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Parashat Matot-Masei: The Moment Between the Movements

It’s summer in the Berkshires, and chances are, you’ll make it to Tanglewood this season if you haven’t already. It’s one of my favorite spots to spend time with family and friends, enjoy the outdoors, and of course, hear incredible music!

Later this summer, the renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, will be performing at Tanglewood, as he does nearly every year. Anyone who has seen this musician is struck by his passion, his talent, and his joy when he plays.

Before Yo-Yo Ma graces our local stage, I will offer a lunch and learn to discuss this performer’s perspectives on faith. Combining music and conversation, we’ll consider his art in a Jewish context.

Here’s a sneak peak into Yo-Yo Ma’s spirituality. In an interview with Krista Tippett, host of the podcast On Being, Ma reflects on the pauses in many classical pieces.

Here’s what he said:

So one of the composers that wrote for cello alone, Bach, wrote six of these wonderful suites. And they’re different movements. I have a moment of going between the moment at the end of a movement to the beginning of the next movement… that I remember often playing, loving the connection between the end of the Sarabande of the first, the G Major Suite, going into the Minuet, the next movement. A Sarabande is like a slow dance, and it goes into a Minuet, which is a slightly more lively dance. There is something about the incredible restfulness of the way the first movement ends… and suddenly, the sunlight comes in… I wouldn’t want to end the day playing just the end of one movement without also including the other.

The moment between the movement. If you’re a fan of classical music, you can picture that silence, that anticipation, that lack of sound that highlights the sounds before and the sounds that will come after. Too short to be the end, it is an interlude, a transition.

We’ve come to such a moment in our biblical text - with our double Torah portion this week, Matot-Masei, we will conclude the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers. Next week, we’ll continue our annual cycle with the first portion in a new book, Deuteronomy. We’re in a moment between the movements of our sacred text.

As we continue to think about the transitions in our community and beyond, we can embrace this moment between the movements. We can find both beauty and coherence in this pause, and Yo-Yo Ma does. As with the movements of a cello suite, the books of our Torah and the chapters of our life are inherently connected to one another. We have a fleeting moment, a pause, this lack of sound, this negative space, to appreciate the connective tissue between what was before and what will come after, the inherent unity in all things.

I hope you’ll join us at our lunch and learn on August 14th when we continue to examine what we can learn from Yo-Yo Ma about our Jewish experience. As we enter this moment between the end of the book of Numbers and the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, there is a phrase we say to conclude each book of the Torah: chazak, chazak, v’neitchazeik - be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another.

We draw strength from endings, we draw strength from beginnings, we draw strength from the moments in between the movements, and we strengthen each other by doing it together.

Sat, December 2 2023 19 Kislev 5784