Based on a recent article in the Forward, How To Make an Unorthodox Playlist For Your Orthodox Rabbi, I put together some annotations to reveal the tanakhic, midrashic, and philosophical references for these songs. Enjoy!
- Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)
Oh, God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God said, “No” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’, you better run”
Well, Abe said, “Where d’you want this killin’ done?”
God said, “Out on Highway 61”
Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”
- Halleluyah (Leonard Cohen)
Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg, vol. 2, p. 927
At midnight the strings of David’s harp, which were made of the gut of the ram sacrificed by Abraham on Mt. Moriah, began to vibrate. The sound they emitted awakened David, and he would arise at once to devote himself to the study of the Torah. Besides study, the composition of psalms naturally claimed a goodly portion of his time.
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
David / Bat Sheva (2 Sam. 11:2)
Late one afternoon, David rose from his couch and strolled on the roof of the royal palace; and from the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Samson / Delilah (Judges 16:19)
She lulled him to sleep on her lap. Then she called in a man, and she had him cut off the seven locks of his head; thus she weakened him and made him helpless; his strength slipped away from him.
- Who by Fire? (Leonard Cohen)
And who by fire, who by water
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial
Who in your merry-merry month of May
Who by very slow decay
And who shall I say is calling?
Mahzor Lev Shalem, p. 143
How many will pass on, and how many will be born;
Who will live and who will die;
Who will live a long life and who will come to an untimely end;
Who will perish by fire and who by water; who by sword and who by beast; who by hunger and who by thirst; who by earthquake and who by plague…
- Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything there is a Season) (The Byrds / Pete Seeger)
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4; this is a direct quote, except the words “Turn, turn, turn”)
- What is Life (George Harrison)
What I feel, I can’t say
But my love is there for you any time of day
But if it’s not love that you need
Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed
I and Thou, Martin Buber, p. 11
The Thou meets me through grace – it is not found by seeking. But my speaking of the primary word to it is an act of my being, is indeed the act of my being…
The primary word I-Thou can be spoken only with the whole being. Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency, nor can it ever take place without me. I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou.
Tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me, who am I without you, by my side
Pirqei Avot 1:14
[Hillel] used to say:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I?
4 replies on “The Rabbi’s Annotated Mixtape – Re’eh 5776”
Wonderful! Thanks for tying this all together! Just curious, do you think designation ‘Highway 61’ signified the gematria in Genesis 22+1+2 ?
Haven’t heard that theory, but perhaps if you explain more… With Dylan, anything’s possible.
I wonder if Dylan even remembers why he wrote that verse? It would be interesting to ask him if contact were possible.
Great explanation of wonderful lyrics & music.
We should invite Dylan to High Holiday services !