Saturday, May 9, 2009


I happened to be chatting up a colleague and mentioned my and Shiksa Girlfriend's ongoing (not so often these days, though) shul-search. She said that she and her husband went to a place that they liked, and invited us to join them. Knowing that SG was restless to shul-it-up more, I accepted.

It turns out we were heading back where we started: Temple Touched By God. We got there just in time for the later service, aka the young adult meat market. We found my colleague and her hubby. Hey, Mishkan T'filahs! Awesome, this is a lot better than last time when they had weird self-published and poorly transliterated booklets. Also, I can't recall exactly, but I felt like they included a lot more Hebrew this time around, probably because now everyone can follow along.

There are still style issues that turn me off: I don't really feel the need for a 5-piece band for Shabbos (especially when two are mandolins), neither am I really interested in us all pretending to be Bob Marley as we try to combine "Redemption Song" with "Mi Chamocha"-- which seemed especially tacky with an African rabbi visiting for Shabbos. Incidentally, cool guests with interesting stories are a big plus; though I would have liked someone, at some point, to have given an actual drash. I didn't expect the visiting rabbi to give one, per se, but all the regular rabbi seemed to want to talk about was the shul's upcoming fundraiser for... well, that part they never quite explained. Also, SG commented that given the size of the crowd (easily 200 people), they "sang like wusses." I said that I think part of it has to do with the fact that when there's a whole band, singers with microphones, and quasi-improvised songs that the cantor didn't bother to give anyone the words to, people don't feel like they're being asked to sing as much being given the opportunity to accompany the "professionals." Certainly a far cry from Evil Minion, or even Temple GLBT.

Oh yeah- has anyone ever heard this song? Does anyone know what it's about? Because a congregant sang it, super-emotionally, like she was having a stroke or something, and not only was that super-weird, but the lyrics were super duper confusing.

From a distance the world looks blue and green,
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
and the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.

From a distance we all have enough,
and no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
no hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance we are instruments
marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

From a distance you look like my friend,
even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
what all this fighting is for.

From a distance there is harmony,
and it echoes through the land.
And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves,
it's the heart of every man.

It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
This is the song of every man.
And God is watching us, God is watching us,
God is watching us from a distance.
Oh, God is watching us, God is watching.
God is watching us from a distance.

Is "distance" good or bad? Isn't the whole point of this song essentially that the reason things are bad (the visiting rabbi had just talked about growing up without running water and about how he was trying to raise money to make sure everyone in his village had mosquito nets to protect them from malaria) because God is too far away and assumes we're just fine? I can't tell if I'm missing the point here, or if everybody else was.

I guess what it comes down to is that when Touched By God actually does Jewish things, like Hebrew, I can appreciate the creative touches. Now that I have more familiarity with a traditional service and I'm comfortable with the structures of prayer, I don't mind what tune we use, or even if we skip around a little. When it comes to outright borrowing or slapping together disparate sources that have nothing to do with each other, much less connections with the service or ritual, things get a little trickier for me. I don't go to shul to hear people sing Bette Middler or Bob Marley songs. I don't object to people doing it, but that's not why I'm there.

Still, at least when we left this time, we didn't leave mad or confused. Maybe a little smug, but hey, it's a start. Will we make it our regular stomping grounds? Probably not. But I could see us going back periodically.

... No chance of giving B'Nei Hippy another try, though.