Michelle Citrin: Why do I write Jewish music?
The Torah is a gift that keeps giving that holds so many incredibly rich stories and nuggets of wisdom. As an artist, it’s like a goldmine of inspiration.
Our tradition’s texts and people are just brilliant. I absolutely love learning from our ancient sages. I just have one problem – the voices and perspective lack diversity. What I mean is – diversity in gender, age…and everything in between. The Torah’s wisdom is meant for anyone to access, but we’ve only just begun to offer new perspectives and interpretations and I find that very exciting.
I believe it’s important to encourage artists who are Jewish to explore our ancient texts and offer their interpretation. I believe the more perspectives we can hear from, the better for us all. Everyone has a unique lens to which interpret, even for ourselves at different stages of life.
Exploring the Torah is like watching a movie you loved as a kid, only through the lens of your life’s experience as an adult offering you a completely different perspective at greater depth. “Turn it, turn it, and turn it again.” We always have something to learn and ‘in turn’, we always have something to teach.
Even though this world is constantly changing at a faster rate than ever before, I believe the challenges we face as humans tend to boil down to the same issues and they are explored in the Torah. My Grandfather’s favorite line of Kohelet he always urged me to realize about the importance of learning Torah “Ain chadash tachat b’shemesh” – there is nothing new under the sun, so pay attention to those who came before you.
The way I see it is…our ancestors provided us a map that seeks to offer us a suggestion of a path to take in order to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. When I see the Torah, I see an opportunity to learn. There are generations before us who literally have ‘seen it all’, wouldn’t it be foolish to ignore what they’ve generously shared with us?
Writing music that stems from this exploration of Judaism, is like bridging the past to the future. I adore the depth, the introspection and the power of prayer and ancient wisdom.
My advice to anyone thinking about diving into composing and touring as a Jewish musician is to never be afraid to bring your gifts and talents into the world and share your unique perspective of our rich tradition that only YOU can offer, we want to hear what you have to say!