Welcome to Lab/Shul, an artist-driven, everybody-friendly, God-optional, pop up, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.


Sing Out – a guest post by Sarah Sokolic, Vice-Chair of Lab/Shul Board

sarah sokolic

Sarah Sokolic, Vice Chair of the Lab/Shul Board

“Sing Out”
Parshat Netzavim-Vayelech
Guest Post By: Sarah Sokolic

There is great deal of research out there about the power of music – it’s impact on cognitive development, ability to promote social connections, and maintain emotional well-being.   As usual, G-d is way ahead of the curve in parshat Netzavim-Vayelech when commanding Moshe to use a song as a way to reinforce the message to the Children of Israel about the importance of following the Torah after they enter the Promised Land.  This is a critical time for the Children of Israel, and G-d means business, laying out the blessings they will enjoy if they keep the Torah and curses that will be afflicted upon them if they don’t.  While the actual “Song of Moses” actually occurs in next week’s parsha, Haazenu, it is in this week’s parsha that G-d brings the notion of a song up to Moshe and tells him that one of his last activities on earth will be a musical jam session with G-d.  The idea that G-d uses a song to convey the severity of the message is fascinating to me.

Research aside, I am a true believer in the power of music.  Did you ever hear a song from a particular time in your life and feel pangs of nostalgia or longing?  Music impacts me on every level – it rouses my memory, awakens my spirit, touches my heart, and moves my body.  That is why I am such a believer in the power of music, especially in relation to prayer.  We are often taught of the importance to daven (pray) with kavana (intention).  But what does that mean?  How does one do that?  According to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, true prayer is neither one of speech, nor silence, rather, the ultimate form of prayer is song.  For me, music is the conduit through which I can achieve full kavana.

As we approach the yamim noraim, I want to share with you some of my favorite pieces of music that help me to get inspired for a season of teshuva (repentance).  These are songs that are used in my shul, Storahtelling’s Lab/Shul, during the high holy days. What I love about these particular pieces of music is that they ring true the notion that our bodies – our entire selves – are holy.  That we are vessels of the sacred and of the divine.  In this week’s parsha G-d says:

יד  כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹד:  בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.

“For the mitzvah which I command you this day, it is not beyond you, nor is it remote from you. It is not in heaven . . . It is not across the sea . . . Rather, it is very close to you, in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it.”

Here, G-d is telling the children of Israel that the Torah does not just live on a scroll in an ark.  It is not just in some high, unattainable place.  It’s in our mouths and in our hearts.  We are the holy keeper of G-d’s will and we are the vessels by which holiness can be transported and transcended.

With this in mind, below are three songs (and links for videos of each) which encompass these ideas and will hopefully help you bring some kavana to your High Holy day preparation. First, I’m delighted to introduce you to Natanel Goldberg, an Israeli-born musician who wrote a most beautiful song, “I Am Holy”.  Second, Reb Shlomo Calrebach’s “Return Again” (performed below by Israeli musician, Yonatan Razel), and finally, “Lord Prepare Me To Be a Sanctuary” by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs.

Shana Tova.

I Am Holy

Written and performed by Netanel Goldberg

Fly like a river
Flow with the ocean
Fly on the wind that blows in the winter

Dream about love
Deep in your dream
Live in the ocean of love

Close your eyes and feel the wind that is blowing
Open up your heart and sing

I, I am holy.  I, I am holy
I am here to live this life

Dance in not knowing
Know your perfect power
Dance like a lion in the wild

Close your eyes and feel the wind that is blowing
Open up your heart and sing

I, I am holy.  I, I am holy
I am here to live this life

Return Again
Written by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
Performed by Yonatan Razel

Return again, return again
Return to the land of your Soul

Return to what you are, return to who you are
Return to where you are
Born and reborn again

Lord Prepare Me To Be A Sanctuary
by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs
Performed by: Sarah Edelstein
This is a great rendition by the New Psalmist Baptist Church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW8p0Se6cAk

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You