On Rosh Hashanah and Music

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 2, 2013

Volume III. No. 33/126

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Back Bay Dedication Post-Boston Marathon Bombing

Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Year 5774

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

In the space of fewer than 11 days two holy occasions that ennoble the calendar are upon us. The first one is Rosh Hashanah which begins at sundown day after tomorrow, Wednesday September 4, 2013.The etymology of the word Rosh Hashanah is RAAS (HEAD OR BEGINNING) AL (OF) SENNEH (YEAR or DATE), THUS ROSH HASHANAH, the beginning of calendar. Wednesday marks the Jewish year 5774. Some reflections:

Moses was born 1590 BC, and reportedly lived 120 years until 1470 BC. Scholarship about birth of Moses, 3590 years ago and Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish calendar 5774 years ago is very interesting. The relationship between the two dates has gone through many twists and turns. The struggles very much remind me of the struggle of C-major and C-minor in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, battling back and forth for attention and primacy. The final note is the celebratory C-major coming through triumphantly. The currently perceived resolution of these two competing dates is simply that it was approximately 6,000 years ago when the world’s oldest religions simultaneously began to emerge. Abram of Ur renamed Abraham by the Lord (Genesis 17) had much to do with this remarkable emergence. We could say that this year marks 5774th year of the dawning of the human awareness of God…and the dawn of monotheism. It sends a chill down one’s spine to get in touch with human connectedness and history. Occasions like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Islam’s Eid-Al Fetr, celebrating completion of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, worship, and purgation of the soul (was observed on August 15), Easter Sunday and Purim, the Jewish Holiday that marks liberation of the Jews by Cyrus the Great (Book of Esther), collectively elevate our awareness that we are children of God and regardless of labels that separate us, we are inextricably inter-connected.  We wish everyone a joyful 5774 and life. Next week’s “MM” will be devoted to Yom Kippur and a book review on Moses Maimonides of Cordoba, the Rabbi, the formidable physician/clinician, the awe-inspiring medical researcher and discoverer, the superb medical ethicist, and the remarkable writer. Shana tova.

Music: Mankind’s Saviour

The recent New York Metropolitan Opera performance of Mozart’s masterpiece, Idomeneo, was a good reminder that Mozart was an ordinary man with all the flaws and scars of alcoholism, syphilis (from Pamena of Magic Flute), kidney failure and periodic bankruptcy, with an extraordinary and truly God-like mind to produce and write music of such complexity, architectural soundness of structure, yet immense sublimity and transcendence that is beyond any mortal’s comprehension. The gift of Mozart is available to all lovers of music. This particular performance was super special, because the international cast involved countries of Australia, England, Canada, South Africa, India, New Zeeland, and France. Our own Maestro James Levine, veteran Met Opera Music Director, and now conductor of the Boston Symphony, born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio,  who conducted the feast, was America’s contribution. The virtuous performance of the star-studded cast and Levine’s skillful directing once again proved that music is the universal language of peace, understanding and love bringing the message of brotherhood and connectedness to mankind.

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 *The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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