By Moshe Schonbrun
Contemporary music streaming apps can be set to fade in each song (gradually increase its volume) while the previous song is fading out. According to Apple, this feature, called crossfading, “prevents gaps of silence between songs.” Spotify champions the “Elimination of silence between tracks so your music never stops”. They are missing the point.
The spiritual legend Rebbe Bunim of Peshischa has an exquisite reading of the line “Habocher b’shirei zimrah”, cited daily in the tefillos of Klal Yisrael. Simply translated, it reads ‘Hashem chooses songs of music’. This seems redundant- Songs of music? What other types of song would there be? In place of reading shirei as songs, Rebbe Bunim expounded the word as shiyarei– leftovers (from the root word shirayim; think Chassidish Tisch).
Hashem chooses the leftovers of a song. A perfect song has a brilliant composition with all the right tones, keys, pitch, and harmonies. Yet after the song completes, when the notes have been played and the orchestra sets down the instruments, the listener’s heart continues to reverberate with the deep emotion evoked by the song. This is precisely what Hashem desires from us. More than sophisticated and choreographed music, it is raw emotion and spontaneous yearning that Hashem truly cherishes. Non-stop streaming may be pleasant on the ear, but music should target the heart.
When I first viewed Meaningful Minute’s Mourning with Hope trailer, I thought I knew what to expect. In recent years, the ‘3 Weeks’ have unleashed creativity in the multimedia space: hours and hours of professionally produced films, documentaries, and screenings. This would be another- based on the guests and Meaningful Minute’s style it would definitely be elite- yet it would be another addition to the annals of slickly choreographed inspiration on demand.
Yet this was different. It captivated me, along with tens of thousands of others. The film had a magnetic pull, as it filled a void so prevalent in today’s world of externalities.
There are conversations that are ‘shiyarei zimrah’. The outpouring of deep and penetrating Torah from Rabbis Klien, Katz, and Goldwicht is a prime example. They were not reading off a prepared script. They were not trying for the perfectly choreographed Ted-Talk-type vibe. It was Torah crossfading from the heart. There are conversations in our own lives- whether with a friend, stranger, mentor, loved one, or Hashem, that the ‘leftover feelings’ yield the greatest connection. Seek out those relationships!
There exists as well a ‘shiyarei zimrah’ in every person, a raw song within waiting to be played. Our society seems to emphasize things measurable and external, and we get drawn into the quest to appear in control and that everything is going swimmingly. In place of attempting to constantly portray an image of perfection, let your soundtrack go off beat. Sing the harmonies that make no sense to anyone else, but that resonate in your soul.
There are also times that are ‘shiyarei zimrah’. It can be when shaving after Tisha b’av, backing away from the Kosel, or the ‘vayehi bshuren melechs’ after the wedding dance ends. True living rarely occurs in the scenes hoisted on sleek travel ads or abstracted to canvases, but rather in the unplanned aftermath of climactic events.
When we accept each moment with all its spontaneous gaps of heartbreaks and joys, the sound will become the most cherished music of all.
Perhaps this is why the Beis Hamikdash was called the “Beis HaBechira”, the chosen home. Hashem is Bocher b’siyarei zimrah, choosing genuine moments of honesty, which the Beis Hamikdash inspired and clarified. It was a location for authenticity, where a person was not their job, shirt color, or last name, but a live being pulsing with the song of yearning. Let’s sing out to Hashem with all of our off-tune flaws to return the Beis Hamikdash, where we can once again dance in unleashed harmony.
By Moshe Schonbrun
A deeply valued content contributor for Meaningful Minute, Moshe is a husband, father, and espresso enthusiast. He is Executive Director at Avenues Recovery of Maryland, a residential addiction treatment center, and co-founder of The 13th Gate, an innovative platform for contemporary spiritual engagement in Silver Spring, MD. A talmid of Rabbi Meir Stern and Rabbi Asher Arielli, Moshe previously served as Rabbi at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Maryland in College Park. He is the artist behind @farbreng_ink and the Chavrusa Podcast.