How the Hebrew Psalms Helped Me Heal
How the Hebrew Psalms Helped Me Heal
© 2017 Ann R. Silverman-Limor aka Rahel www.rahelmusic.com
Rick Flanders, a friend and fan, wrote:
Rick Flanders, a friend and fan, wrote:
The day my battery died ...
Today I felt drained. After working late many nights and getting up early, talking to India and Boston for hours in stressful meetings, I felt like my battery was dead. I went out to start my motorcycle and its battery was dead too. I jumped the battery and decided to go for a recharge ride for my bike and me.
I couldn't put the stress out of my mind. So I decided to play Tikkun by Rahel in my helmet. She was my Hebrew teacher. These are Psalms in Hebrew set to music. Tikkun means to repair or heal. I headed out for the desert east of Grace Point Church (San Diego), listening to the songs of David in a Middle Eastern flavor.
The desert was blooming in such beauty from all our rain. I forgot all my stress and my mind was repaired. My wife Becky said I arrived home noticeably better than when I left. Then she handed me a package from a friend Lucinda Lee Koch King which was a book of the study of the Psalms in Hebrew. How wonderful! Coincidence? I think not. It is nice to have friends who inspire!
In 1995, as my marriage was failing, I found myself sitting alone in my room with my guitar in hand. At that time I was a wife and a mother of two young children aged four and seven years old. I was, and still am, a musician and songwriter. As I stared blankly at the walls in front of me my fingers began to gently pluck the strings of the guitar. Sweet sounds began to fill the darkened room as my thoughts swirled around in my mind. Randomly, with no particular focus, rhyme or reason the thoughts came and went as I continued to sit and pluck on the guitar. Emotions were all that filled the emptiness I was immersed in.
Sadness, anger, loneliness… what was I doing? Where was I going? How did I get here? What now?
I had acquired a book about the “Tikkun HaKlali – The General Remedy”; a unit of ten specific psalms that were revealed and designated by Rebbe Nachman ofBreslov to be used for personal healing. Rebbe Nachman (April 4, 1772 – October 16, 1810) is an icon in the world of Chassidism, a stream of Orthodox Judaism. He was the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name),founder of Chassidic Judaism. Rebbe Nachman had a decent following in his time. Today, nearly 200 years since his passing, his follower’s number in the tens of thousands. It is taught that the “Tikkun HaKlali” provides a way for one to move ahead despite any spiritual stumbling. Some even use it as a sort of amulet, a preventative against illness, misfortune or harm.
At that time I didn’t know anything about the rabbi, the Remedy or even much about the Psalms. As it happened, or perhaps Divinely directed, a book I had then recently purchased about the “Tikkun HaKlali” was sitting right there by my side.
After glaring aimlessly at the walls, and while plucking the guitar strings with no particular purpose in mind, I opened up the book to random pages. My gaze became focused. I looked upon the pages that were written in Hebrew and English. It was as if I were looking at a 3-D screen; verses from the psalms began to jump out at me in big and bold fonts. I began to sing beautiful melodies as they appeared. Before I knew it I was gifted with twenty-seven melodies that had now become musical prayer or song. They flowed to and through me as I sat in that room mindlessly receiving their healing energy and dutifully recording each psalm, or song, onto a cassette tape, the mode of the time. It felt like a tsunami of love, kindness and warmth overwhelming me; the Divine embracing me, wrapping me in a cloak of sweet song. My emotions channeled themselves through the verses revealing, embracing and releasing my sadness, anger, and petition and finally offering me a feeling of immense comfort and joy. This continued for three days. At the end of the three days I felt cleansed, healed of my previous wounded state of being.
A well-known saying attributed to Rebbe Nachman is, “If you believe it is possible to destroy, believe it is possible to repair.” The three days I spent with the “Tikkun HaKlali” did wonders. I was now ready to move on with my life. The psalms had reached deeply into my heart and soul and renewed my confidence and strength.
Yes, I had moved on. I shelved the cassette and continued on with my life. I was able to cope with my new status as a divorced single mother. My life changed in a number of ways. Any leftover tension was literally dissipating from my body. I relaxed into my new reality. I became stronger emotionally and spiritually. It was a new beginning for me and for my two children.
Fast forward to the year 2003. I had moved my little family to New England. We had all finally settled into our new surroundings. A tickling in my ear was urging me to find that old cassette from 1995. I wondered why? So I pulled it out, dusted it off and inserted it into a portable cassette player. I sat down to listen. What was this? The sounds I was hearing pleased me. The music seemed so simple and the melodies perfectly matched the lyrics. The songs were soothing. I decided to learn the songs. I tweaked a few here and there but for the most part they needed no real edits. They were already complete and whole.
