March 24, 2016
My dearest friends,
After much change and transition I feel blessed to be connecting to you and to myself at this time of Purim.
Purim is called "the time of our joy," and it’s truly one of the holiest Jewish celebrations of the year. My father often taught that Yom Kippur, the holiday most of us count amongst the holiest of all, is merely a shadow of Purim. Taken literally, Yom Kippur is simply the day that is kippur, or "like Purim."
My first name is actually Esther. Since I was a child, Queen Esther's hidden bravery and strength has spoken directly to me and inspired me in ways I can't explain. Esther saw what had to be done and acted, despite her own challenges and fears. She risked everything to save the lives of the Jewish people; she fought for justice with love. Esther knew who she was and expressed the truth of her soul. Clearly, we have so much to learn from her, so much to live up to. The story of Purim is our story.
Today, with my mother's blessing, I am honored to share one of her most personal stories.
Many of you know that my father had a very intense relationship with the phone. When he was not out in the world doing his work, he was constantly making calls, using any phone he could get his hands on. He literally asked everyone he met for their phone number; the sheer number of connections he regularly maintained with people around the world was incredible. He kept hundreds of address books, and even the margins of his holy books were filled with names and numbers. In the days before email and cell phones, he was a sort of living internet. To this day, whenever I visit his grave, I say aloud, "Here's my phone. Call anyone you want."
One night, my father promised my mother that they would have a quiet, private dinner alone that evening. He swore that he would stay home and not make any phone calls. (This was a very big deal).
While my mother was putting my sister and I to sleep, my father went to his office to study gemara.
He returned upstairs and said to my mother, "My love, I must confess: I made a phone call..."
Then he shared the following story...
He said that somehow he knew, somehow on the inside, that he had to learn gemara at that moment; that it was calling to him.
Believing that nothing was by chance, my father had a ritual for choosing which book to study. He would stand at his bookshelf and run his hand back and forth across the books; when he felt a vibration next to a specific book, he would know that was the one he had to open. Then, he would stand the book on the table and let it fall open on its own. Finally, he would close his eyes and allow his finger to find the place he was to learn.
When he completed his ritual and opened his eyes that day, his finger had landed on a small piece of paper. There was a young man's name and phone number written there. He was surprised, thinking he had misplaced the paper months before.
My father said that he knew it was a sign...
Despite his promises to my mother, he picked up the phone and dialed.
The phone rang many times. Finally, the young man answered.
My father said "Holy brother, it's Shlomo! I finally found your number! I’m so happy to hear your voice!"
The young man said "Shlomo Carlebach? Why are you calling me now?"
My father answered, "I had to call! I was thinking about you!"
There was a long silence.
Then the young man said, "Shlomo, I am standing on a chair with a noose around my neck. The phone rang so many times, I finally decided to answer, just one more time...."
The young man agreed to step off the chair and to come to New York for Shabbos.
That Friday, there was a soft knock on the door. The boy, who could not have been older than 18 years old, walked in and fell into my father's arms. The two stood this way, in the doorway, for what seemed like lifetimes. My father held him up as he cried...
My mother never put restrictions on their date nights again.
My father saved a life.
The young man stayed with my parents for five days, and then my father paid for him to go to Israel where he began a new journey.
My father asked my mother to never tell anyone what had happened. After he passed away, she knew it was too important to not be shared. It is a story I carry with me, and one that I've been recalling often these days.
Several months ago, I was blessed to connect with a new friend via Facebook. She is a true soul sister and one of the most incredible people I've ever known. I have still never met Deborah Greene in person, but I know we are connected in a way that is beyond my own understanding.
We all know how much grief this world carries. Fear and loss have many faces. My new friend Deborah carries a different kind of grief - she lost her father, of blessed memory, to suicide nearly a year ago.
Two of my first cousins committed suicide. From too young an age I've known more than I should about people who have died in this terrible way.
Yet now, longing so much to somehow comfort Deborah through time and space, I am breathing in the deep tragedy of this phenomenon for the first time.
