Query:

Evidently Hebrew music is all the time in minor. Is that right, and if that’s the case, is there a religious significance?


Reply:

I additionally discovered this intriguing. Much more intriguing is the reason I discovered in Shaarei Teshuva, a mystical work written by Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch within the early 19th century.

To start with, some preface: Western music is usually divided into main and minor modalities. Music in minor can categorical unhappiness, craving, bitterness or some such darkish temper, whereas music in main expresses pleasure, victory, power and the like. (To maintain it easy: main modes are these with main thirds, whereas minors have minor thirds.)

Usually talking, you might be proper in regards to the repertoire of Jewish music with which most of us are acquainted. Whereas there are various conventional melodies within the main modes, the minor modes (together with one thing referred to as Dorian and one other referred to as Moorish) definitely appear dominant.

Then again, Arabic and East Indian music have many extra of these qualities that give the minor modes their melancholy and craving tone. Occupied with it, the music with which Jewish individuals typically establish appears to fall someplace smack in between European and Arabic tradition. It is true that that is the place we have now been for the previous 2000 years—dancing backwards and forwards between these two mega-cultures. And it is true that a lot of Jewish-identified music comes from southeastern Europe, an space occupied by the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years, and closely influenced by Turko-Arabic tradition. But it is exhausting to not suppose that there should be rather more to it than that.


Music & Soul

The music of a individuals displays its soul. Plato and Aristotle believed that you might overturn a whole nation just by altering the modalities of its music. The music with which we establish as a individuals ought to give us some main clue as to who we’re at a soul degree. That is the place the commentary from Shaarei Teshuva is available in:

The Zohar tells us that the souls of the Jewish Individuals are break up into two branches: These associated largely to Abraham and people most associated to Isaac. The Abraham souls descended into exile among the many religious descendants of Esau—that means Christendom and European tradition, whereas the Isaac souls are exiled among the many religious descendants of Ishmael—that means the world of Islam and Arabic tradition.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob replicate the three principal modalities of the sefirot: Abraham embodies Chesed—a constructive, giving stream of sunshine. Isaac embodies the Divine side of Gevurah–a detrimental, highly effective restraining of sunshine. Jacob, who embodies all the Jewish Individuals, additionally embodies the center path of magnificence, compassion and reality, which harmonizes and synthesizes Abraham and Isaac as one.

This is how Ishmael and Esau match into the image: They’re the modalities of their respective fathers gone wild. Ishmael is the son of Abraham, so he takes this constructive stream to an excessive, being “a wild man, his hand on all others and their hand on him.” Esau is the son of Isaac, and he takes Isaac’s detrimental, restraining energy to its excessive, with a strong drive to overcome and subdue.

It might appear then, that Ishmael ought to love upbeat, joyful music and Esau needs to be interested in harsh and bitter music—but actually, we see the alternative. However that is the way in which issues work: Enjoyment all the time comes from opposites. Similar to on a sizzling day, an ice cream is pleasurable, and on a chilly day, a sizzling chocolate does the job, so too the new, exuberant soul of Ishmael finds pleasure in chilly, bitter music and the chilly, harsh soul of Esau finds pleasure in sizzling, candy music.

Now, you ask, what are the positively charged souls of Abraham doing among the many negatively charged souls of Esau, whereas the negatively charged souls of Isaac are caught inside the positively charged souls of Ishmael? The reply is that they’re there to heal them, and therapeutic can solely come from an opposing drive.

In spite of everything, the issue of Esau and Ishmael is that they’re extremists. Inserting their opposites amongst them is supposed to mood and heal that extremism. The opposite, associated downside is that their pleasure and pleasure is by nature directed selfishly. This too, will be healed by way of their music.

The Abraham souls dwelling with Esau, take his music and play it in a deeper, tempered approach. Esau is rejoicing over his personal happiness and wealth, and Jews play again that music rejoicing within the sweetness of the soul and of life, tempered with a contact of melancholy. In the meantime, the Isaac souls dwelling amongst Ishmael take his never-ending bitterness over the tragedies that have an effect on him and play it again to precise the bitterness of the soul over the tragedy of its descent to this world, removed from its dwelling—tempered with hope that its longing can be fulfilled and it shall return.


Diatonic World

Though the U.N. lists 192 nations, the Torah lists seventy households of humankind. This, R. Dov Ber writes, is as a result of there are ten aspects of seven totally different modes of emotion. Every individuals has its explicit aspect, mirrored in its taste of music. To ensure that the world to succeed in its final messianic state, every nation’s music should be uplifted and refined. Esau and Ishmael are merely the 2 branches of chesed and gevurah upon which all these smaller branches develop.

Finally, by way of a refinement of Esau and Ishmael and all their branches, the mission of the Jewish Individuals for which they entered exile is full, and their time of redemption arrives. The Shaarei Teshuva concludes:

“With all this, we perceive how on the finish of this period, the last word redemption isn’t by way of the seed of Abraham, however by way of the seed of Isaac who’re within the exile of Ishmael, singing their melancholy melodies…”

“Despite the fact that many of the exiles reside among the many nations of Edom and Yavan [Rome and Greece—meaning Western culture] and so forth., however, the primary redemption relies upon upon the autumn of the angel appointed over Ishmael, as written within the Zohar. And that is enough for people who perceive.”

I am unable to say I’m actually amongst “people who perceive,” however what I do get is that:

  1. Jewish music is the music of the nations amongst whom we reside, invested with a Jewish soul to mood that music. In that case, the music of Ashkenazi Jews, dwelling in Europe, can be barely extra minor than the music of the individuals round them.

  2. The principal function of Jewish music is to refine and remodel humanity, thereby bringing the messianic period. That is achieved mainly by way of the minor mode, which elevates the aspect of gevurah and transforms Ishmael.

Let me know if that is as fascinating to you as it’s to me.

In case you are on the lookout for alternatives of Jewish music on our web site, you may discover that at our music web site. And here is a listing of extra essays on music, together with the Kabbalistic perspective.

Supply: Shaarei Teshuvah 89d



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