We live in a day and age in which we take the gift of electricity for granted. When the sun sets, we flick a switch. When we go camping, we must travel far from home and the light pollution of our cities to see the full array of the heavens. When our ancestors experienced darkness, they lit a fire. They created prayers such as Hashkiveinu, which asks for protection from the darkness.
Hanukkah, a holiday of light, in some odd twist, falls at the darkest part of the year in North America. What does light represent? Why do we desire to be in the light? What can we expect to find within it? In 2010, liturgist and poet Alden Solovy pondered these questions and produced the beautiful poem "Inside the Light" in response.
When I read his words on this blog last month, I instantly was motivated to create music for them. The structure of the words and the repeating phrase begged for accompaniment. I reached for my phone's voice recorder and within 10 minutes I was rewarded with a song. Later that day, I recorded a rough version on my computer with my guitar, and before long it took on a life of its own. I played the earliest version for Jewish musician Stacy Beyer, who, together with Beth Schafer, recently created Harmony in Unison, a virtual stage on Facebook that’s currently offering live daily performances (Sunday to Thursday) by Jewish artists – both beloved favorites and up-and-comers. Stacy made one tiny suggestion, which led to a re-recording and the simple version of the song I have today.
“Inside the Light” works so well for so many of right now because, as Alden did back in 2010, we are searching for meaning in the answers to our questions. We are looking to the light for warmth and guidance. As we battle apathy as a response to our fears and doubts, we see potential direction in the light. Indeed, it is into the light we must go, and the very place in which this song was born.
Listen to the music Cantor Brad Hyman wrote upon being inspired by Alden Solovy's words. "Inside the Light" will be included in the forthcoming book, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day, which will be published by the CCAR Press.