On the Other Side (Song)

Rabbi Josh Snyder
October 31, 2013
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After a few attempts, this song found its inspiration in a piece by master glass artist and Baltimorean Gianni Toso.  The piece, called “Birthright”, shows the kotel on two sides: one, with a more traditionally-dressed crowd in gender-separate reverence before the kotel, and the other with mixed dancing of Taglit-Birthright Israel participants in shorts and T-shirts before the kotel.  Their shadows seem to reach through the wall to the more traditional crowd.  You can see the piece here:  http://www.giannitoso.com/index.php/galleries/lampworking/birthright

It made me think about the two sides of the kotel, more in a metaphorical sense than a real one.  I have no interest in Jews reclaiming the Temple mount or actually breaking down the kotel.  What I think we need to break down is the kotel myth: that there is a particular geographical location that is a center of our faith, or our people, or God’s presence.  Rather, we should find our center in the Jewish people itself.

On the Other Side

Verse 1: Every wall, you see, has two sides

The Kotel is no different

One where we gather, pray, yearn, expand, contract,
One is buried in memory and cement

 

While we fight over how to dance, pray, and who and when

The holier side is silently waiting

For someone to break through the stone within

To find the foundation stone still creating

 

Chorus: Cause the wailing we hear, when our hearts face east

Is because of the walls we devise

Face west, young Jews, and behold your people

For therein the mikdash* lies…on the other side

 

Verse 2: Well the first time that I felt its stones

I tried to get the vibe of holy presence

But as time went by those wails and groans

Only made me feel despondent absence

 

If our centerpoint is loss and shame and sadness

What does it make us?

8 million visitors every year feed the madness

Still 5 times less than Vegas.

 

Chorus

 

Bridge: On the other side, may peace reign over all

God words shine through like a clarion call

On the other side, we’ll join hand in hand

May no walls divide us, in this or any other land

Chorus

 

Chords: Chorus/Verse: Am Em D Cadd9; Bridge: G D C G (Am)

Mikdash – Holy Temple.  After the destruction of the Temple, the congregation of Israel is referred to as mikdash m’at (a smaller Temple).

I felt it appropriate that I recorded the song in my sukkah in the middle of the night, connecting with a yearning for a more lasting structure that is always fleeting but full of meaning and mystery.

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Rabbi Josh Snyder is the Executive Director of Goucher College Hillel in Baltimore, MD. He attended List College's Joint Program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned degrees in Talmud and Biology. After a brief adventure as a veterinary student, Josh was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2008. In addition to immersing himself in Hillel, Josh finds balance through his wife Neely and three daughters, distance running, rock music, the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Orioles.

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