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Folk Rock Rabbi Blog

A Happy Life: Part One  

A Happy Life 

A personal observation

I used to think that someone who could have everything he wants, whenever he wants must be the happiest person alive. I also thought that a person who has the right traits; is ambitious, good-looking, good in business, sharp-witted, knows how to make money, has lots of energy, and is very clever, has all of the ingredients necessary for a happy life. When I asked around, I also found that most of the people I spoke with, agreed.

Then I began to take a good look at the general population, and I asked myself, “Ok, so where are these happy people?". I began to ask my friends and associates if they had ever met anyone truly happy. They all said, “Yeah, sure, I see them all the time”. That’s when I realized that most people think others are happy, but from a superficial perspective, without any intimate knowledge. Therefore, if I wanted to know the general condition of the world around me regarding who is living a truly happy life, there is only one way to find out. I would have to go out and personally ask people, rather than asking someone what they think about another person.

I began by asking some of the very wealthy people that I know. Those who had money coming in from every direction. They could spend as much as they wanted without any concern. They lived in palace-like houses, traveled the world, and had people constantly waiting on them hand and foot. After speaking with some of them I was surprised to find that even among the millionaires and billionaires I knew, in general, they were not satisfied. When seen from the outside, with my own eyes, they surely appeared to have all of the ingredients of a happy life, but when asked most of them said, “Yes, indeed I have wealth but not happiness! People are jealous of me; they want what I have. There is so much fighting within my family and so many other worries and concerns. And all of my worries are not from side issues but rather from my wealth itself!” I concluded that true happiness is not an automatic result of being extremely wealthy and my search continued.

Next, I decided to go and ask people of average wealth. I began with a friend of mine, a successful businessman. I spent some time with him and found that he was extremely ambitious and worked very hard to continuously achieve more and more wealth. I asked him if he was truly happy, and he said to me jokingly, “I wish I was, but I just don’t have the time!” He confided in me, that when his father, who started the business got old he said that he felt life had passed him by. He worked until he no longer had the strength to continue working and also lost any desire to taste the fruits of his labor. He sadly said that he could already relate to his father and feels he is going in the same direction. I left him with my question still unanswered, a happy life, where can it be found?

My next stop was the general working class. The majority of them said the following, “We work hard every day and sometimes into the night, and after all this, we feel that our portion of happiness and success in this world is among the smallest.” Some expressed that they felt the wealthy people were taking all the money while they did all the hard work. They felt that they were providing the world with so much good, but they were not receiving enough in return. Needless to say, they didn't sound so happy!  

So, who are the ones living a happy life? This is my question and I have yet to find an answer. Is it possible that a happy life does not exist!? As an actual person living in this world and trying to be happy, this wasn't something I was able to accept, and I felt a need to get to the bottom of this. My first step in solving this problem was to understand what the problem is. Like a doctor, if he doesn't know what the sickness is, how can he heal it? What is the sickness in the world that has destroyed our ability to live a happy life?

I no longer believed as I did when I began, that ambition, wealth, or any external possessions or specific traits automatically led to happiness. I began to analyze the information I had gained from the people I had spoken with. The wealthy ones said that jealousy was ruining their happiness. The people of average wealth were too busy trying to acquire more and more. The working class felt they had no recognition for their contribution to society. 

After taking time to think all this through, I concluded that it wasn't the world that lacked the opportunity for happiness but rather the focus of a person was the reason for his/her unhappiness. Although it was true that there was real jealousy surrounding the wealthy people, and my friend the businessman was indeed very busy, and so too was there a lack of appreciation for the working class, at the end of the day, a person does have the ability to choose what they want to think about and it's just as easy to focus on the good things as the not so good. Anyway, that was my observation.  What do you think? Do you have any other ideas about this topic? I'd love to hear from you. 


Remorse and the human spark  

Remorse and the Human Spark

Feeling bad might not be as bad as you think.

