Sh’lach Or’cha (Ps 43:3)

Music & Audio @ 7 Dec 2022 Alexander Massey – All Rights Reserved

שְׁלַח-אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ, הֵמָּה יַנְחוּנִי
יְבִיאוּנִי אֶל-הַר-קָדְשְׁךָ, וְאֶל-מִשְׁכְּנוֹתֶיךָ

;Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me
.let them bring me to your holy mountain, and to your dwelling place

Yearning is an essential part of a full spiritual life. The mystery is that, when we yearn, and allow ourselves to feel the pain of separation, our heart feels connected, and full. The words of this song come from a pair of psalms (42 and 43) that give voice to yearning. “Like as the hart desires the water brooks, so my soul longs for You, O God. … Deep calls to deep …” The soul yearns to return to its Source (the ‘holy mountain’), and the dwelling place (mishkan) of the Divine—we all want to find our way home.

The soul’s constant duty and joy is to make t’shuvah, to return to God. Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) said: “…we will put our trust in God. “For there is no one for us to rely upon other than our Father in heaven” (Sotah 49b) to Whom we turn. Your mercy and compassion have stood by us until now, may You never ever forsake or abandon us. “Provide us with Your light and Your truth, they will guide us” (Psalms 43:3). (Likutei Moharan, Introduction 47)

Even though we sometimes choose the wrong path, we are always searching for what will be most life-affirming. Through inner work and practice, as well as Divine gift, we can learn and mature – sometimes steadily, sometimes erratically, occasionally with a flash of insight. The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), in his commentary on Noah (Noach 5:1) described this process: “It can happen that one is praying on a lowly level, and suddenly in a flash their soul is illuminated and rises to upper worlds, like a person ascending a ladder, as it is written (Psalms 43:3) ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, they shall guide me.’”

The Baal Shem Tov’s words gave me the inspiration for this musical setting, the rising ‘ladder’ of the melody, and the sudden octave ‘flash’ upwards to the highest note on the words el har kodsh’cha (the holy mountain). May you connect to your yearning, and may you find your way safely home to God’s mishkan.

You can also hear my other musical settings of Jewish texts on light here.