If you had the opportunity to look at the invite list to my Bar Mitzvah you might be surprised to see that I sent an invitation to AC/DC. Funny enough I also sent one to Barry Manilow. Would I have sat them together? Perhaps AC/DC could have been seated with some of the more difficult members of my family just so we could tell stories about it for years to come. Would I have let them light a candle on my Bar Mitzvah cake? Would they have done the limbo? Would they have worn clothing?
I loved AC/DC and the experiences I had seeing them in concert. My older brother took me along to see them several times with friends. I had a hand painted AC/DC jean jacket that I proudly wore. If you have never had the pleasure of attending an AC/DC concert I should share that they are incredible performers. Not only are the simple heavy metal riffs powerful and loud, they know how to entertain. For the song Hells Bells, a massive bell is lowered to the stage and a rope is pulled throughout the song to add the chime. Perhaps no moment is more powerful than the experience of the song For Those About to Rock. Two massive cannons come out from the floor and each time the word “fire” is mentioned, those cannons explode with smoke and fire. Simply breathtaking! So much so that when one of my dearest friends invited me just a few years ago to attend an AC/DC show, I couldn’t resist. I felt a little strange having to tell the synagogue that I had to miss a board meeting to attend an AC/DC concert. I am lucky enough to work in a place that appreciates my quirky fun loving adventures. I was 13 again as I listened and remembered why the experience meant so much. I was lifted out of the every day and felt the music in my soul.
That concert, and so many other concerts I have seen, take me out of the ordinary and rattle my soul. The same soul shaking I have felt at many prayer experiences. These experiences, outside our usual frame of reference, literally leave our ears ringing as a reminder that we have experienced something powerful. I am reminded of the powerful moment at Mt Sinai that rattled our people and reminded them of their connection to something greater. At Mt Sinai, thunder and lightning pierced the sky to awaken the hearts of those present. We are told that the mountain itself was enveloped in smoke and “all the people saw the sounds and the lightning and the sound of the shofar.” How could the people see sounds?
Our commentators struggle to understand this comment about seeing sound. How can such an unnatural sensory experience be understood? Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, a 20th century mystic, wrote, “At the source, sound and sight are united. Only in our limited, disjointed world are they disconnected. If we are bound only to the present, then we will perceive the universe through the temporal and the material, then we will always be aware of the divide of sight and sound. The vision at Sinai, granted a new perspective.” A new angle, a new guitar riff can remind us of our connection to so much more than the mundane daily challenges.
These AC/DC concerts I realize are not Sinai moments, but they are moments that shake our senses and give us the chance to see the world, for a time, without our usual point of view.
“For those about to rock, we salute you!”
Peter Rigler is the rabbi of Temple Sholom in Broomall, PA. He is an avid concert-goer.
This is one of a series of posts exploring the intersection of rock and spirituality, leading up to the release of In Pursuit, an album of original Jewish hard rock. Sign up for the mailing list to learn more.