When a person feels bad about something he has done to another person or even something he has done against himself, like not following through with a commitment, it might not be a feeling that one should regret. It might not be a bad thing at all. 

Although It's difficult to accept that a negative feeling such as regret, or remorse is a good thing, in truth, it may be a very valuable emotion. 

Remorse enlightens one's mind and creates an awareness in a person that can motivate real and positive change. It is very powerful and effective when it comes to policing our moral behavior. Feeling remorseful is very important in a human being because it encourages our moral compasses to do something better. Behavioral change starts with a remorseful feeling; a strong feeling inside of you that tells you that you have done something the way you were not supposed to or said something you were not supposed to say. 

Not feeling bad is far worse. Feeling bad about something is actually part of the process of becoming better, but too often when we feel bad, we get down on ourselves, and in some cases that even leads to depression and medication which is very prevalent today. Letting a remorseful feeling get you down can be very hurtful to your mind and your emotions. You may find yourself feeling worthless, anxious, and too bad to even exist!! Sadly, many people haven't yet recognized the goodness in remorse.  

I have heard of cases where some people committed suicide out of guilt about something wrong that they have done in their lives or other people's lives. You should not try to punish yourself just because you did something bad to someone, and now you are feeling guilty about it. This only shows that you are human, with honest emotions; ideally, you should be happy about this. That feeling of remorse is a conviction of the soul within. Don't point a finger at yourself for doing something bad, rather simply recognize and acknowledge the way you behaved and strive to become better. Relax, and know that you are not feeling remorseful because you are bad and unkind, but because you are human and have a spark of humanity alive within you. Remorse is a good thing; if you look at it that way, it can motivate you to make positive changes.  Only good things! 


Why is there war?  

A while back I watched a documentary about gorillas. It began with a family of gorillas all working and playing together. They seemed to all love one another and they were also very cute and fun to watch. 
As the film went on, the tribe began to grow and at some point, they had to split up into two separate tribes. A bunch of them began a life in a new location.  
Then something very interesting but also horrific occurred. One of the groups waged war with the other. It was terrifying! They were literally eating each other alive! This family of gorillas, who were once playing together and working together to ensure one another's survival were now the worst enemies. 

Why? What caused this to happen?  

When they were all together as one tribe, anything each of them did, even as an individual, was automatically also for the benefit of the other gorillas in his tribe. Therefore, although there was a selfish motive, there was peace. 
Once divided however, anything done by a gorilla in one tribe was only good for the gorillas in his tribe. The tribes were no longer benefitting from one another.  That's when they became jealous of one another, and their selfishness took over to the extent that they ate each other alive. 

There are so many people all over the earth. So many different cultures and beliefs. It's because of these differences we are divided. Once divided we do not benefit from one another. The only way to truly bring the world together amidst all these differences is by sharing our resources and becoming dependent on one another. True, there will still be a selfish aspect in that I am sharing with you because you are sharing with me, but there will be peace! 

To take the next step and address the selfish aspect, well that's a spiritual discussion for another time. Let's work on this first and see what happens. 

Only good thing, Gedalya 

Every choice is a decision to be a giver or a taker,   

Every individual is a world unto him or herself and has been given life by God. Each of us equally have choices to make. It is true our choices will be different but each and every decision in its moment is a selection of what we hold to be right and true or whether we choose to be selfish. A rich man may seem to have a lot more involved in making choices than a poor man. However, what it really boils down to is a decision to either put oneself aside to do what is right or to do what is best only for me. Every choice for every person is always about being a giver or a taker, regardless of the situation. This is where we are all equal! 

Gedalya to Gedalya Folk Rock Rabbi  

I remember the first time I went to Israel. I can’t say that as a Jewish American boy I had a strong feeling about Israel as my homeland. I was there to be inspired and maybe have some new ideas for songs to write.   After the trip, I would go home the same person I was before I left and continue pursuing my music career. Little did I know I was in for quite a surprise! 

