A young boy once went to the circus and was astonished when he saw that the giant elephant was tethered to the ground by a thin rope. Curious, he walked over to the elephant trainer and asked: “How are you holding down such a huge elephant with such a tiny rope? The rope doesn’t look very strong. This elephant could break down a brick wall; why doesn’t he break out of this tiny rope?” The trainer smiled at him, and explained: “When this elephant was a baby, weighing just 250 pounds, we tied it up with this very same rope. Every day he tried to break free, but he couldn’t manage to free himself from the rope. He tried and tried, but to no avail. After a few months, he finally gave up, convinced that it was impossible to escape. Now, he weighs two thousand pounds, and is strong enough to easily break free of these ropes. However, in his mind, he still thinks he’s unable to; therefore, he doesn’t even try to escape.”

Imagine you wake up in a hospital bed with amnesia, and you haven’t the foggiest clue who you are. You try to recall your most recent memory and how you got here, but you can’t seem to remember. After a few seconds, you come to realize that you have no idea who you are. Suddenly, a few men enter the room and give you some shocking news. They tell you that you are the President of the United States, and that once you’re feeling better, they have some very important issues that you have to deal with. How would you feel? You’d probably hold your head pretty high, realizing that you are someone important. However, what if, instead of addressing you as the President of the United States, those same people informed you that you were the hospital janitor; instead of awaiting your return to the Oval Office, they’re awaiting your return to the bathrooms on the second floor. How would you feel then? How would you think of yourself?

And Hashem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your birth place, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

B’reishis 12:1

Michelangelo was once asked: “How are you able to create such wondrous sculptures and works of art? How can something so ingenious and innovative emanate from mere mortal hands? Without skipping a beat, Michelangelo responded: “Before I even begin my work, the sculpture is already complete within the marble block. My job is simply to discover it, and then chisel away the superfluous material.” In other words, the dormant potential already exists beneath the surface, and the job of the artist is simply to discover that which is hidden within, transforming the concealed into the revealed.

There is a story told of a man who was captured behind enemy lines during war. To his horror, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. However, the captain gave the man another option. He told him, “You can go to the firing squad tomorrow morning at 6 o’clock, or, you can choose to walk through this door.” The man asked: “What’s on the other side of that door?” The captain answered: “No one knows. All I can tell you is that there is some unknown power behind that door.” The man thought it over, and the next morning, when it came time to choose his fate, he selected the firing squad. After the shots rang out, the captain’s secretary asked him: “You’ve offered so many people the other option, and every time, they choose the firing squad. What’s beyond that door?” With a look of dismay on his face, the captain answered: “Freedom! But people would rather face a known hell than journey into the unknown.”

There is nothing more enchanting, mystical, and mysterious than the experience of music. It has the ability to reach the very roots of our soul. The right melody can transform our mood, bring us to tears of sadness or joy, and release emotions buried deep within the bedrock of our consciousness. Music unlocks the door to our hearts, allowing us to feel and embrace our innermost yearnings for connection and oneness lying dormant within each of us, begging to be freed, begging to be expressed. From the artist’s perspective, music is the vulnerable expression of self; from the listener’s view, music is permission to connect to the divine, to transcend the shackles of mundane existence, to experience something other-worldly. Many have their favorite song, their personal gateway to spiritual ecstasy. With every note and every strum, their soul awakens and transcends ad-infinitum. The Rambam states that had we not been gifted the Torah, we would have studied music in order to tap into spiritual truths. And yet, if one breaks down and analyzes a musical piece, he or she would likely be surprised at its apparent simplicity.

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