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Rav Shlomo Carlebach

The Words and the Melody

From Rabbi David Zeller book "The Soul of the Story"

In 1967, was reading the book The Puer Aeternus (The Eternal Youth) by Marie-Luise von Franz, one of the first-generation Jungians. had met her when was a boy in Switzerland. She wrote many books on fairy tales and their symbolic meaning. This book was an interpretation of The Little Prince, by Saint-Exupery. She was focusing on the archetype of the youth that never grows up: what she called the puer. This included pilots who would not retire at the required age, and then often had fatal crashes, like Saint-Exupery; or mountain climbers who always had to scale one more mountain before quitting, and often fell to their death.

Then read "The Puer and the Senex," an article by another Jungian, James Hillman, which carried von Franz's work a little farther. To the archetype of the puer-the eternal youth, the Peter Pan who was always determined to experience something new, to never settle down-Hillman juxtaposed the archetype of the senex, the old man, fixed and rigid in his ways. For Hillman, these two were different aspects of the same archetype of wholeness, the archetype of process, integration, and completion. One was youthful and curious, always renewing itself. The other, wise and understanding, integrated the new, helping it see its place in the greater whole.

When an archetype first comes to consciousness, it is split. into conflicting opposites. The senex, the wise old man, doesn't want any new or creative input, and the puer doesn't want to hear that this is part of a greater whole. The puer rejects linking with the wisdom of the eternally developing tradition, and the senex guards his hard-won wisdom and rejects anything new or different or threatening. No doubt my father had given me this book on the puer hoping I would come back down to earth after all my high-flying experiences with Shlomo.

This time, with these ideas in mind, I went again to San Francisco to learn with Shlomo. Talking about the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed two thousand years ago, he said that we mourn the Temple's loss to this day, but different people mourn different losses. Yes, we lost the daily animal and incense offerings. We lost the role of the holy priesthood. We lost the Sanhedrin, our parliament of wise sages who kept the tradition together and decided how to live and follow the Torah, the word of God. But more than that, Shlomo said, we lost the music that was played in the Holy Temple.

"I want you to know, there were thousands of instruments and thousands of voices in the Temple. It was the most awesome experience to approach the Holy Temple. Between the smell of the incense and the sound of the music, it was beyond. Beyond!"

He explained how the instruments were more complex and advanced than anything we have today. The instruments of India, Turkey, China, and Japan, and the most wonderful classical harps and wind instruments from the West-these only give a tiny flavor of what these instruments were like. The Romans tried to force the Levites to turn over their secrets of music and instruments, but the Levites refused and chose to die rather than let this heavenly art fall into the wrong hands.

"Can you imagine?" Shlomo asked. "Today everyone is selling the deepest secrets of instruments of destruction! Back then, they would rather die than let these powerful musical instruments wind up in the wrong hands.

"But my sweetest friends," Shlomo continued, "worse than losing the musical instruments is that we lost the melodies. The Prophets, when they gave their prophecies, didn't stand on a soapbox and give a little speech! They sang their message to the people. Yes, we still have a musical chant for the basic words of the Torah and the Prophets, but it's not the same. Every word of Torah was sung, every psalm and prophecy was sung. When we lost the Holy Temple, we lost the melody to the Holy Torah! We lost its deepest inner meaning.

"The saddest thing today, friends, is that we have an older generation that knows all the words. They know every word, and they guard every word, and they teach every word. But, they don't know the melody! They don't know the inside of the inside of the words."

And then Shlomo said, "Today, a whole new generation of young people seems to be so far away from Judaism. But are they? They're moving to a different beat. They hear a heavenly melody. They're dancing a new dance. But, they don't know the words!

"If we could just get the guardians of the tradition to listen to the new melody, and if we could just get these inspired young people to learn some of the words, then, like it says in Psalms, we could 'sing a new song to God!' We could really fix the whole world."


Once again, my worlds of Jung and Judaism came back together; the puer and the senex were there in the melody and the word. Bringing the two together was the healing of our split consciousness. It was the revelation of the lost dimension of the whole Torah. And my words and my melodies were finding their own new and ancient song.

How Do You Teach Torah When You're Angry with God?

