Monday, May 12, 2008

Heresy: A Little Dennis Music

Normally on Friday afternoons, we get ready for Shabbat and have a late dinner at home.
And we would attend services on Saturday morning with some regularity.
Sometimes, we would go to Friday night services, though that was less common.

Since N.'s Bar Mitzvah year ended last summer, and his classmates have all finished up, we have not been going to synagogue services with much regularity at all.
Oh, I chair the Women's Torah Study once a month.
We take N. to Machon on Wednesdays or make sure he gets there--it's rather complicated this term! But when I pick the East Mountain boys up, I arrive just in time to get them.

The truth is that we are feeling uneasy about some things that have happened at the synagogue, and we just do not enjoy the services very much. A beloved pre-school teacher there nearly 25 years was fired suddenly 6 months before retirement.
She taught the Chemistry Geek Princess and N. both. CGP now refuses to go there for any reason at all. She says, "It just doesn't feel Jewish."

I suppose if we lived in town, we would likely still go more often, but it's really hard to justify driving 30 miles for services that feel just sort of lackluster. And yet it also has the quality of being a performance instead of prayer. Maybe. I can't come up with the word I want here. There is a forced quality about it, and I feel like every move I make while praying is scrutinized for correct davening technique. Anyway.
We don't go anymore.

And then there's N. If we decided to go into services, we'd have to leave him alone on Shabbat. He will not step into the sanctuary with one particular synagogue employee unless forced. He says he puts up with this person once a week during Machon and on High Holy Days, and that's all we can ask.

But I also found that I was missing the singing. I mean the singing when we were allowed to sing along. The feeling of peace when I could be lost in singing and sometimes just close my eyes and listen to whatever was behind that singing. There is something about that part, which created a sense of transcendance. But that has not been happening recently. It's hard to transcend on command.

And really, I have not really known what was missing. Or that anything really was missing.
There was just some slight sense of a piece being out of place.

Until Friday night.
Last Friday night we found out, quite by accident, that my teacher and
our friend Dennis was playing at our local Borders Books.
Dennis is a talented musician. He plays guitar, he sings, and he composes.
But Dennis is not a performer. I mean he plays, he cuts CDs. But somehow he is a vessel for the music. It's almost like the music is playing him.
And yet it's definitely his way with the music.

He doesn't tell you what the music means.
He doesn't force you to sing along at certain points.
He doesn't try to orchestrate your reaction to the music.

But he also doesn't mind if you do sing along if the spirit so moves you.
In fact, I'm not sure he notices. He gives you the music, shares it with you in a way that lets you have your own private moment of transcendence.
It's not a performance, and yet it's what performance ought to be all about.

So, since it is now light 'til late, we could have our music and Shabbat at home, too.
And so we went. And I sat down in the leather chair, no book in hand, just a cup of carmel tea, and put my legs over the arm, and closed my eyes.
And Dennis played.
We heard Dan Fogelberg, Beatles songs, Dennis' own compositions, and Paul Stookey.
1930's blues, U2's "40." The Wedding Song.

And I felt it. It was back. That sense of peace and oneness.

Then we went home and I lit the candles.
It was Shabbat. Complete as always.
But more so.

He plays there once a month on a Friday.

I think I've found a different kind of Shabbat service.
No sermon. No lecture on when to bow. No forced explanation of what it all should mean.
Just. Music.
The words stand for themselves.
The music without words is just what it is.
And like Pippa, I sense that "...and all's right with the world.'

I guess I just needed a little Dennis music.


Melora said...

Glad you found something that feels right for you!

Anonymous said...

Are there any other synagogues in the area? I agree, a 30-mile drive for something that doesn't work is a waste.
That's why I love Brooklyn--no driving necessary on Shabbos. OF course, I will have to keep my kids indoors or else explain to the neighbors why the little darlings aren't in playgroup.