This Shabbat encouragement was written a year ago and is as timely now as then as our first Nor’Easter of this season hits just as last year’s did at this time. Surprisingly also, this week’s headlines, though slightly different from last year’s, still cry with the challenges we face. Yet news of the increasing death toll from COVID is tempered by stories of hope as administration of the vaccines continues to expand.
On the heels of our musically oriented thoughts over the past weeks, I once again share the thoughts below:
Today the Nor’Easter is hitting us hard. From my window as I watch the strong north wind blowing the snow literally horizontally with its force, in the same view, I see the cozy fire in our bedroom fireplace, its hearth decorated with my Chanukah stocking woven with a pattern of Stars of David and the cuff “Shalom.” That view – the whipping north wind alongside sweet beauty – is a snapshot of our lives.
It’s hard to ignore the troubling headlines. I don’t need to repeat them. This week had an inordinate number of shootings of innocents, perhaps the most heartbreaking headlines of all. On the local front the challenges of health issues, and even a house fire displacing a close friend who has recently undergone more personal troubles than I can count(!), have put the dichotomy of life front and center.
So I introduce you to Eric Genuis. In case you haven’t already heard of him, Eric Is a Canadian composer who received his degree in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada. He founded Concerts for Hope and is known for his beautiful original compositions which he plays in prisons, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, inner city schools, hospitals, and even under bridges for the homeless. Like the warm fire in a place of peace against the whipping wind in the background, he brings incredibly moving music to places of pain and suffering.
I was inspired by an interview with him that I heard in which he reminded the listener of the importance of bringing love to the marginalized. His stories of changing lives through beautiful music are riveting. As he says, those in prisons have often never known the feeling of being loved. As you listen to his music, you cannot help but feel His love:
Eric reaches out to those in society who are out of the mainstream either due to life choices or circumstances that have put them on the fringe – criminals, as well as the families of the victims of crimes, those suffering illness, poverty. All of us at times are on the fringe, not feeling His presence, for how could He love us and yet we suffer so? How can I be loved for I am unlovable? Eric’s inspirational music, and expressed love to those suffering, remind us that we are loved. He is an instrument, literally, of HaShem’s love of all of us.
What is it in music that crosses all boundaries? How can the heart of a murderer be softened, tears well up in eyes of anger? How can classical music move a rapper? Eric composes with love in his heart, non judgmental acceptance, not only of those listening, but also of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Pain abounds, yet his music soothes the soul, literally. In it we hear the sounds of hope, that whatever is on our plates today that is a struggle, whether it is the world in which we live, the weather, or our own personal problems, we feel His love. When that happens, we have hope that this day will end and a better one arrive, for He is good.
Eric’s concerts of hope remind us that His love surrounds us just waiting to be received.
I was reading your Shabbat drash not realizing it was written a year ago.
It was a beautiful testimony to this man’s ministry (Eric Genuis?), and the synchronicity was rather amazing for me, because here I am up at 4:30 am writing in my journal with a verse of Scripture in my mind, and as I read your message, it affirmed and echoed that very Scripture to me. Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn” (whether it be their life circumstances or the loss of loved ones or even the hope of renewal), “for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4. This man’s ministry, (with which I am not familiar) seems to me to be an enactment of that Scripture. And another one as well, “In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” Matthew 25:40. Thank you for bringing this into view. Even though this was a year ago, it is something so worthy to give our Avinu Malkenu all the praise for.