He was definitely the greatest Jewish melody writer of our times. He had the ability to penetrate the neshama of everyone who heard his music. No music will ever compare to his. His was the songs and melodies of the angels. His was the melodies that were sung in The Temple in Jerusalem.
I appeared with Shlomo Carlebach z”l in concert as a warm-up. Shlomo was the main event. He arrived two hours late to the concert. I was supposed to have been entertaining for approximately a half hour, but instead it was two hours until Shlomo arrived. I was furious.
But Shlomo in his warm and compassionate manner approached me and said “Holy Mordechai, maybe you’ll accompany me as I perform?” Since that day, when he would call our home, he would begin by saying, “Is this the holy Rabbi or Rebbetzin of Atlantic City, N.J.?”
I always imagined Shlomo sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean. Those Jewish souls that society had given up on as lost were cast into the vast ocean of apathy and indifference. Shlomo would be singing and playing on his guitar and his music would touch their soul and bring them back to Yiddishkeit. He was their last chance to grab on to their heritage and history, and he sat on this rock snatching Neshamot that were given up as lost.
Shlomo used to travel from town to town, from performance to performance, with a bag filled with paper. Small pieces of paper, each with a name and address written upon it. If you would ask Shlomo why he carried this around he would say, “When Mashiach will come and he will be looking for the lost Jewish souls he will approach me, and I will give him all these papers with the names of the forgotten Jews.”
Shlomo’s strength was his music; his ability to penetrate your heart and soul, and uplift your spirits. He knew that he had the key to success; the universal language of music; the power of song.
But Shlomo’s message and direction was not new. Our Sages have often told us that the way to study, and acquire knowledge is by song. A melody taught to a child is rarely forgotten. It creates an indelible impression in a child’s mind, never to be lost.
When I first began my career as a principal I was unimpressed by the archaic methods by which we taught our children throughout the centuries. Why did everything have to be taught in a singsong fashion? Why must we constantly teach everything in the form of a melody? Let’s teach the modern way! Song is outdated!
But in truth, the greatest teaching tool for teachers is song. More and more I see its power in impacting our children; in helping them to remember. As I was growing up, when my Rebbe would say to me “Don’t just say the Gemara, sing it!” he was transmitting to me the secret of Jewish learning; the power of song.
Shlomo’s songs and melodies had the power to allow one to reach the highest level of spirituality and I thank him for that.
But I am deeply troubled by the accusations of alleged abuse by women who Shlomo knew and who depended upon him and sought his good advice. When I heard of these allegations I stopped singing his songs. How can I sing his songs if any of this is true?
But I have come to the conclusion that I must separate the person Shlomo from his music. He is no longer here in this world to defend himself against these accusations; nor can I; nor can anyone. I cry for the pain that he allegedly caused and I truly empathize with these women who have allegedly been abused by him. I genuinely feel their pain.
But I will continue to sing his songs and melodies in the hope that it will inspire and motivate the world and me to a higher level of dedication and connection to Almighty G-d.