Adventures of a Chief Rabbi: Wildly Different Men of the Spirit (R’ Shmuel Eliyahu vs. Danny Sanderson)

October 16, 2013

Wildly Different Men of the Spirit (R’ Shmuel Eliyahu vs. Danny Sanderson)

I must write and post immediately. Otherwise, the memory of the intense experiences dissipates like a vague dream. Conducting my first wedding. Followed the next day by six cemetery events and three back-to-back funerals. The passing of Rav Ovadia Yosef and getting the local schools to have assemblies in his honor. A visiting Rabbi who was a childhood friend. Intense lectures. Kids enjoying the pool as the weather warms up. A wonderful family day for the school community where I got back to the basketball court after several years’ absence, and paid for it for several days.

Assisting Q&A of R’ Shmuel Eliyahu, together with R’ Michael Rubinstein

Yesterday and today I had the honor and pleasure of spending several hours with Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat and son of former Sefaradi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, z”l. He is a man of the spirit. Words of Torah, of wisdom, of Jewish tradition, of Kabalistic teachings, flow from him as if from an endless spring. Both publicly and privately it was an experience that elevated the soul, that reminded one of the Torah of Israel, of the sanctity and centrality that it plays in our lives, represented by this Rabbinic figure. It was wonderful.

Tonight, the Jewish community of Uruguay organized and hosted a benefit concert for the disabled children of our community. Danny Sanderson (of Kaveret/Poogy fame) and his band played a medley of Israeli rock songs that he composed over the last several decades. As the night progressed he moved up to more and more popular songs. Tamara, Netanel and I were sitting literally front and center. There is nothing quite like having front row seats. There is nothing and nobody between you and the band. You are the first eyes they see. You are the ones they are looking at to gauge the sentiment of the crowd. There is an unspoken relationship that develops over the course of the show and impacts on the bands performance. I think that Tamara probably single-handedly elevated the quality of the event. She was singing and clapping and dancing in her seat throughout the night. By the end of the event, the Bnot Sherut (Israeli girls that volunteer abroad for a year as part of their National Service duties) were standing next to Tamara, clapping and singing, with the entire audience on their feet. In their merit, Danny played multiple encores to a joyous crowd. The community left the theatre grudgingly at the end, uplifted and happy.

Tamara, Netanel and me onstage with Danny Sanderson after the performance.

Danny is a master performer. A gifted musical genius. His charming wit and humor and talented music-playing, captivated the audience. He brought us a taste of Israel. The wind and spirit and music of Israel flowed through the large theatre hall. For an evening, the Jewish community of Uruguay was magically transported back to Israel. With his song and his words he spoke to Jews of all backgrounds. When he got up and told the audience they were doing a “Mitzvah” by supporting the disabled children, I thought to warn him that he was infringing on Rabbinic territory.

The lyrics of his songs are filled with Biblical and Talmudic references mixed with both elegant and hysterical Hebrew wordplay. The spirit of Israel flows strongly in him. His obvious love of the language, the land and the people of Israel is infectious and elevated our souls. It was wonderful.

Leave a Reply