December 2, 2023 /
About a month or so ago I was leading a pastoral care check-in call with some of the parents of the religious school. Rabbi Glasser and Cantor Stanton joined me on the call as we helped parents wrestle with what it meant to parent during a pandemic. We all vented about the isolation we felt, the challenges of being a fulltime worker, but also a fulltime parent who now had to oversee their child’s education. We talked about the challenges of working from home with little ones who know no boundaries and as that topic emerged (with almost supernaturally comic timing) Matthew, my 4 year-old, somehow got control of a phone and started piping in Ozzy Osbourne’s song Crazy Train, into my office through our Bluetooth speaker. It started off low, but within microseconds Matthew turned up the volume as loud as it would go and all of a sudden all the parents could hear Osborne’s iconic yell of “All aboard!”
Now before you start writing in asking how I could possibly let my 4 year-old listen to a Heavy Metal Rock music song by the self-described “Prince of Darkness” you should know that he doesn’t actually listen to this version, but rather the cleaned up version that appeared in the children’s animated movie, Trolls World Tour. It so happened that when he asked Siri to play the song he didn’t specify the artist so the artificial intelligence picked the Osbourne version. Which version it was is beside the point. The timing of the song gave a beautiful, if not comedic, example of what these last 11 months have been for all of us. It has been a crazy train ride for most of us. Thankfully Alyson picked up on what was happening and quickly took the phone away from him, to which I then heard Matthew through the door yell – full of indignation – “MOMMMMMMMY! I was listening to that!”
I must admit, once the incident was over, I thought to myself, this would make for a great Purim routine. The clergy on Zoom trying to lead a family Megillah reading and every possible bad Zoom glitch that could happen did happen. I must admit, every Shabbat when I log onto Zoom before we go live, I say a prayer wishing for a steady signal.
I had never really listened to the words of the original song, Crazy Train. The only lyrics that I remembered from it was the chorus where Osbourne is screaming, “I’m going off the rails of this crazy train.” If you haven’t guessed, I don’t really listen to much Heavy Metal music. However, as Matthew was forcing all of us on the call to listen to it, at an incredible decibel, the first stanza came on. It goes:
Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love
The song continues on about how the world, and his life, represented by the train, is going off the rails and he can’t seem to stop it. This might actually be the perfect song not just for this moment in time, but for Purim as well. Megilat Esther is all about how these little nudges in the story quickly devolve into hate and then genocide. At no point in the story of Esther are we able to pull back from the brink of this hatred and anger. The fighting at the end is the only solution for survival. Right now in our country we are seeing a lot of that anger and hatred as well. We need to teach ourselves how to love our neighbors again. It takes a deep breath to calm ourselves and acknowledge the humanity that all of us possess. But despite the rifts we are seeing in society, I don’t believe that it’s too late “to learn how to love” and co-exist together again.
Philip N. Bazeley