"Artists provide us with light that cannot be extinguished," modern essayist Phyllis Theroux writes. "They go into dark rooms and poke at their souls until the contours of our own are familiar to us. They stare at flowers until their secrets unfold, wrestle with angels that the rest of us are to disturb."
Receding into solitary dark spaces to craft something special was once reserved for those pursuing artistry, the focused few who could dedicate their time and energies in solitude to meditating on the striking beauty that permeates the cosmos and commit to igniting an eternal and universal flame.
But the pandemic and our safety measures thrust us into the dark rooms to wrestle. We wrestled emotionally, spiritually, and physically with virtually every element of the new normal. Anxiously waiting to emerge, hoping to open our front doors and step into a new world, one that had evolved.
Maybe we would not step out holding a brilliant new portrait in our hands or humming an elegant original sonata. But we could step out carrying an oath to pursue crafting an evolved, kinder, more just, and healthier world, a hope and commitment for an end to the hatred and strife that have plagued us since our first steps on earth.
In the Gemara, the Rabbis question a claim that King David arose nightly at midnight. "How did David know exactly when midnight was?" they ask.
The Gemara answers:
David had a sign.
For so said R. Acha b. Bizana in the name of R. Shimon the Pious:
A harp was hanging above David's bed.
As soon as midnight arrived,
a North wind came and blew upon it, and it played of itself.
He arose immediately and studied the Torah till the break of dawn.
David was blessed with a "sign," essentially a piece of technology like an antenna tuned to resonate at the holy frequency of the wind. And what did David do when stirred from sleep? He would join in the music, studying the sacred foundational text of our people, seeking wisdom, guidance, and a relationship with the Divine.
A later text suggests that the entire kingdom would hear the melody emerging from King David's royal bedroom, which would encourage all the townspeople to join the King in his holy endeavors-and to be a part of the music pulsing through the universe.
The American novelist John Rossel wrote: "Music is the heartbeat of the universe. It reaches into the outer ramparts of eternity where time and space are nonexistent; it touches the stars and is reflected in the beauty of the galaxy."
From the cooing of the dove to the rolling of thunder, the music of the universe needs us. When we join in that song, we reflect the beauty of the galaxy-each one of us bringing our own sound. One person is a violin, another a flute. Creation's refrain does not sound the same as it flows through us, for each of us is a unique instrument, but there is always the possibility to be in sacred unison.
If we've learned anything from the pandemic, it's that there is no real isolation in the wrld, no dream that only infects the dreamer. And no contagion that chooses just one individual. At times we imagine ourselves as single strings on our instruments, playing solo. But if we commit to joining the world's harmonies, guided by our tradition, we can create a most powerful production. A new composition of healing, equity, unity, inclusion, and love-our lesson and a most beautiful concert. Rabbi Nate Crane is the Rabbi of Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah in Wilmette and was a 2020 36 Under 36 honoree.