When I arrived, the first place I went to was the old city in Jerusalem. I found a hostel to stay in and began to travel around. As my money began to dwindle, I decided to take some classes on Jewish topics, ranging from the history of the Jewish people to the holocaust. The classes were free, some were philosophical, and, honestly speaking, they were way more interesting and informative than other classes I’d taken that I had to pay for. 

I remember a class about man's purpose in the world and I was amazed at how deep the topic was. It was certainly very different than the Judaism that I knew and had grown up with. To me Judaism was always about ritual observance, outdated traditions, and burdensome obligations. I didn’t see any meaning behind it. But now I was learning a whole philosophy that is the foundation of Judaism. I discovered that my religion thinks about really deep things and analyzes ideas and concepts. That was something I appreciated. 

Every morning I would go for a jog and then spend the rest of the day going to classes and delving into books about spirituality. One day I found a book in English that was filled with inspiring stories about prophets. Reading it, I heard the dreamer in me say, “Yea, that’s what I want to be: a prophet!”  I know it sounds funny, but it wasn't funny to me. In fact, I was so serious about it that I decided to put music aside for a while and really focus on my spiritual growth. I was around twenty-five when I made this decision and the next time I would write a song wouldn't be until ten years later, when I would write Make me a Sage. The time I took off from actively pursuing a music career while I was learning did set me back in terms of my dream to be a rock star though. I mean when I began, I was nineteen with long hair and I had the look, if you know what I mean.  Despite all of that, my real dream was always to be able to share my ideas through music and inspire others. I would have never been able to write the songs I write today if not for the changes I made in my life, changes that led me from being a seeker to a finder 

Ok, so what about the Rabbi part? Am I a Rabbi or not! Well, officially yes, I am a Rabbi.  You see, a Rabbi is a teacher, a teacher of life. He is also a spiritual resource for people interested in personal growth. I am an official Rabbi, with rabbinic ordination, but I wasn’t ever interested in having a position in a Synagogue.  I studied because I love to learn and after many years of studying I was able to pass the test! 

The vision I have now is the same as when I began to write songs, which was to live life with my mind turned on to learning from the world around me and being able to share the message I learn with others through music. There was a time I had my doubts as to whether I would ever write another song and get back into music, but I attribute my inability to write to the fact that my personal outlook on life and the world around me was changing. I was in the process of integrating my new spiritual perspective with the truths that I already had inside of me, developing them and asking myself questions about what was really right, what was really true. While in this process, my outlook on reality was still being formed and not yet a part of my being. I wasn't able to articulate my new ideas because I still did not have a strong enough grasp on them to put them in writing. 

So, allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Gedalya, also known as the Folk Rock Rabbi. I'm writing songs for everyone, not just Jewish people. Anyone and everyone who wants to hear something new and interesting is welcome to listen. I'm a self-taught musician, and my music style is inspired by the songs I grew up on, mostly top 40 and classic rock but I have ventured into other genres. I'm not a diehard fan of any particular artist. I like songs for the song itself. What the lyrics have to say and the music are what appeal to me. 

Wishing you only good things, Gedalya

Here's a picture of me back in 1995 on my first trip to The Holy Land. I've also included my song Holy Soldier which was written in 2018 on another trip I took. Only good things! 


Geoffrey to Gedalya   

Hello and welcome to my first website blog! I'm calling it A New Song Blog after the name of my non-profit, A New Song USA.  I'd like to give you a sense of who I am and where I'm coming from, and if you decide to listen to my music maybe you'll understand the man behind the music a bit more. 

This is an excerpt from an autobiographical sketch that I've been working on for the past fifteen years. Don't let the fact that I am a religious Jew throw you off.  My message, and the one that my organization was created to share, is one of universal comfort, connection, and hope for the future. 

I never thought that I would be an Orthodox Jew and look like this.  As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I didn’t even want to be Jewish.  If I was ever asked, I would say I was Italian, it seemed to me that people liked Italians and I wanted to be liked. 

