As I may have mentioned a while ago, there are some songs that I enjoy a lot (duh), and some for which many of the lyric tend to resonate with me. Although the songs were not written with me in mind, I can certainly apply them. I therefore will be going through “The Pinnacle” by Kansas, line-by-line, and applying a personal meaning to each line that I can. I thought of this after יום כפור (Yom Kippur) and the pages that have the Thirteen Attributes followed by a reading of the Thirteen Attributes with an interpretation for each one. I will simply go line-by-line without copying down the whole song first. (The italics are the lyrics, which I give credit to Kansas for, and the non-italics are my interpretations or comments.)
Interestingly enough, this idea came after listening to the lyrics of “The Pinnacle” several times, and considering that I sung it on Birthright. Many of the lyrics from the song I can apply to my experience. So, here goes! (Of course, I realize from the lyrics of the song that they have a much different interpretation, but I find it fascinating that many of the lyrics I can either directly or indirectly apply to my Birthright experience.)
<Long instrumental introduction> The instrumental introduction has a majestic sound to it, to mirror the excitement and wonder that I was about to experience.
“I have so much to say” My chronicles of the Birthright trip were 50+ pages of journal writing and over a thousand photos. And also twelve blog posts, starting here.
“and yet I cannot speak” Despite all the chronicles, they don’t do the trip justice, as it is something that you have to experience for yourself.
“Come and do my bidding now” A weird way of thinking about this line, but when I think “bidding,” it is true because Mickey plays bridge, and we continued our acquaintanceship from the Tuesday of the trip in that way after the trip was over.
“for I have grown too weak.” I actually slept at night, even when the others went out to the bars on the קיבצים (kibbutzim)
“My weary eyes have seen all that life can give” Maybe not so much, as I am still a young one, but this trip certainly gave me a new perspective on life, and changed me in many ways.
“Come to me, O young one, for you I can forgive.” Although not on the trip, it is certainly relevant to the Western Wall, as it must be like on יום כפור.
“I stood where no man goes,” I was the only one on the trip to go to באר שבע (Be’er-Sheva)…
“and conquered demon foes,” However, it involved the demons of pain that I was able to easily exorcise, due to the injury at מצדה (Masada).
“with glory and passion no longer in fashion, the hero breaks his blade.” After the injury, though I wanted to be a menstch and help with loading the bus, it was probably not a good idea for me to risk further injury to the arm.
“Cast this shadow long that I may hide my face,” At יד ושם (Yad Vashem–the Holocaust memorial), after learning about the death camps, it overwhelmed my mind, and I wanted some long shadow cast so that I could protect my mind from attacking my body worse.
“and in this cloak of darkness, the world I will embrace.” Some of the most enjoyable activities of the trip happened in the cloak of darkness (i.e. at night), and one of those was the sing-alongs at the campfire at the Bedouin tents.
“In all that I endure, of one thing I am sure: Knowledge and reason change like the season,” Any sort of major trip like Birthright will challenge what you know, what you think, and give you a whole new perspective on life. Interestingly, though, looking now, the idea of “change like the season” supports this for further pilgrimages to Israel, i.e. for the Festivals.
“A jester’s promenade.” The bus’s talent show was quite fun, especially some of the “weird” acts that I talk about in my journal.
“Lying at my feet I see the offering you bring,” This is more in a metaphorical sense. The “you” given here is Birthright Israel, and “lying at my feet” is every step that I took in Israel, and “offering” refers to the opportunity that I had to be in Israel, to learn, make friends, and explore my Jewish identity.
“the mark of Cain is on our faces, borne of suffering” This line brings out Dan’s admonition when we were at the military cemetery, that “The fighting must stop.”
“O, I long to see you say it’s not been wrong,” Some of the conversations seemed to have confirmation bias, particularly those with the Agree/Disagree conversation and the discussions on the second ערב שבת (Shabbat evening).
“I stand before you now, a riddle in my song:“When I sang parts of this song in two installments, part of the riddle might have been to me to try and apply it to the trip later. Who knows?
“The answer is that sweet refrain, unheard it always will remain beyond our reach, beyond our gain.” Many of the mysteries in Israel, for how long the land has existed, been fought over, and changed hands, indicate a lack of peace in this world. I think that the “riddle” is how to make peace in the world, which was frequently discussed in various forms during the trip. The “sweet refrain” is world peace, yet the Middle East conflict is so difficult.
<Instrumental interlude> Without words, it gives memories of parts of the trip where there were no words, but still significance. Some of the parts of the bus rides, even if they were tacit, still held special significance. I have always enjoyed bus rides, for whatever reason, and the presence of others, even if not in conversation.
“Trapped in life’s parade” During the trip, the schedule was very regimented since we had a lot of destinations. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest, so the word “trapped” has a negative connotation that I do not share with my relation of this lyric.
“A king without a crown,” The leaders of the trip took an authoritative, rather than an authoritarian, watch over the group.
“in this joy of madness, my smile might seem a frown.” Though I am always happy, there are some parts of the trip that were difficult for me, in various ways.
“With talons wrought of steel, I tore the heart of doom,” Positive attitude was a constant for me during the trip, which maybe uplifted others during trying parts such as the military cemetery or יד ושם.
“and in one gleaming moment, I saw beyond the tomb.” One of the pinnacles of emotion for me was at the top of הר הרצל (Mount Herzl), learning about Herzl’s vision of the Holy Land, and then singing התקוה (Hatikvah) in said land.
“I stood where no man goes,” I went to the בית כנסת (synagogue) while we were at קבוץ פרוד (Kibbutz Parod), and was the only one from the bus to take that opportunity (it was “early morning” on the שבת. Unfortunately, we were still a few men short of מיניין (minyan: quorum of ten).
“above the din I rose.” The “din” of the first two hours of the flight to Israel which had horrendous turbulence.
“Life is amusing,” This one seems fairly self-explanatory. You probably know my general attitude by now!
“though we are losing,” The time in Israel was very short. “Losing” as I interpret it is
“drowned in tears of awe.” Independence Museum, post-hoc of the Western Wall, leaving Israel, and many other times during the trip.
I just hope that this post can stay up and won’t get in trouble. I have cited the lyrics, and don’t take the LYRICS as my own. My interpretation, however…
Today is the twelfth day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes one week and five days.