Happy belated Rosh Hashanah and of course a very spirited Happy New Jew Year! Who would have thought that we would make it this far, but hey 5775 is here. As most of you know, or don’t, Rosh Hashanah was last week, beginning sundown on Wednesday night and into sundown on Friday night, which led right into the blissful mouth of the Sabbath/ Shabbat. So from Wednesday night to Saturday night Jews across the globe, the universe, and in space!!! celebrated by praying, drinking, eating, and drinking some more. Sunday was a fast day so that we can remain grounded in our festivities, because at times when we party we might party too hard. In the Talmud there is a story about two esteemed sages who were close friends enjoying the Purim Holy Day feast. One of them got so hammered that he literally, or is that figuratively!?!, hammered his good buddy the sage to death. The next morning while nursing his hangover he realized what he had done. Feeling overwhelmed with guilt and sadness for his friend, he began to invoke the mysterious and Kabbalistic unknowns in order to revive his buddy. Thankfully for him, and apparently during the Talmudic era (dating 200-800 CE) these sages had immense spiritual and mystical powers, he revived his friend and all was well. The following year on Purim the sage (the killer) invited his buddy over for another exquisite feast full of food and drink. His buddy (the killed) replied kindly that, “maybe this year I’ll take a pass.” We need to ground ourselves amidst the celebration because it is our time of judgment. We are now in the period of the Ten Days of Repentance, or the Ten Days of Tshuva. At this very moment each and every one of us has a book way up there, and our verdicts are being deliberated. Once we reach Friday night and into Saturday night the Gates of Judgement will close and our fates will be sealed for the new year. This is crazy cosmic, but I want to make sure to emphasize the importance of celebration. It is in that vein that I turn to the purity of Rap music, and some rhymes for the New Jew Year!!!
The group Jedi Mind Tricks have delved deep into theology, and on one of their tracks they allude to the Shofar, which is blown on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The blast is like a call to arms for all of us to hear and tremble before the mighty sounds of G-d.
Interestingly enough the song, here the video begins with a nomadic sage decrying Christians, begins with the sound of a young boy. The boy is chanting “Ly, Ly,Ly,Ly” etc. For anyone entering a Jewish place of business you always here these saintly chants sung by young boys. The content in these chants is usually liturgy or some passages from a Siddur (Jewish Prayer book) or the Tanach (The books of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings). This without a doubt is a sample of one of these Jewish recordings. The reason I’m including the song is because the great MC Vinnie Paz drops a rhyme about the New Year spitting, “I’m about to blow the fucking horns like it was Rosh Hashanah.” Poignant and to the point comparing blowing up with blowing the Shofar.
Prayer is also a center focus of these days as we add additional prayers to the liturgy. Above is the wall and gate of the Kastoria synagogue located in Greece.
This is near and dear to me because my paternal grandmother’s family came from this town. They moved to Brooklyn, USA in the 1920’s and began to develop the community in the neighborhood of Bensonhurst. I attend the services at time, where my father is the caretaker, and feel this spiritual connection. Prayer connects us all, as today most of the attendants are either of the older generation or the incoming Orthodox Jews leaking in from the Borough Park section one neighborhood over. For the use of prayer I’ll turn to a nice smooth style of rapping by the artist Vulkan the Krusader.
On the track titled “2 Minute Drill” he drops the line spitting that, “U a goner praying on Rosh Hashanah.” Either he’s reflecting on prayer being your last chance on the day of judgment to face his wrath, or he linked it to his next rhyme. No matter. He still shouts out the New Jew Year!
The Wu affiliate and Biblically deep Killah Priest has also commented with his lyrics laced with religious allusions and other outer-worldly experiences.
The song titled “Let Us Pray” he strings us along a flow off the top of his conscious, and/or subconscious. The chorus says it simply, “Let us pray, let us pray, let us pray.” However, amidst all the mashed potatoes of lyrics he spits, “React furiously, Compulsive disorders, Witch torturer, big Torah, Rosh Hashanah.” That’s his version of showing respect and honor for the sacred. He even goes further with his track titled “Covenant.”
On this track he makes a few references to the Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, along with sprinkles of his towering knowledge of the various religions and their sheer depth. He makes references such as “Also the Book of Life and Book of Death.” This can be compared to the Torah and how Moses, through the divine, tells the Jewish nation that they may choose between life and death. The life is speaking of the life of Torah and its many rays of illuminating light. The death is speaking of the spirit and the soul, and how we may choose spiritual death full of a dark void of emptiness and chance. Killah Priest goes further by telling us that he immerses himself by sitting amongst the sages while drinking in their wisdom. He rhymes that he’s, “Eatin’ figs with the Rabbis, goin’ over the Torah, Lightin’ my Nora’s, Writin’ in waters, send Kosher prayers up to G-d, Yom Kippur – Rosh Hashanah.”
interestingly in the chorus section of this track he likens himself to the Jewish High Priest. The High Priest would be the focus of this time period, especially during the Yom Kippur service, because this would be the only time of year where the priest enters the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant resided. The Ark, just think of the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for a likeness, contained the divine presence or what we call the Shechina. Killa Priest positions himself in this role with the words to his chorus by declaring, “Make way the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, The Month of Tishri, the Day of Judgement, This is my covenant.” Fascinating how he flips this practice with his name while invoking the customs that occur in the Jewish month of Tishrei!!
This should be a sweet time, but also a rough time for us all to confront our bad juju. This past year’s bad deeds, decisions, actions, etc. should be looked upon with great inspection. However, don’t get too depressed because this should all be balanced with a Torah in one hand and a glass of Wine, Beer, Bourbon, whatever to inebriate and enjoy the season.
Peace and L’Shana Tova