I remember walking to shul on the high holidays, I would always be so terrified that someone I knew would see me dressed in my holiday suit. I would wait until I was inside the shul to put on my yarmulke, and I would immediately remove it upon leaving.  

I grew up traditional. I had cousins who were Orthodox. They lived on the lower east side in Manhattan. Their lives were very strange to me. I never had anything against Orthodoxy; I just couldn’t see myself living a life full of such restriction, and religious obligations. Don’t do this. Don’t eat that. You can’t go here; you can’t go there. And the thought of using my Jewish name Gedalya made me feel a little uneasy inside. Yea, being traditional was more than enough for me. 
I had other ideas of what I wanted to do with my life. For example, when I was 6, I wanted to be a superhero and I would save my sisters from the ferocious beast in the back yard. OK, it was Spunky, our dog, but he was a little ferocious at times. When I was 12, I dreamed that I was a racecar driver, I would sit in a shopping cart pretending to be racing in the Indy 500. When I was 16, my family had moved to Florida, and now I wanted to be a bodybuilder. I lifted weights day and night, took vitamins the size of grapefruits, drank protein shakes and flexed my muscles in the mirror a lot. When I was 19 though, it all came together for me. I was going to be a rock star. It didn’t matter that I didn’t play an instrument and that I couldn’t sing on key. I’d been writing poems since I was a kid, and I decided I would try to put them to music. I wrote my poetry about things that mattered to me. Thoughts and feelings I had about myself, and the things I saw. I felt that I had a message to share, and I wanted to get it out there. My mother bought me an old beat-up piano and I began banging away at the keys.  

So, there I was, 19 years old with all of my dreams, waiting for something great to happen to me. But where should I wait, where should I be when this great happening happens? Like any other 19-year-old, I felt the world was mine for the taking. I decided that I would go to the place that people go to make it big, The Big Apple. I went into the recording studio and made a demo of all three of my songs. Then I got in my dark brown, all leather interior, 1977 Cadillac Coupe Deville with dark tinted windows, and I was off. I drove straight through the night. Made it in 21 hours. The music was blasting all the way. 

Well, that was the way that I saw myself, to everyone else, I graduated from high school, barely. I didn’t want to go to college, or to be a part of the college scene. I didn’t have a knack for business. I didn’t have financial backing or financial planning, or any finances at all. And between you and me, I didn’t even know if I had all that much talent. I just knew that I was going to make my dreams come true. 

One night, I was feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere in life.  I was now about 24-years old. I was living in Kew Gardens, Queens. I was writing songs and performing them in various places in Greenwich Village. I was getting my message out there, but I was feeling empty. I remember lying awake at night, thinking back to my childhood, to my home. I enjoyed my freedom, but something was tugging at me.  That night, I realized that music wasn’t enough.  I needed to be involved in something that meant something, a cause that I believed in. Around this time, there was a group that was going to Poland to visit the concentration camps, and then on to Israel. I thought that as a writer this would be a great opportunity to have some new material. I packed up all of my things into my knapsack, took my portable keyboard and I was off. 
I never really gave much thought into what it meant to be a Jew. I remember a bus ride to visit one of the concentration camps in Poland. It was a very hot day and there was no air conditioning on the bus. I had to stand because it was so crowded. I remember thinking to myself, that as uncomfortable as I was, my fate going to this place could’ve been a lot worse. When we arrived at the first camp, and we were shown around, I couldn’t believe how real it all was. As much as a person can believe something is true, when you see it with your own eyes it becomes so much more real. Our guide told us that during the Holocaust it didn’t matter if you were religious or not, secular Jews that had no appearance of being Jewish whatsoever were killed alongside their brethren. I began to become terrified at the thought that something like this really happened. The strange thing is, with every step I took and everything I saw, I felt myself come closer to my Jewish identity. I also found myself becoming angry at how something like this could be done to my people. I had found my cause…I would be Jewish!   At that moment I decided I would begin to use my Hebrew name, Gedalya. 


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