Monday, August 20, 2012

Bon Jovi's Flop is a Jewish Winner

IN 2006, BON JOVI RELEASED a new song, “Welcome To Wherever You Are,” thinking it would be a smashing success. But as he admitted to Larry King, it flopped. Ironically, he also told King that he seriously considered removing “Living on a prayer” from the ‘Slippery When Wet” album because he didn’t feel that the song was up to his standards. Hmm….

It’s now August 2012, a mere six years since its release, and a member of my congregation (Thanks Justin!) just introduced me to this ‘dud’ of a song. Clearly, the fact that I have not been aware of its existence for all these years testifies to its poor reception……..or maybe I just need to get out a little more. But I digress.

To the point- “Welcome To Wherever You Are” is no dud. It’s fantastic. I am shocked that it didn’t live up to Bon Jovi’s expectations. The song gives hope to those who are depressed about their current station in life. It instructs people not to harbor anger towards God, and it inspires those who are stuck in a rut to embrace the present. As he says, “you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” Count your blessings, and continue working hard in life to achieve your goals. “Be who you want to be, be who you are.” You can become whoever and whatever you want to be.

As a rabbi, I am delighted that this song is packed with religious language and philosophy that has been debated by rabbis and scholars for generations. More importantly, I happen to agree with his theological views as laid out in the song. Here are three examples:

We all got the blood of Eden running through our veins- The Torah clearly states that man was created “B’tzelem Elokim,” in the image of God. Without reading too much into Bon Jovi’s lyrics, he also seems to imply that we all have the blood of Eden regardless of how evil and immoral our behavior. I believe, however, that in order to maintain our Godliness, we must act in a manner that is pleasing to God.

Welcome, you got to believe, that right here, right now you're exactly where you're supposed to be- Is it true that everything happens for a reason? The Talmud teaches that nothing happens in this world without God’s approval. We may not understand why God has put us where we are, but that’s something to take up with Him another time.

When you want to give up and your heart's about to break, remember that you're perfect, God makes no mistakes. This statement always stirs up deep emotional reactions. But the Torah is quite clear: “HaTzur Tamim Paalo, Ki Kol Drachav Mishpat,” God is perfect and all of his ways are just. In other words, God makes no mistakes. It may not seem that way in our eyes, but looks can be deceiving.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the song is its underlying theme that God is involved in every aspect of our lives. Bon Jovi doesn’t believe that God created the world and left or even that God is actively involved in the general world but isn’t concerned about the details (in Hebrew- Hashgacha Klalit). Rather, he believes that God is an active and vital part of each and every one of us (Hashgacha Pratit).

While a beautiful sentiment, how can we take this into our lives? How can we bring this into the forefront of our consciousness on a day to day basis? For one, we should probably start listening to a little more Bon Jovi! For another, instead of rushing through life, slow down and enjoy it. In order to see God’s imprint on humanity, let’s strive to be more deliberate and intentional in all of our relationships. Only then will we truly feel welcome, to wherever we are.

Rabbi Joshua Hess is the co-founder of the blog and an Orthodox rabbi in Linden, New Jersey.