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Hasidic Tribute to Jerry Garcia

In the late sixties, there was a great awakening in the world. Thousands of youth took to the streets, Jews and Non Jews, yearning for a deeper meaning to life and its experiences. Many were disenchanted with society, materialism, war, civil rights, lack of respect for human life and the destruction of the environment to only to name a few. This is when Reb Shlomo Carlebach Zt"l came on the scene to "turn on our lovelights" and give over his Torahs to the world, but this also the timewhen Jerry Garcia who left us this week, came to share his.

Was the late Jerry Garcia Jewish? Besides a few rumors that have circulated about is being from Marrano descent the answer, as we understand it, is no. What then would bring us, an orthodox minyan in L.A., to honoring a guitarist with a devoted following ofhundreds of thousands in the world community?

To begin in answering these questions the Talmud says the following: 'Pious ones of all nations have a share in the World to Come. I call heaven and earth to witness that the Divine Spirit rests upon each person, Jew or gentile, man or woman, master or slave, in consonance with one's deeds'. If this is so, then how can we not, as a community devoted to bringing more love, harmony, and ultimate oneness into the world, honor the lofty, compassionate soul that is now waking up to the morning dew in Heaven.

Still, the central reason behind our honoring the late Jerome John Garcia, known as Jerry, is that to an exceptionally large handful of us in the chevra (circle of friends), Jerry played a vital role in being mekarev us (making us closer) to the deeper dimensions of life that we did not know exist. As for those of us who alreadywere aware of these altered states of it was at a Dead show that it couldall be realized and celebrated. In fact, anybody who has ever dared todream about the type of dancing that will take place in Yerushalayim(Jerusalem) when the Great Day arrives might have already tasted itat a show, thanks to Jerry.

For many of us who had later come around to discover Yiddishkeit (Judaism). the reason why we felt so much at home with Yiddishkeit and especially, Hassidiut (Teachings of the Hassidic masters), was because it was as if we already understood its songwithout ever really having learned the words. Thanks to Jerry, of course, there seemed to be a familiar message ringing in our ears whenstudying the mystical works of Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman. Levi Yitzchok,Ishbitz, Zusya, Elimelech, Schneerson and Carlebach. In fact, the messagewas clearly calling us to "Wake up to find out that we were the eyes ofthe world" and that "once in while you get shown the Light in the strangestof places, if you look at it right". And in the strangest way, as for manyof us, it was Jerry who was our very first rebbe! A rebbe who did not giveover his words, as much as he did his essence . Words, Reb Shlomo Carlebachwould often teach us, are finite. It's what's behind the words, the essence,that connects us to infinity. For many of us. it was Jerry Garcia's essence,as given over through his music, that served as our significant channel to infinity.

So just as any Grateful Yid has the obligation to honor his/her own rebbe. it is our obligation to honor the late Jerry Garcia for one of the basic principles of Jewish faith is the concept of Hakarat Hatov.

The mitzvah of Hakarat Hatov is the act of acknowledging the goodness thatsomeone has done for you, and doing your utmost to reciprocate that goodness, even if you might have outgrown the teacher, path, or way of life.

Do you remember your first show? Do you remember how many gates were opened to you since that first show? Do you remember the smiles in everybody's faces and the awesome love in everybody's eyes? Do you rememberhow, after feeling that love between tens of thousands of people, it actuallydawned upon you for the first time that there actually was hope in changingthe world? That human beings actually had it in them to truly love and createa paradise on earth? Do you remember those levels of utter freedom that youreached to which all hidden mysteries were revealed to you as you dancedyour way through the different worlds? Who took you there? Who brought youback? Jerry did, and he did because he understood that his playing had alanguage of its own. A language that somehow only our neshamos (souls)understood. Jerry's music was his torah. Its message, beyond words, mamash beyond words.

Reb Shlomo Carlebach was once asked which kind of niggunim(melodies) were among his favorite. He answered the ones that you can cry to,laugh to and dance with, all at the same time. For all of us who knew Jerry's music. there is no better way to describe the relationship we had with it. His music clearly came from a very lofty place. A place that can and has changed our lives forever in but a few precious moments. Our job in remembering Jerryis in holding on to those precious moments, forever.

Being that we lost our dear friend Jerry Garcia just before Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbat of comforting in the Jewish tradition I wantto share a comforting teaching from our own holy Reb Shlomo with anybody whohas ever suffered loss.

"As much as it takes a lot of holiness and depth to know howto laugh, it takes even more holiness to know how to cry. But it's important that you know one thing that all the rebbes say, the Baal Shem, Reb Nachman, all the rebbes: That even while you're sad, don't ever stop being filled with joy. You are absolutely not permitted, even for one split second, to stop being filled with joy. Because if you truly believe there is One G-d in the world, then you also believe that He is taking care of our world as well. So how could you be sad. But yet, the problem is, I'm still a human being and I'm still so sad, so broken.

So the question is, how do I reach that level to be so sad, and while I'm still sad, I'm at the same time so filled with joy? What should my crying sound like at this point? Like Reb Akiva says, I have no choice, I'm crying with one side of my heart and laughing, with the other side of my heart. Gevaldt, is that hard. But it's the only way we know right now, and it's theholiest way we know right now.

You don't have to be a Deadhead, or be into Shlomo, or even be a Jew to connect with these holy words. All you have to be is a human being with a heart. But even a heart is not enough, as Shlomo has taught us. It hasto be a heart with a little broken place in it. For a heart with a broken place in it, really is the greatest blessing of all. For if you don't have that broken place inside of you, then you are full. Those that are completely full, full of themselves and their own concerns, do not have any room left in them for G-d, for holiness, for things divine and especially, for other people. So I bless you and I, and the whole world with just a little bit of a broken heart, not too broken, G-d forbid,but broken enough so that we are no longer blind to each other's needs. The truth is, that now more than ever, we really do need each other. Now that all our rebbes are "headlights on a north bound train", we really need each other in the deepest way. "There comes a time" and that time has surely arrived! The holy truth is, that we are all living together in the Uni - Verse, singing the same songs. even the same verse, and it's just a matter of time that we truly realize itFind Article, together.

Wishing you the holiest of moments and all blessings Divine.

Michael Ozair

Article Tags: Jerry Garcia, Broken Place

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Rabbi Michael Ozair is a spiritual life coach, counselor and is available for consultantion. He can be reached at or by visiting his site at

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