Since her father left the world, my brave friend has participated in suicide prevention walks, has counseled and comforted other people living through sorrow (including me), and has been real and honest while blogging and sharing her truth with the world.
Her articles have been shared in hundreds of different publications, and I am honored to share some of her pieces with you here. I hope you will take the time to read her words and to follow her.
In light of this heavy topic and in remembering the near annihilation of our people on Purim, I’ve been reflecting on the custom of dressing up. Even though this is an important part of the Purim celebration, I suggest that perhaps the real depth of Purim is found in the unmasking after the party is over. Perhaps this holiday is more exalted than Yom Kippur because we so desperately need to remove our own masks and, at least for one moment, to see ourselves clearly in spite of all our fears. When we do, then we can heal. That is when the joy can come.
After the terror attack in Brussels just two days ago, I feel the depths of Purim even more. In too many terrible ways, too many lives have been lost. Too many broken souls fail to find value in our humanity. Our world is in crisis.
We have choices to make. We must act, we must fight, we must vote, we must see, we must listen. Most of all, we must decide to listen to the voice that calls from deep within our own soul. You know the voice I'm speaking of - the true voice, the bravest voice – the voice of Queen Esther.
Friends, wherever you are today, I ask that you take a moment to think about the ones you love, yourself and your relationships. And, perhaps allow a shifting (or if need be a healing) to begin.
Chag Sameach. Thank you for reading my words.
With blessings, hope, joy and all the love in my heart,
How ‘Soul Daughter’ Neshama Carlebach got her groove back
By Cathryn J. Prince, The Times of Israel
NEW YORK – In 1994, when Neshama Carlebach, then a teenager, joined her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on stage they broke the taboo of kol isha, the Orthodox prohibition of women singing before men. It was also the first and last time she’d appear with her father, otherwise known as the Singing Rabbi. A few months later he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Today Carlebach, 41, in her own right a star in Jewish entertainment, continues to break barriers while both carrying on her father’s legacy and charting her own unique path. Whether it’s performing with an African-American Baptist church choir or singing before the People’s Climate Change March in 2013, Carlebach still sees music as a way to give voice to the voiceless.
BRING NESHAMA TO YOUR COMMUNITY!
Neshama is now accepting bookings for concerts, private parties, fundraisers, Shabbat services Scholar/Artist in Residence events in collaboration with Josh Nelson and her new band, as well as interfaith performances with the Glory to God Singers.
For further information, please visit NeshamaCarlebach.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to speaking with you soon!
April 9, 7PM
Temple Shaaray Tfila
89 Baldwin Road
Bedford Corners, NY 10549
Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson will be performing at the Temple's Gala Event.
For reservations and further information, please call 914-307-0460 or visit shaaraytefila.org
April 30, 7:30 PM
4631 S. Lockwood Ridge Road
Sarasota, FL 34233
Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson will be performing a concert in honor of Rabbi Huntting's tribute weekend.
For further information please call 941-922-9322 or visit templesinai-sarasota.org
May 22, 7PM
Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun
2020 West Brown Deer Rd.
River Hills, Wisconsin 53217
Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson in Concert
For further information, please call 414.228.7545 or visit ceebj.org
PRESS PRESS PRESS!
VIDEOS OF LIVE PERFORMANCES
Click the links below to see video clips of performances…
- Performance at the 2015 URJ Biennial, 2015, in collaboration with Reverend Milton Vann and The Interfaith Choir of Orlando
- Yhi Shalom, A Song for Peace, with Josh Nelson
- Portraits of Faith
- Soul Doctor on Broadway, Neshama's opening night performance
- Soul Doctor, Opening Night interviews
- Embracing Faith and Music
- At the Gates of Auschwitz, March of the Living Ceremony, 2014, with Josh Nelson
- Song for Survivors, March of the Living Ceremony, 2014
- At the Gates of Auschwitz, March of the Living Ceremony, 2013, with Josh Nelson and Chanan Elias
- Jerusalem Post Interview
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