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139http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/03/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---03_22_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 03_22_2013
03/21/2013 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
March 22, 2013

 

Shabbat HaGadol. The Great Sabbath. That’s what the Shabbat before Passover is called. But, this year it’s called “Beatles Shabbat”. I know it sounds strange, but it’s also become one of the most sought after services of the year.

                In the past, the Great Sabbath served a purpose. It was the single time during the year that the rabbi gave a sermon. He spoke at length on the details of Passover observance. He addressed the major themes of Passover. He cultivated deep understanding of how we, like our ancestors, were “fugitive Arameans” who went free from Egypt.

                Today, we look forward to Passover for similar reasons. We will address major themes of the holiday at our Seder table. We will cultivate deep understanding of our people’s story by relating modern dilemmas with ancient themes. And, we will see ourselves as people who are still liberating the world from slavery of many kinds.

                Beatles Shabbat is a liberation story for the Jewish people. To our ancestors, America was the Golden Land. Even if the streets weren’t literally paved with gold as they dreamed about, America still lived up to its promise as a land of opportunity. In the 1960’s, the British invasion of the Beatles swept over generations of young Americans, Jewish ones, too, with cutting-edge music for a new age. Since then, Jews eventually gained total acceptance in America. Today, there are no quotas or barriers to entry anywhere, not universities, law firms, hospitals, or country clubs, with the exception of a few holdouts. Young people today don’t make choices for their future based on barriers they need to overcome. For young and old, alike, Beatles music is part of their heritage as much as the Passover Seder. The music, the beat, and the lyrics from the Haggadah and “Yellow Submarine” turn on different parts of our hearts and souls, but they are both very much a part of us.

                Truthfully, Beatles Shabbat is only coincidentally on Shabbat HaGadol, and we can’t credit Beatles music for deepening Jewish acceptance in America. Maybe it’s a case study for Levitt and Dubner’s “Freakonomics”. But, the coincidence is also apropos of our American and Jewish stories. They are not separate for us; not like they were generations ago. Singing our liturgy to Beatles music is the quintessential demonstration of being American and Jewish at one and the same time.

                So, this is one reason why Beatles Shabbat has become the great Sabbath at Congregation Beth Israel once-a-year. We won’t thrive on a steady diet of Beatles Shabbat every week, but we will always associate modernity and Judaism in the ways we worship, learn, and engage the community. Beatles is just one example.

                The other reason why Beatles Shabbat has become the great Sabbath, is because of Cantor Daniel Mutlu. He is a superb musician whose versatility enables him to interpret traditional Chazzanut, contemporary Jewish folk music, and modern pop, with respect due each genre. Worshipers in the sanctuary join eagerly in singing, or close their eyes to imagine themselves in the settings where they first heard their favorite pieces.

                On Beatles Shabbat, all the rabbis will join Cantor Mutlu, but the most important people will be you and your friends. Has it been a particularly long week? Set down your troubles and “let it be, let it be.” “All you need is love” bound up in spirited music this Shabbat. Just “imagine all the people” who will join you at Beth Israel, at 6:30pm in the sanctuary. Come early for a good seat.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom, peace!

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