For many of us, listening to music is a transforming, empowering, spiritually uplifting experience. Something about Pachelbel’s Cannon in D major, whether heard in a live orchestral performance or as quiet, ambiance music in a restaurant, or even in our own living room, so enchants us. What is it that lifts us up? What is the secret to the powerful impact of music?

Music strikes a deep chord within our psyche and has the well-recognized power to stir our emotions. In movies and theater, the musical score brings alive the production, communicates the mood of the scene, and fosters ethereal sentiments in the viewer. Music even influences the world political scene, such as the rock tunes of the 60’s that fueled the anti-Vietnam War movement.  The Torah is keenly aware of the emotive power of music. Shirah, song, is mentioned many times in the Torah as an expression of gratitude to God – usually for a miraculous personal or national salvation. The Torah notes how music was employed to help create a feeling of joy, allow for a connection with God, and even stave off depression. Music and song play an important role in Jewish spirituality and prayer.

This class explores the Jewish perspective on music in general and the role and importance of Jewish song and music in particular. In the process we will seek to answer the following questions:

  • Why is music such a powerful medium?
  • Does Jewish literature make mention of the role of music?
  • Does music play any role in the Jewish tradition?
  • Why has the way we listen to music changed since the Second Temple’s destruction in 70 CE?
  • How will the world experience a new dimension of music with the advent of the Messianic Era?