Jamming in Jerusalem with My Landlady’s Husband

My name is Sandra Lawson, and I am rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. I’m spending this semester in Israel studying at the Conservative Yeshiva, in Jerusalem. I’m having a great time studying Talmud, Jewish spirituality and Hebrew.  I’m learning a lot, but the best part for me is making a real connection with other human beings and it’s even more special when this connection happens through music.

Recently, I met the landlady’s husband. His name is Michael. He came to collect the rent, and what I thought would be a more formal conversation  turned out to be another awesome encounter with a wonderful human being.

When he came in the apartment he saw the guitar on the couch and asked if I played, and then asked what kind of music? I told him I play mostly folk music and I was working on some liturgy and trying to put some music to some of our biblical text. I then asked if he played and he said he did but had not played in a long time and that he missed playing.  And then in this very sweet voice he asked if I would play something for him. I was surprised that he asked and he seemed a bit surprised too and offered me an out.

I decided to oblige him and I played My Kaddish for him, and told him I wrote it for victims of gun violence in the United States and that my heart was breaking every time I learned of another person being killed by a gun.

Click here to learn more about the Kaddish memorial prayer.

While I was playing, he seemed to find comfort in listening to the song and then told me it was beautiful. I then asked if he would play something for me and he played an old British folk song which was amazing.

When he left the apartment, we were no longer strangers connected by a business agreement, we were now two old friends connected by music. And it reminded me how much we need music in the world. We have enough things in our world that divide us and music is one of those things that doesn’t tear us apart.

The more I play my guitar, the more I want to make it a part of what I do in this world as a rabbi. I used to be terrified to sing in front of people, and I still get nervous playing the guitar in front of people,  but Judaism and my dream of becoming a rabbi has unlocked my voice, now I sing all the time and find so much comfort in it.

Yitgadal v’yit-kadash sh’mei rabba
B’allma dee v’ra chir’utei

Dear God lift me up in my time of need
Please show me how to live and love in peace
I want to live in a world full of hope
But it’s hard when there is so pain

v’yamlich malchutei,
B’chayeichon, uv’yomeichon,
uv’chayei d’chol beit yisrael,
Ba’agala u’vizman kariv, v’imru, Amen

Adonai, Adonai I praise your holy name
Turn my sorrow turn my pain and show me the way
Adonai, Adonai we bless your name
So that One day may there be peace for us all

Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav,
hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu,
v’al kol yisrael v’imru, Amen

Discover More

Modern-Day Moses: The Heroes Who Saved Ethiopian Jews

The heroes who endured torture and risked their lives to save Ethiopian Jews.

Pe’ah: The Corners of Our Fields

Rabbinic commentators interpreted the law of leaving the corners of one's field for those in need in light of their own concerns about the poor.