Thursday, September 1, 2011

Elul 2: The Spaces In-Between

A story is told of the famous cantor who comes for a High Holiday audition. The synagogue's ritual committee wants to hire him, but his fee is twice that of all the other candidates. "Why do you need to be paid so much?" asks the committee chair. "Do you sing twice as many notes as they do?"

"No," replied the hazzan. "You're not paying me extra for more notes. You're paying for the spaces in-between."*

The sounds of the shofar are as much about the blasts as the non-blasts; it is a deep silence that frames the sound of the shofar, a quiet that reflects our own soul-searching in the context of teshuvah / repentance. It is within this silence that we might perceive the qol demamah daqqah, the still, small Divine voice that echoes within us in moments of heavy reflection.

* The Internet suggests that this joke seems to be a variant on a quote from composer Claude Debussy, who said, "Music is the spaces between the notes." Like an evocative melody or a funny tweet, great lines travel.

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