Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Boss Springsteen to the Rescue

ON FRIDAY NIGHT, WHILE JEWS around the east coast will gather together at Synagogues for their first Shabbat davening since the devastating Hurricane, the pop-culture world will be having their own spiritual experience at the Rockefeller Plaza in NYC. Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Sting and “the Boss” Bruce Springsteen, among others, are headlining a benefit concert to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
As someone who grew up in the teeny bopping, R&B and Rap world of Los Angeles, my exposure to these “God's of Rock N Roll” is somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I am most certain that “the Boss” will sing, “My City of Ruins,” a song which he wrote to honor the victims of 9/11 and one which provides inspiration following any tragedy, and certainly in the aftermath of Sandy.

The song highlights different images of people trying to cope with tragedy: the guy depressed to find his congregation gone, “the younger ones on the corner like scattered leaves,” without direction and unable to process the tragedy that unfolded in front of them. The robbers and thieves who use tragedy as an opportunity to exploit others, the fellow that's deep in prayer and is unsure how to proceed and move on with his life. And finally there's a devastated spouse who has lost his life partner. Springsteen exhorts them to “rise up;” to show the resolve, strength, and fortitude to re-focus and put the pieces of their lives back together.



My favorite part of the song is when Springsteen invokes the Biblical imagery of Moshe holding up his hands to the sky as the Jews battled with Amalek, “Vayehi Yadav Emunah,” his hands served as a testimony [of the faith of the Jewish people]: “Now with these hands, I pray Lord, with these hands, for the strength Lord, with these hands, for the faith Lord.”

In times of tragedy it is understandable to have feelings of anger and abandonment towards God. Springsteen encourages us to work past those feelings by explaining that it's specifically during these times of uncertainty when we need to pray to God with greater passion and fervor, both for the strength to continue and to keep the flame of faith alive within us.

In a world where it's so easy to use celebrities, athletes, politicians, and musicians as punching bags, “the Boss” continues to champion important causes and inspire us with timely messages. As a rabbi, it gives me hope that I'll be able to inspire people when I'm 63 years old. I hope that the younger musicians follow his lead and learn to use their prominence to educate and inspire us by emulating the charitable impulses of those who are performing in Friday night's concert.


Rabbi Joshua Hess is co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog and an Orthodox rabbi in Linden, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiHess.