Source sheet:


I want to begin with a niggun, with a wordless melody and right off the bat, I want to say it's a more elaborate one. It has three parts. So if you find yourself going to the mind of "I don't know this," or "this is too hard," I want you to see if you can catch even one note that you can join me. And we'll have a chance to layer on some words and understand more of the meaning, but let's start just with the direct experience of music together.

Yai Dai Dai...

So why that melody? Why that melody which is known as Bati LeGani? It was written by our teacher Reb Zalman of blessed memory. Today the fifth of Tammuz is also Reb Zalman's yahrzeit. And I know we are marking other passings, some of us coming from funerals this morning, remembering others at this time. And that this time [is] just to bring all of those beloved teachers and family and friends. They're welcome in this space.

The transcription on the sheet music as I received this of that particular melody says "in reverent memory of his Rebbe Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson", the sixth of the Chabad Lubavitch Rebbes. It's a complicated melody, and it also is a complicated text. So I wanted to take a look at these exceptional verses, share some soaking in the words of their Torah, to sing it again, and then to share some silence together.

So it's actually a series of three verses — three excerpts of three verses — all from the Song of Songs. So the first verse: domeh dodi letzvi oleofer ha'ayalim, my beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. There he stands behind our wall gazing through the window, peering through the lattice."

Hineh zeh omed achar kotleinu. "Here. Behold. Wow." I gave her another teaching, I'm just remembering now, on just this word hinei, behold. Sometimes translated in that old English, lo! Hinei. Hinei Zeh.

Here is the Lover standing just outside the wall, peering through the window, mashgiach min hachalonot. You may know the word mashgiach from the kosher supervisor, who is the mashgiach "looking over" the kitchen, supervising the kitchen. SHAGACH. Looking

Min Hachalonot. Looking through the windows. Meitzitz min hacharakim. Peering. And this word of tzitz is also like the sparkle, the shine in your eyes.

So right now is there something just right beyond the wall? So often we're armored or buttressed against the forces of life. Is there something peering through, flirting from the other side, awakening love?

I happen to live somewhere where I do see gazelles or young stags, probably they're more ayalot, deer. But they're always breathtaking. They're always so vital and graceful.

Can you soften to just this? Hinei Zeh. Right now, a sense of something lovingly looking or seeking your attention.

Or perhaps you're on the other side of the wall? There is a clear object of your desire and love whose attention you seek.

What does it feel like to peer through the lattice, through the network, through the meshwork? The desire to share your love.

I have come to my garden, my own, my bride. Reb Zalman now takes us a jump to another chapter of Song of Songs, the opening verse of chapter five. I've plucked my myhrr and spice.

Now, myrrh is an essential oil or a fragrance or an incense that's made harvested by scoring the trunk of a bark of the myrrh tree and gathering the sap as it weeps from the trunk. And Tammuz, this month is a time of tears in the tradition. And they're bittersweet.

So perhaps today has not been so fragrant, so lush or delightful as a garden, but what would it be to come into your own garden? What is a place of verdant support for your heart?

It may be in your own backyard. It may be a place you get to visit only once in a while. Maybe it's somewhere you've never been, but have a deep dream connection to.

What would it be to bati lagani, to come into your own garden and there find the beloved? To be intoxicated with the scents and the sense of love.

Ani yesheina velibi eir. I was asleep but my heart was wakeful. I know several other songs for this part. These words are not included in this chant, but I always read this as haleivai she'ani yesheina! "If only my sense of 'I' were to fall asleep, then I would realize that 'my heart is always awake'!" The "we" of the heart.

Kol dodi dofek pitchi li, the voice of the beloved knocks wakening me, open to me. My own, my darling, my friend.The word for pulse, as we can feel in our chest or at our wrist is knocking. Pulse. Knocking. The Beloved is quickening our hearts as we sing this together these three parts.

There's a little bit of repetition...


Good. Appreciation for even trying.

Let's try doing parts A and B again.

...behind the wall...


Let's sit together in our garden allowing ourselves to be loved.


RABBI MARC MARGOLIUS: Thank you so much, my friend. Beautiful. Thanks for mentioning that today's Reb Zalman yahrzeit. For those who are not familiar Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi really set an outsized influence on worldwide Judaism and through the Jewish Renewal movement.

One of the things that for me is so attractive about Jewish mysticism as represented by Reb Zalman is the idea of Judaism as a path of love, which for many people, of course is not something that they necessarily had picked up, along the way earlier in life.

The idea of sitting in a garden of love and of peeking through the window and having the Beloved, like searching through and looking for you, which is a recurrent theme in a lot of Jewish mystical texts, of course, and in Shir Hashirim, Song of Songs biblically, really powerful the idea of these lovers in search of each other.

Maybe you can say a little bit about that because I know it's core to your rabbanate and the work that you do both musically and rabbinically.

The question form would put that in is, What do you say to people who say number one, never heard of that, a loving God, who's in search of me, who just wants to shower me with love? That's what that's question number one.

Question number two is I have for people, including myself is, once you come to believe that what, what makes it so hard to receive that love? You know, to take it in? Why do we push it away? Why do we run from it? Why do we avoid it? Two big questions there for you, my friend.

SHIR YAAKOV: Yeah, softball.

MM: Well, let's just start with the, first. The idea of, [and] maybe you could speak a little bit personally about this, if you would, about the God of love who is looking through the window.

