It is said in the Book of Kings that the great prophet Elijah looked for G-d within the mighty wind, the shattering earthquake, the raging flames, only to find…”And after the fire—a still, small voice.”
A still, small voice… a small voice that some of us hear sporadically and others, like modern day prophets, use as their inspiration to write poetry and lyrics. These, our contemporary Jewish songwriters, like the prophets of old, attempt to remind us of our ethics, values and spirituality. They search and raise their voices in song.
“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence.” — Paul Simon
What did these words mean to so many individuals over the years? Where did these words take us? How did we search for not just the meaning of the lyrics, but the meaning of life? “Hello, darkness, my old friend.”
Leonard Cohen searched the psalms with “Hallelujah,” Yom Kippur liturgy with “Who By Fire?” and the Torah with the “Story of Isaac,” but also searched deep within our psyche for the hope of humanity.
“There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
And then there is our most recent Nobel laureate…Bob Dylan. Spanning the decades from “Blowin’ in the Wind” to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Bob has looked within and without simultaneously. In Every Grain of Sand, the search for oneself within a greater framework of faith:
“I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.”
Whether it’s now or then…prophets have strived to communicate an ethical way life. “G-d has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d?” (Micah 6:8)
Mark Lazar is a contributing writer to Kiddish magazine.