That same year I was searching for a new career direction. I wanted to stay in the field of music but needed a new path. I attended a lecture at the local library about therapeutic music at which three nurses, who were also musicians, shared their stories. They explained about the use of music as a form of energetic medicine that is played at bedside to serve the ill and dying. One particular story was memorable. The nurse explained that she had been playing her harp for a long-term comatose patient. She laughed as she told us how the patient had suddenly awoken from his coma telling her to “stop playing that awful music!” Everyone rejoiced because the patient was no longer in a coma.
As the nurses shared more stories and information about the profession I thought to myself, “This profession appeals to me.” In my college days I had been interested in music therapy but never followed up. Something about it just didn’t click with me. Therapeutic music seemed more to my liking. A practitioner in therapeutic music uses music to create an environment in which the client or patient will self-heal as needed. Each person is unique. Each healing is unique. Sometimes death provides the ultimate healing. Music is personally tailored to each person’s situation, circumstance and need. This was what I wanted to do. I took my time to do more research and to think it over. After about a year I enrolled in the Music for Healing and Transition Program (MHTP). I gave myself plenty of time to study allowing time between each weekend module to digest and integrate my studies. Realizing the responsibility of providing this kind of caring and compassionate service to others, I wanted to be sure that this was something I was emotionally prepared to take on. The mandatory internship hours were helpful in securing my decision. Unfortunately, three hours short of completing my internship and course of study, I fell ill. This, together with a lack of funds, delayed completion of certification at that time. However, the training and experience at MHTP allowed me to become hired at the local hospice where I had been volunteering for three years.
The Hospice Education course at Home, Health andHospice was one of the best I have ever taken. It was chock full of guest lecturers who shared their personal stories with us. Regular people, volunteers, doctors, lawyers, CEO’s and patients shared their personal life stories as well as professional careers. We learned so much about life, legalities, management, transition, dying, death and burial. In fact I enjoyed the course so much that I took it twice; the first time in 2005 and again ten years later to refresh and update.
Fourteen years had passed since the day I had first attended the lecture in the library. I enrolled and completed the ClinicalMusician Certification Program offered at Harp for Healing and finally, in 2017, achieved official certification as a Certified Clinical Musician(CCM).
What happened to the twenty-seven songs from 1995? It wasn’t until 2004 that I finally brought the songs into the world. I wasn’t sure how they would be received by a secular and non-Jewish audience. So I would sing one or two of the psalms at open mics, folk clubs and venues to gauge the response. Each song involved the singing of ancient lyrics in their original Hebrew. My audience was mostly non-Hebrew speakers.
I was a bit reluctant to present these sacred songs, these psalms to the general public but feedback was always positive. It is taught that the Hebrew letters carry within them a unique energetic force. It is well known that music, too, is a powerful source of energy. In Judaism it is regarded as the closest to the Divine.
With each performance I added an additional psalm. I was now ready to record. I had a specific sound I was looking for. I wanted to give the songs a more authentic Middle Eastern feel. Where would I find such musicians in New Hampshire? Coincidentally, or by Divine intervention, I met a local musician at an open mic performance. He approached me following the performance and told me he played the Oud, a Middle Eastern instrument much like a lute. He also played the sitar, a stringed instrument played in India and could manage a Middle Eastern beat on the Doumbek, a hand drum. We clicked immediately and began to perform the psalms as a duo. At a family gathering I met my nephew’s high school friend, a talented bass player. His creative work on the fretless bass was perfect for the sound I was looking for. He agreed to join us for the recording. We took the psalms to a friends’ recording studio and in the course of three days completed the first two discs of what was to become a three-disc set. Before releasing the music I wanted to get more feedback. I sent the recordings to a dear friend in Israel. She suggested that the additional instrumentation interfered with her ability to meditate on the psalms. So I prepared a third disc, an acoustic version of ten of the psalms, to complete the work. The final package was released in 2004.
It’s been a long road! It’s been twenty-four years since the psalms first found their way into my life. Rebbe Nachman’s “Tikkun HaKlali” had a huge impact on me. In fact it changed my life. I value and treasure all the time and incredible moments that come my way because of it.
What of the recording? Those who have found it tell me that the musical psalms have helped them tremendously through various life crises. It is heartwarming to know that the “Tikkun” is doing what it is meant to do. The psalms are unique in that they represent human outcry. Credited mostly to King David, a man who led an extraordinary life as a poet, musician, warrior and devoted leader of a great nation, these psalms, originally believed to have been sung, provide opportunities to verbalize emotions and feelings that we all experience.
Please listen to, enjoy and share “Tikkun” for meditation, comfort, healing and yes, for prayer too.
Rahel’s “Tikkun” is available at: https://acousticbreezes-rahel.bandcamp.com/album/tikkun
Official website: www.rahelmusic.com