SHIR YAAKOV: Yeah. There's a Yiddish phrase that I was almost allergic to, and I don't remember it in the original but it translates to, "it's hard to be a Jew." And I did not want to take that on as the bag I was carrying or the cart I was pulling.

Actually when Reb Zalman agreed, I was a good candidate for his ordination, for his semicha, he said "you have the strength to pull the cart." But I don't want to schlep this baggage of "it's hard, it's burdensome, it's painful." And of course, it's all of those things.

And it's only worth it worthwhile if there's also some precious cargo. And that is the love and the beauty that is often just overwhelmed and covered over with tremendous loss, the sense of disappearance, with personal and historical and transpersonal trauma, and then on the individual level with shame and fear.

Unfortunately, I don't really know any other way to find the God Who Wants to Love Us other than through direct experience.

And as the Psalmist says "taste and see God is good." That could be written a thousand times. You can plastered it on your forehead or tattoo it on your arm. And if you haven't seen or tasted that, it's just dogma. It's just words.

I've learned that by being near people like Reb Zalman and other great teachers, and other teachers of place, beautiful places, that have allowed me to release and let go of that fear and that shame and relax into the possibility that yeah, maybe it's okay.

And maybe we are loved.

And maybe the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings.

Rob Brezsny wrote a book called Pronoia, which is the antidote to paranoia.

MM: Pronoia?

SY: Which means the universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings.

MM: Oh. Okay.

SY: It's the opposite of paranoia, like everywhere the world is out to get me. The walls are caving.

MM: Isn't it the same thing?

SY: Yes.

MM: The world's out to get me out to get me with love. Yeah, save me. Yeah. Yeah. That's beautiful.

You name so many of the obstacles or the sources of resistance, kick in. And I'd say also, just to tack onto that beautiful answer, that simply being able to notice and name the resistance.

Without judging ourselves for right. The shame and the fear, whatever it is in any of us that feels unworthy of that love, whatever the source of that may be, like you said, you named all the different sources of trauma. To be able to notice that and even to love that too.

SY: And even if love doesn't come first to meet ourselves in that.

The compassion is so vast. The ways we meet ourselves with where we are.

For some people, the theistic the deistic language doesn't work, but that awareness or that consciousness that wants to meet us where we are is so present and clear and open that it is infinitely patient with us until we're ready to be honest with how we're experiencing our experience.

Of self or non-self or or other or all of that.

And also another piece of that is the direct experience through music. There's something that physiologically, it helps brings the hemisphere of the brain together. It also starts to not necessarily blur the boundaries, but to create a medium in which what's on one side of the wall and on the other is really not two.

MM: Moira has got a really good question here. The idea of HINEI ZEH powerfully brings me fully present to observing and absorbing what's before me. Would you please speak to the interaction and differences between hinei zeh and hineini. That's interesting. That's interesting question.

Didn't even notice until I saw the screen shining back at me that my one of my previous IJS offerings was two verses. One that started with hinei mah tov umah naim, how good it is when we dwell together and zeh hayom asah HAVAYAH this is the day.

And this verse brings those two beautiful. I mean, We could spend a day on hinei on a day on zeh

Off the cuff, I would just play with the apparent difference between place and time. Like "here" in the sense of now. What is happening now. And "this" in the world of form or of objects.

And when those two are not two, right? When we're just fully here, hineini. Here I am.

That was a little bit playful, but I think there's something there.

I also like the way we often encounter the word zeh as hazeh like mah nishtanah halailah hazeh or shehechiyanu vekiemanu vehigiyanu lazman HAZEH. I know I just threw a lot of Hebrew out there, but in the Four Questions at the Passover Seder or in the blessing that we say when we do something new or arrive in auspicious moment, HAZEH is a palindrome.

Hey Zayin Hey. Hinei is also a palindrome. Hei Nun Hei. So these senses of connection of presence, of deveikut [cleaving], of belonging, of feeling okay, fundamentally alright with our place in the universe, somehow reaches, like a palindrome, from where we're coming from to where we're going and we find our consonant right in the middle of that vowel space.

MM: I'm in Manhattan, looking across my air shaft at a brick wall, but you had me sitting in the garden while we were sitting there and the fragrance of the garden, in my mind's eye, in my heart-mind, I could actually have a sense of the pleasantness of sitting in my GAN or sitting in this collective GAN.

One of the dangers of this, post-game show here is getting analytical about it. And I want to, selfishly and otherwise, would like to extend it. So maybe one more round of the niggun and the words of Shir HaShirim, from Song of Songs.

SY: I want to say one more thing about scent and memory because the interpersonal neurobiology of this is so powerful.

The kabbalists point out that the sense of scent is never mentioned in the exile from the Garden [of Eden]

[Adam and Eve] see the fruit, they hear the snake, they taste [the fruit], and they touch the tree, but scent is never [mentioned] there.

So in a way, the way, our sense memory and even the rhinencephalon, it goes straight to the brain, the cranial nerve between the nose, it's a direct connection.

So even breathing in the memory of a favorite tree, a favorite flower, a gorgeous sunset, or a place of safety actually activates the same neural pathways and the physiological circuitry of returning home in that sense.

shir feit


Shir Yaakov is Kol Hai's founder and spiritual director.