Ps. 121: Two Contemporary Musical Interpretations

Neshama Carlebach is an award-winning singer, songwriter and educator who has performed and taught in cities around the world. A six-time entrant in the Grammy Awards and winner and four-time Independent Music Awards Nominee for her most current release, Believe, Neshama has sold over one million records, making her one of today’s best-selling Jewish artists in the world. As a teenager she performed alongside her father, the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. As the first then-Orthodox woman of her generation to perform for a mixed-gender audience, Neshama has sparked public conversations with brave forays into the place of women in Judaism and today’s world. Neshama lives in New York with her husband Rabbi Menachem Creditor, and their five children.

Here she performs the song Esa Einai (entitled “Heaven & Earth” on the album Higher & Higher) with the Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir.

Artist Statement on Esa Einai (“I Lift up My Eyes”)

There are many moments in my life when I have looked to the Psalms for inspiration. King David’s poignant, inspiring verses are somehow always relevant and relatable. 

My father’s melody for Esa Einai was one of the very first songs he composed in 1959. Simple and entrancing, he created it at the very beginning of his career when he was not sure he could write music or if anyone would ever hear his voice. The melody is filled with longing for transformation and clarity.

Esa Einai has lifted souls across the world for decades; it has given me life. I’ve heard the song more times than I can count and still I cry when I hear it. The song reminds me that God exists, that there is a source of love and strength to turn to when I feel I cannot go on. I remember that I am not alone.

One of the most incredible and redemptive experiences in my career has been the opportunity to pray and harmonize with Pastor Milton Vann and our Baptist choir. Despite all that is broken in our world, despite all the ways our cultures and backgrounds have historically divided us, within our harmonies we are able to connect so deeply. When we sing Esa Einai and the audience joins us, I am transported to a place where there are no walls, where our yearnings bring us into intimate communion. When we sing Esa Einai, I feel a sense of unity, peace, and hope.

As we struggle through these challenging pandemic days, as we witness pain and racism, I know that this song is needed more than ever. I hope and pray that these words and this melody also bring you strength and connection to the deepest Source of love. I hope that this song continues to stir souls and give hope to those of us who feel frightened and alone. I hope this song continues to have a place in your heart. 

SHEVA (“Seven" in Hebrew) is a world music ensemble that was formed in 1997. The members of the band come from Muslim and Jewish backgrounds. Their first album, Ha'Hatunah HaS'hmeemeet ("Heavenly Wedding"), featured the hit song “Salaam” (“Peace” in Arabic) also known as "Od Yavoh Shalom Aleinu” (Hebrew for "Peace Will Come Upon Us”). The band released four studio albums and one live album and toured throughout the world. The following video is a recording of Psalm 121 (in Hebrew entitled “Shir La’Maalot” or “A Song of Ascents”); the music was composed by the Hasidic performer, Yosef Karduner.

 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, joined in lighting the menorah. Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of an American vice president.
Bhattar created an art piece to honor all those that choose to love themselves and work to collectively dismantle our culture of shame around HIV/AIDS, especially in higher education and religious/spiritual communities. 
The authors write that they learned many wonderful things growing up in Southern Evangelical churches, "such as centering Christ and serving others." But in conversations around sexuality and HIV/AIDS, "We were also taught things we now know are tremendously grounded in hate and fear."
As we open the application for the 2022 cohort of IFYC alumni Interfaith Innovation fellows, we speak with 2021 fellow Pritpal Kaur, the former Education Director at the Sikh Coalition and an advocate for increasing religious literacy in the classroom.
Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were all convicted Wednesday (Nov. 24) of murder after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours.
A new book, “Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas,” by Omar Mouallem, may meet the needs of a new generation of Muslims.
For Christians, Advent is a period of preparation for Christmas and beyond. The Rev. Thomas J. Reese writes that perhaps fasting during Advent can be the Christian response to the consumerism of the season.
Interfaith holiday events can be a great way to show respect for others and make everyone feel included. Need some tips? Our IFYC colleagues have you covered.
Studies show that American religious diversity will only continue to grow and that Thanksgiving dinners of the future will continue to reflect this “potluck nation.” We all bring something special to the table.
IFYC staff members share what they're listening to, watching and reading that inspires an attitude for gratitude this season.
How can you support Native Americans and understand important issues and terminology? This Baylor University sophomore is here to help.
Aided by an international team of artists, author Salma Hasan Ali turned her viral blog about Ramadan into a new handmade book.
A symposium hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago focused on the intersection of Indian boarding schools and theological education as well as efforts to uncover truth and bring healing.
This week's top 10 includes stories on faith and meatpacking in the Midwest, religion in the metaverse and an interfaith call for peace in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The two lawmakers appeared at "Race, Religion and the Assault on Voting Rights," the inaugural event at Georgetown University's Center on Faith and Justice.
Religion & Politics journal interviews the author of a new book on the impact of growing religious diversity in the American Midwest.
Five interfaith leaders share readings and resources that inspire them, give them hope and offer solace in turbulent times.
“There is a huge gap between the religiosity of clinicians and the religiosity of the clients,” mental health counselor Shivam Gosai says. “This gap has always been there. Mental health professionals are not always reflective of the people we are serving.”
Part of what I found so beautiful about our conversation is that we both agree that American pluralism is not simply a pragmatic solution to the challenge of a diverse democracy, it is also a kind of sacred trust that God intends us to steward.
The author, a Hindu and a Sikh, notes that faith plays a subtle yet powerful role in the show -- and creates space for more dialogue.
Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is the first Native American to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.