How Can We Sing a Song of the LORD on Alien Soil?: Disability, Disaster, and the Idea of Music in Judaism

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Alex Lubet


disaster, music, Judaism


An analysis of Psalm 137, a poetic chronicle of the Babylonian captivity following the destruction of the First Temple, Judaism’s paradigm of disaster, is poetically represented through images of music and disability.  This Psalm’s influence on Jewish attitudes regarding music, which have served as a barometer of the Jewish people’s sense of their collective social welfare, is discussed.  Of special importance is Abrams’ idea, derived from the Deutero-Isaiah, of the Jews, living in exile after the destruction of the Temple, as Israel disabled; an entire people’s calamity understood metaphorically as a single individual’s impairment.  Particular attention is given to the discourse surrounding Late Renaissance Italian Jewish composer Salamone Rossi, who challenged the idea that the “disability” of exile required Jewish musical expression only to mourn the state of post-Temple Diaspora.

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