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The Ultimate Mix Tape

17/12/18 10:12:27 AM


The other day I made a “Hanukkah Party Mix” playlist of music on my phone to use for a gathering we had at our house.  As is the case these days, this was as easy as taking my finger, clicking on my favourite songs, and dragging them into a folder.  Two minutes--done. I must say, it was a rockin’ mix of music, but something was missing in the process.

I remember when I younger, the joy of a more old fashioned way of collecting music--the mixtape.  Often made for myself, or sometimes for someone else, this was an important artifact of my generation.  Unwrapping the fresh tape, and taking the time, sometimes for many hours, to sit with the big double tape recorder and record player, and listening to one song after another.  As each song was playing I would write down the name of each song--by hand, and often with the requisite doodle--listening patiently and waiting for just the right moment to push stop.  This was not a quick process, and while the music was playing there was no choice but to take the time to reflect and to listen.

It was especially important when making the tape for someone else to think beyond the songs; How did each of the songs connect, and what was the “story” that you wanted your intended listener to have?   If done right, it could express love (or sometimes anger), it could be inspirational or reflective. It could prepare you for a long car ride, or a lonely time away from home. Yet even more, these tapes could hold onto memories, to a certain time and place or a relationship.  And while they may have become stretched and warped over the years, these tapes were more than just music. The best mixtape was not just a collection of songs, it was a true experience.

As we complete the first book of the Torah, the book of Genesis, the book of creation this week, we are left with a very unique and important set of songs and memories. From the tohu va vohu, the darkness and chaos of creation, we have journeyed through the stories of our people.  We have learned about the important characters of the Torah—the mothers and fathers, the children, the lovers and enemies, the interactions, the rivalry, the violence, the reconciliation.  We have explored the foundational family folklore of our people with all its many colors.  From the simplicity of the mistakes of the Garden of Eden to the first calls from God, and on to the very real politics of Joseph in Egypt—we see people interacting with their world and with other people, and see the consequences of their choices.  There has been plenty of joy, but also some very real challenge. It really is quite a mix.

Then next week as we enter the book of Exodus, we move from the story of individuals and families, to the story of the Jewish people.   We become a people, a true community, wandering the desert and making our way to freedom.

Our experiences so far, the special and unique mix tapes of our lives, will be something that we have to hold onto for the rest of our journeys.  Whatever you choose to call it, God, the mystery, the Cosmos, the holy DJ, the genetic material of our minds and bodies, our lives have been put together in a way that sends us down a road filled with purpose, but in a way that is uniquely ours.  

Of course, the unfortunate reality is that not all of what we encounter in our lives, what we remember about our past, is made up of the stories that we want to hear again.  We want to hold on to so much, but there is plenty that we want to leave behind. So many stories, so many songs.  

But if we can take these moments, if we can truly own them and listen to the entire mix of our lives, then we can see that we each have a purpose.  

Seeing the purpose of our lives, means being honest with ourselves, and always knowing that our actions and the connections we make are inherently holy and filled with meaning.  The world needs us to be who we are meant to be, and that should be our simple goal.

As Rebbe Nachman once said:

היום בו נולדת הוא היום בו החליט הקב''ה שהעולם אינו יכול להתקיים בלעדיך

“The moment you were born, God decided that the world could not go on without you”.

Let's continue our story, and let's head into the secular New Year with this important reminder.  Live in the moment, but look beyond it if you need to.  Hold onto the mix of your life, but know above all that what you do, truly does matter. 

Now that’s a song we can hold onto.

-Rabbi Boris

Wed, June 3 2020 11 Sivan 5780