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For the last more than fifty years, my rock rabbi has been Paul Simon.
I fell in love with Paul Simon’s music, with the music of Simon and Garfunkel, when I was ten years old. His music shaped and defined my world – almost as much as Judaism itself. We saw him two weeks ago, on his Homeward Bound tour. At the age of 77, he is retiring from touring. He deserves it.
Share - Songs - Paul - Simon - Yom
Let me share one of his recent songs with you — Paul Simon’s Yom Kippur sermon.
The song is called “Rewrite.”
Gon - Cash
Gonna turn it into cash.
But that’s where I am.
Rewrite - Jewish - Yom - Kippur - Hymn
“Rewrite” is the great unknown American Jewish Yom Kippur hymn.
Paul Simon is singing about a man who understands the insight of the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. “Adulthood,” he writes, “is when it begins to occur to you that you may not be leading a charmed life.”
Man - Rewrite - Life - Dreams - Rice
The man in “Rewrite” did not live a charmed life. If he had great dreams, he left them somewhere in a rice paddy in southeast Asia. He returned from the war, broken and shattered.
He’s working in a car wash. His customers can only cluck their tongues and whisper about the guy who lost it in the war, the old guy who hasn’t had a brain cell left since Viet Nam.
Someone - Dreams - Noise
Someone once said that dreams don’t make noise when they die. No, they don’t have to. But, they die nonetheless.
The man in the song can imagine a more heroic way of having lived.
Car - Chase - Children - Disaster - Danger
He imagines a car chase. He imagines saving his children from some unseen or unknown disaster or danger, and fleeing with them in his arms across the rooftops.
The man in the song wants to re-write his book of life, his sefer chayim. In the song’s chorus, he turns to God and almost in the voice...
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"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift