(This is the first in a series of posts that dig deeper into the songs on my latest album “at the edge of the unknown.” Each “Digging Deeper” post will feature the song itself and commentary linking it in one way or another to its roots in Torah and to its potential for use in unearthing your own song, your own contribution to the weave of creation.)
The Song: Roll the Stone Away
Listen by clicking the play button or download your own copy with the “add to cart” button.
All the well wants is to rise
All the deep wants is to cry out to the deep
And what are we,
what are we in this play?
Ours is but to roll the stone away
“Deep cries out to deep,” — these words, borrowed from Psalms (42:8), are both moving and mysterious to me.
“How?!?” one might reasonably ask, “How do we access that deepest part of ourselves that can truly cry out to the deepest parts of others and of the world?”
Here’s one possibility:
On the High Holy Days, we stand in front of the ark and call out the 13 Attributes, calling on God, reminding God, if you will, of Divine attributes of compassion, unconditional love, and truth. The Piasetzener Rebbe offers a beautiful teaching on just what is happening in this moment.
First a few words of background:
In Exodus 33:18-23, Moses, yearning for reconciliation and connection in the wake of the rupture of the Golden Calf, asks to see God face to face. God refuses but says that Moses can stand nearby and that “while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand until I have passed by. And I will take away My hand, and you will see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
At God’s command, Moses carves two tablets of stone like the ones he broke when he saw the people worshipping the Golden Calf. He goes up the mountain and God’s glory descends and then, in Exodus 4:6: “And Hashem passed by before him, and called out: ‘HaShem, HaShem, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth….” This “calling out” is what comes into our liturgy as the 13 Attributes (in an interestingly edited form).
So, here’s the Piasetzener in Derech HaMelech (p. 266) on the 13 Attributes (when I translate especially loosely I indicate this in brackets [like so]):
[I]t says in the Kedushat Levi on “And called out Hashem Hashem” that “there is a portion of divinity in every…[one] and that when [a person] calls out and and prays with this divine portion, then that divine portion [of the human being] is calling out to Hashem, and thus ‘And called out Hashem Hashem’: Hashem calls out to Hashem.”
And truly, the essence of prayer is always [accessed] only if Hashem is praying, as in the words of the Talmud (Brachot 7), “How do we know that the Holy Blessed One prays?” thus when…[one] prays, the Holy Blessed One also prays….
But it is not the case that the divine portion within each person always prays — only one who is connected with their own divinity such that their body…and their soul…[are not] like two neighbors who, though they live in the same house, are nevertheless separated and distant from one another. It’s only when the body yearns so much to be in service to the soul that it [follows the lead of the soul]…. Then, when the human being prays, the Holy Blessed One prays, as we said. “From the depths I call out to You, Hashem” (Psalm 130:1). These are not [just] the words of the prayer, but rather “From the deepest part of myself I cried out to You!”…God Godself is calling out and praying and this is easy to understand.
Whether or not you will find yourself in synagogue during these High Holy Days, and whether or not you would agree that this is “easy to understand,” I invite you to experiment with just what it might mean to connect with the divine part of yourself.
And may your prayer, your heart’s truest yearning truly be “deep calling out to deep.”
What helps you connect body and soul and find your own “deep?”