Reaching for Joy Through Music, and Two Special Events for Hanukkah

Cantor Juval Porat

Cantor Juval Porat

Among the books on my nightstand is Joey Weisenberg’s “The Torah of Music” – a fascinating and comprehensive collection of curated texts from the “Jewish musical-spiritual imagination.” In it I stumbled upon a teaching on how to read verse 5 of Psalm 126. This is a verse we’ve been singing often to Debbie Friedman’s sweet melody during Sukkot, which we call the “time of our joy (z’man simchateinu),” and also at tender life-cycle events, such as funerals and moments of mourning. The verse is often translated “they who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.” This implies that those who face and process their sadness will ultimately have the space to experience joy in a much more profound way than if they had pushed their sadness away. Interestingly, this translation juxtaposes the tears of sadness with the songs of joy – the song is reserved for the joyous acts of life.

Another way to read the verse is “Those who sow in tears through song, will reap” – “הזרעים בדמעה ברינה – יקצורו”. Reading the verse this way recognizes the power of music to process, sit with us and give space to negative emotions. It suggests music as a tool to “sow” the sadness, so that reaping can occur.

However one chooses to read this verse, it is a beautiful illustration of how music can serve us both in moments of joy, elevating us ever higher and allowing us to celebrate life in the present moment, and in moments of sorrow, providing us with comfort and reminding us of better days. It reveals our essential spark of life that resides within us no matter what we go through and helps us give expression to grief and mourning.

In the remaining months of 2018, as the days shorten, temperatures drop, and the Festival of Light draws nearer, I’m grateful for the sound of music to accompany us and give voice to the range of emotions and experiences that make us human. I hope you will take the opportunity to check out one or all of the events below.



Photo by 8Twenty8 Studios, from theatre dybbuk’s production, “assemble”

One Community, Many Voices featuring Theatre Dybbuk and WASI —
Sunday, December 2, 2018 4:00 to 6:00 pm at BCC

The Hanukkah story speaks of both triumph and strife, illustrating how a group of people can overcome oppression despite internal challenges and disagreements.

This narrative asks us to look at how we can exist as one community even with differences in practice, belief, and identification. Take part in an interactive experience in which our own stories of belonging and identity will become the basis for a one-night-only performance.

A facilitator will lead you through a 30-minute writing workshop to create personal essays and short stories based on real moments. After a break for refreshments, professional actors will read and perform a selection of these stories accompanied by live music.

WASI (shout out to our very own BCC member and WASI band member Jessie Meehan) will provide a live set as the performance will be created. Tickets are donation based and can be purchased here.

Intimate Voices – Music of (Jewish) Spirit (Cantor’s Concert)

Saturday, December 8, 2018, 8:00 pm at BCC

I will be joined by some of the most talented cantorial voices in Los Angeles, the JAC string trio (featuring beloved Ruach Chayim musician Janice Markham) and pianist (and BCC member) Todd Moellenberg in joyous song and delightful Hanukkah holiday celebration. Tickets can be purchased here.


Monthly Healing Services

Saturdays, November 17 and December 15, 7:00 pm at BCC

Our next November healing service, lead by me and a guest artist, will be dedicated to our transgender siblings in need of healing. Join us as we bid farewell to Shabbat and welcome in the new week with original music, meditation and Jewish texts and prayers of healing and recovery.

Kol Chayim

BCC’s youth choir (open to ages 5-15) will be meeting between 10 and 10:30 am at each Or Chayim Shabbat. Check the BCC calendar for exact days and please feel free to email me with any questions.


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