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Ha'azinu(Deuteronomy 32)

Joy and Enlightenment

Most of this week's Torah portion is a song. This is reflected in the Torah scroll itself, the way the words are laid out on the parchment - in two columns rather than the regular paragraph format. All prophecy is on a higher spiritual plane than regular speech, but song is a particularly holy way of communicating.

Music lifts the spirits in a way nothing else can. It was common for prophets to rely on musicians to help them enter the trance state necessary to receive a prophetic message.

Song has a way of touching our emotion without us understanding why. People sing melodies and lyrics without having the foggiest idea what the song means. But if makes them feel a certain way. One comedian used to read the words of a pop hit, in a deadpan voice, and have the audience in hysterics...

MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!

What is that supposed to mean? Nobody knows. But it was a favorite hit, re-recorded more than 50 times.


Through music, the prophets manipulated their emotions, so to speak, in order to attain prophecy. This means that divine inspiration and spiritual elevation can be dependent on our mood. Since God does not bestow prophecy on someone who is sad, they would use music to cheer them up.

We do not have prophecy anymore, with the possible exception of small children and the mentally challenged. Why does God grant prophecy to these individuals? Possibly because they can't process the information well, and when they communicate it, people don't take them seriously.

Why don't normal adults still receive prophecy? Probably because we didn't listen to the criticism of the prophets when we had them, so now - without a direct revelation - we are less culpable for our transgressions.


Today, however, we have indirect communication from the Almighty. He is infinite, and every event that ever happens to you is personally designed for you, as a way of God is speaking to you. It's not the same as prophecy, because the message is often unclear. But the messages are still coming our way, every day, in every headline, at all times.

A somewhat lower aspect of prophecy - divine inspiration - is still available in many forms. But if you want to experience enlightenment, you need to access joy. Of course, wisdom can come to us during any mood. Yet generally speaking, our mind and soul are "closed" when we are down or angry, and they expand when we are happy. Some call this "expanded consciousness."

Meditation can be the specific vehicle for the moment of enlightenment. But the preparation requires joy at doing the will of the Almighty, and happiness with the blessings He constantly bestows upon us.

I've experienced insights based on this traditional Jewish framework, and though I'm not personally some super-holy person, I can report that it works.

Spiritual Exercise:

Put yourself in a good mood, or look for a time when you're in a good mood. Then immediately spend some time in prayer or meditation, seeking insights into something that's troubling you.

September 17, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) SusanE, September 23, 2009 8:29 PM

Yes, Rabbi, this is a Great Topic and Message.

I've often thought that I might be selfish in finding myself some joy. I know we are commanded to be joyful, and sometimes it is difficult to find that time of joy or find what actually brings us joy. I know now it is found mostly in giving of myself then it becomes easy. Sometimes it is simply sitting in a beautiful landscape and thanking G-d for allowing me to be there and experience it. <--this is the selfish part because it benefits only me). I feel the truth in the way that you write about music. My personal favorite is the composer and artist Yanni. His music makes me feel 'level' and joy then comes in. Some are hauntingly beautiful and there are no words as the CD Chameleon Days. Some are dynamic and bold like the video below: Yanni video Seasons If an adult woman were to suggest divine inspiration or enlightenment would another one perhaps find them mentally challenged? Just asking.

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