Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

“We have fallen into the place where everything is music.” These are words from the Sufi mystic poet Rumi, whose work I love. In the translations I’ve seen, he is one of the most profound spiritual poets there is. For another version of those lines, here’s how western-Mass-based folksinger Kris Delmhorst sings them: “Now we’ve come to the place where everything is music — everything is music, (so) let it play!”

I’ve been humming Kris Delmhorst’s setting of those lines from Rumi, because it feels like an apt description of life at CBI these days. With deep gratitude to our member and music director Adam Green, I can report that our choir has been rehearsing weekly since last summer. We learned a program of new music for Yom HaShoah this spring, we sing at Kabbalat Shabbat once a month, and we’re about to start working on preparations for the coming Days of Awe.

And we also now have a Kabbalat Shabbat band! As of this writing that band consists of electric bass, a guitar or two, a piano, tenor recorder and assorted hand drums. The first time we gathered to rehearse for Shabbat services, I couldn’t stop beaming. I’ve loved davening (praying) and singing with other synagogues’ bands when I’ve done Scholar-in-Residence weekends elsewhere, but I didn’t realize what a joy it would be to have a band here.

And based on y’all’s feedback from our first Kabbalat Shabbat service with our new band, it sounds like you feel the same way. People said the music was enlivening, that it gave them permission to sing along, that it made the service come alive in a new way. We had some guests davening with us that evening, and they told me they wished they had something like that (and a community like this) in the place where they live. High praise indeed!

In making music, as in community, we are more than the sum of our parts. Each voice or instrument alone might be lovely, but together, we add up ineffably to far more than our simple sum alone. The same is true in creating community. Each of us brings something unique to CBI: our dreams, our memories, our hopes, our histories. But when we come together, we become not just a collection of individuals, but something more than that: a community.

In community music-making no one is a spectator. Hum and sing and clap your hands along with the band. (Or if you play an instrument, join us for rehearsals — we’re not formal, we’re more like a pick-up group learning how to jam together so we can lead the community in offering Shabbat praise.) Hum and sing and clap along with the choir, too: Friday nights aren’t a “performance,” they’re prayer, and all of us are invited and welcomed to take part.

No one is a spectator in sacred community, either. CBI exists because every one of us brings something of ourselves to the table. Some of us tend the garden and water the fruit trees. Some of us provide snacks for Hebrew school, or bake challah for Shabbat mornings. Some of us serve on the Board and on committees. Some of us show up to help make a minyan when there’s a funeral or a yahrzeit. Some of us teach. Some of us sing. And all of us matter.

We’ll be holding extra Kabbalat Shabbat services this summer. The service of welcoming the Shabbat “bride” with joyful song originated among our mystics in Tzfat hundreds of years ago. They would go out into the fields at twilight on Friday night, and sing and dance to welcome Shabbat into their hearts. How lucky we are to have such an exceptionally beautiful backyard where we can do the same thing on Friday nights all summer long. I hope you’ll join us.

What I love most about making music is how when notes come together to make harmony, they are more than the sum of their parts. It’s like what I love most about serving a community, too. We are more than the sum of our parts. Each of you reading this is an integral part of CBI. We need your note in the chord: metaphorically, and (for those who like to sing) literally too! Thanks for being a part of the unfolding song of CBI. It’s a privilege to be making music with all of you.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel