People who leave have multiple and complex relationships with many aspects of Orthodox Judaism. Our relationships with our pasts are often fraught and complicated. One of the hardest things to leave behind is music.
We’re taught, growing up, that we have to be so careful about what music we listen to because msuic is “yotzei min halev v’nichnas el halev” – it comes straight from the heart and therefore has an effect on the listener’s heart.
Translated to an insular religious ideology, that means one should always make sure the songwriters and composers one is listening to have proper worldviews and moralities. Which of course means any non-Jewish music is completely forbidden, and any Orthodox Jewish music that smacks of modern trends is borderline forbidden. (Techno was a big scandal when it was first introduced to Orthodox music.)
Shortly after I left the community and religion, I came across a video called “Tracks,” produced by the project It Gets Besser. The video features young OTD men and women going about their new daily tasks while listening to and singing along to the music of their childhoods – chassidishe niggunim, popular Jewish music…
When I saw this for the first time, I was nauseated. How?!? How could they be singing along to words that talk about the master of the universe, that glorify ideas they have rejected, ideas like Yakob doing everything he could and risking his life so as not to marry a non-Jew? How could they sing “ani ma’amin” when it’s not true? How could they not feel sick when hearing these songs with so much negativity associated with them?
The last frames of the video – “we’re not saying you would – we’re not saying you should – we’re just saying you could” – didn’t make me feel any better.
Traitors, I thought.You obviously haven’t really left if you still feel such a strong pull to such ridiculous songs and music.
It took a long time, but now I get it.
Now I have a whole YouTube playlist devoted to chassidishe niggunim that I play often.