From Rabbi David Zeller book "The Soul of the Story"

In 1974, there was a conference - "Torah and Dharma" - in Berkeley, California, focusing on the connections between Judaism and other traditions like Sufism, Zen Buddhism, and Yoga. Representatives of the different traditions were invited, including Reb Shlomo and Reb Zalman. Shlomo, as often happened, was double-booked and couldn't come. There were keynote talks, smaller seminars, and panel discussions. The final panel had all the teachers together for the last questions and answers.

Someone in the audience asked the question: "It appears to me that the Sufis, the Yogis, and the Zen teachers on our panel are all Jewish! Can anyone explain what's going on?"

There was a murmur from the audience and from the panel. Zalman rose to the occasion. "Before I left for the conference, I called up Reb Shlomo and said, 'Shloimele, I'm about to go to the conference in Berkeley. I know you really wanted to be there, too. Do you have anything you want to say to them? The tape recorder is hooked up to the phone and recording.' And this is what he said in answer to your question." And with that Zalman pressed the start button on a tape recorder sitting on the table in front of him.

This is a paraphrase of what Shlomo said. It is one of those classic teachings of his that I have been retelling ever since: My sweetest friends, I'm so sorry I couldn't be with you for this holy gathering, but I'd like to share with you one thought I have, so please open your hearts. The Torah teaches that a Cohen, a priest, must remain in a state of purity if he is to serve God in the Holy Temple. Among the things that would disqualify him was contact with a dead body. The question arises: What was the nature of the impurity? Did the dead body have cooties or carry disease? It appears that the problem was quite different. The impurity stemmed from the confrontation with death: its concept and its reality and the thoughts and feelings around it.

Coming in touch with death, a person can't help thinking, "What kind of God makes a world with death in it? If I were God, I'd do things very different; I'd do things better."

Let's put it this way. When you come in contact with death, you can't help being a little angry with God. And if you are a Cohen, how can you be angry in your heart with God, and then go into the Holy Temple to serve Him? It just doesn't go. So the priest had to wait until sunset, and take a mikvah, a ritual bath, and then he could return to serve God the next day.

These laws of the priesthood regarding serving God became the basis for many of the Jewish laws of mourning. If your father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife died, from the time of their death until they are buried, you are technically exempt from most positive commandments. For example, you don't have to say blessings, because that's a form of thanking and serving God, and right now, you may be in a frame of mind of being a little bit angry with God. So you aren't obligated to say those blessings.

And you know, my sweetest friends, today we don't have a Beit HaMikdash, a Holy Temple, and although we still have Cohanim, priests, we don't have animal or incense offerings to serve God in the Holy Temple. Today we serve God through offerings of words of Torah study and words of prayer. Today our rabbis are like our priests, serving God through teaching Torah. But if you are angry with God, you can't teach Torah. You can say the words, but the love and light within them do not flow through them.

So please open your hearts. The saddest thing is that today our teachers and rabbis haven't just touched one dead person. They've been touched by Six Million dead people. And they are so angry with God, so angry with God. Gevald, are they angry with God! And because they are so angry with God, all their words of Torah are just that: words. There's no light, no taste, no meaning, no melody in them.

But young people today are so hungry for that light, for that meaning, for that melody - for the deepest inner dimensions of truth. And if they can't get it from Judaism, they'll go anywhere that love and light are to be found.

Thank God our hungry, searching, younger generation found some traditions that weren't so angry with God, and they could get the love and light and meaning that they so craved. And today in Judaism, Baruch HaShem, thank God, we have a whole new generation of teachers who haven't been touched directly by the Six Million (or maybe they have taken Six Million mikvahs from tears of sadness and then another Six Million mikvahs from tears of joy). And their words are filled with light and joy and love.

God willing, now people can come back to Judaism to quench that deep, powerful, longing for God's love and from our own tradition. I bless us all that we should find that beauty in Torah, in Shabbos, and in the deepest depths of the heart of our holy and ancient and living tradition.

Thank you so much. God bless you all. Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos.

Zalman pushed the stop button on his tape recorder. And I had Shlomo's answer recorded before the conference commenced and before the question was asked. As I recall, the room was very quiet as we all absorbed this profound teaching.

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