Tuesday, October 20, 2009

by Shawn Shafner
October 6, 2009
Last Saturday, October 3rd, I had the great pleasure of joining forces with Amichai Lau-Lavie, Avi Fox-Rosen, Katie Down, Isaac Everett and Jess Lenza in presenting Raindance: A Musical Sukkot Celebration at the 14th Streety Y in New York City. With songs and dances, learning for adults, fun movement for kids and a big, huge story and lulavim to reckon with, the event offered up something for everyone. But I often find that, within big stories, there are little moments sticking out, opening up windows into larger, communal stories.
King David has decided to build a large temple on the highest mountain in Jerusalem, and to dedicate the space to God. He and his men roll up their sleeves and begin digging the foundation. Deeper and deeper they dig, when the lower and upper waters were being separated. This rock is the celestial plug that holds back the Leviathan, the chaos inherent in creation. King David, disregarding the rock's warnings, digs it up, and the earth is flooded. Problem! Relying on Talmudic marriage counseling, David is instructed to write the ineffable name of god (representing order) on paper and throw it into the water. Doing so, order is restored, but the water recedes down so deep that a huge drought falls on the land. Problem! Again. And at this moment, the King begins to cry.
At this moment, I, the actor, sit on my "throne," my hands over my face, my shoulders heaving in theatrical sobs. I hear young voices from in front of the stage: "Look, he's crying. The King is crying, mommy." There is a silence and a weight spread over all of us. Amichai, our MC, explains that King David, in his sadness, composed 15 psalms. I step downstage and begin to sing Mi Ma'amakim: "From the depths, I call you. Hear my prayer, listen to my song!" I look out at a sea of eyes--from the youngest toddler to the oldest adults--and can see that at that moment, we are all together. We are all together, have together transformed the theater to a field of dying plants, a burning sun and dry, hot air all around. The need for water, for measured chaos, is palpable. When I teach the song to the audience, there is a visceral sense that this can change everything. If we get the notes just right, perhaps, by singing these words together, we can bring the water back.
Near the end of the afternoon, Amichai asked us all what kinds of things we wanted to rain down. Amidst cries for cookies and calls for candy, I heard young and old alike ask for love and peace. But when we work together, believing all as one, perhaps we can transmit something important. Perhaps together, with songs, letters, actions and stories, change can occur. From deep dark depths, we can bring the water back.

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