Serach

Moses dies, in the company of a 400-year old harpist, and liberates the souls of the Israelites who have died in the desert.
“The light from his face grows richer, brighter. Then he sings a pure, high note, a note with the sound, the color of the rays of the sun.”

The legend of the Israelites dying each year on the 9th day of the month of Av, and of their discovering that the pattern had broken on the 15th of Av is quite old. I first heard of it from the rabbi at the Chabad House in Austin, Texas, in August 1989.

I came across the legend of Serach for the first time in 2008 in an article about performance artist Etta Abramson from the Drisha Institute who did a piece, The Consistency of Flour , about her.

Further research led to the story of Serach’s having played the harp for Jacob to let him know that his son Joseph had not died. This idea led to the threads of music within the story.

I modeled the character of Serach in this story after my teacher Pauline Oliveros and her Deep Listening work.

An article by Rabbi Yakov Travis contained the legend of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav’s work with the souls of the dead. I transferred the image of this work onto Moses. The rays of light coming from Moses’s face are mentioned in his descent from Sinai.(though unfortunate mistranslations led to artwork portraying Moses with horns). His singing the pure tone of his true name links back to his story in The Book of Voices where he spoke of his well-known name not being his own. And the Asherah tree once more makes an appearance.

Questions

If you knew all your life that you would die peacefully on a certain date, would you live your life any differently?

If everyone in your society knew the dates on which their lives would peacefully end, how would the society be changed? Would it affect how people acted with each other or treated their environment

 

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