where people could come together to share, and benefit from, the gift of song.
Last fall, Jewish singer/songwriters Beth Schafer and Stacy Beyer laid the groundwork for “Harmony in Unison,” a “virtual stage” on Facebook, where musicians have been performing original music since January on Sunday-Thursday each week.
In her book Einstein and the Rabbi, Rabbi Naomi Levy quoted a teaching of the rabbis that noted that “there are ten levels of prayer, and above them is song.” Music has the potential to enable our spirits to soar.
On Monday, October 23, I offered my third performance on the Harmony in Unison Virtual Stage. I titled my set “Conversations with God,” which gave me an opportunity to perform some of my original songs based on texts from the book of Psalms.
The biblical book of Psalms brings together ancient songs and prayers that have had a lasting appeal because they speak to our joys, our love, our grief, and the challenges which we face every day. Psalms declare that, even when everything may seem hopeless, there are still reasons to be optimistic and to trust that good things will come our way.
The first song I chose for my set, based on Psalm 139, begins, “You know me, inside and out, through and through.” When a friend of mine, who wasn’t sure about her belief in God, once asked me about how to approach the book of Psalms, I cited this song (called “Where Can I Run?”) and Psalm. I explained that it is the people who know us “inside and out, through and through” who have an uncanny ability to point us in right direction just when we need crucial counsel and guidance. I believe that there is a depth of spirit in our closest relationships, in which some people might see a touch of a divine presence.
Psalm 34 includes a declaration, “Taste and see that God is good.” That line suggests a way that we might approach life in general. We try to strike a balance between our best times and our difficult days, hoping that it is the good that will endure. The chorus for the song I created based on that Psalm asks and proclaims: “Is there love enough for giving? Is there goodness enough to fill our days? When I taste and see that life’s worth living, I will sing this song of praise.” The praise is an expression of the trust we have that our own lives do have inherent value because of all that we do and because of the people who are our companions along our journey.
Psalm 97 proclaims, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” What struck me about that statement is that it suggests that light -- perhaps in the form of understanding, wisdom, and mutual respect--is a response to our acts of righteousness and justice. Creating a society based on justice and righteousness could lead us to the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that we so deeply desire in American society.
Across many musical genres, singer/songwriters give voice to feelings, concerns and hopes that many people share. May we be open to those harmonious expressions that can touch our souls and could, ultimately, unite us as one.