for Voice and Electronics
Cantor Nancy Abramson, Mezzo Soprano
Recorded by Richard Newman
We often think of love as something comfortable, something comforting. The truth is, it can be the exact opposite. True, unbounded love from another source can cause us to confront parts of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable: our vulnerability, our self image, our passive role as the recipient of care rather than as a caregiver.
In Exodus 35:5, Moses relates the Eternal’s commandment to bring offerings to build portions of the Mishkan, directed specifically at kol nediv libo, all whose heart is inclined toward giving freely (this adjective is repeated several times in the chapter). It is a rare occurrence that the people listen, so obediently—but here, they do just that. They give so freely that those who were wise of heart (hakham lev) tell Moses that the people have brought more than enough (36:6).
But how much is too much? For a people who had such trouble with physical attachments, even desiring re-enslavement in Egypt for the sake of a variety of foods, this act of free love could have been a liberating step in the Exodus story. Moses stops the people—and they listen. The verb (vayikale) is almost harsh—it’s the same root (כ.ל.א.) that we use in Modern Hebrew for “prison”—when perhaps we were moving toward perfection.
When love becomes overwhelming, our discomfort with our vulnerability or our rational mind (hakham) can cause us to run away. But the effects are potentially damaging. Once the door is closed, it may never open again.
“Nediv Lev” is about the vulnerability and rational discomfort we can experience in love—and the frustration of the soul which desires the mind to take the righteous risk of diving into that love without fear.