A Special Mold

Murray Saltzman

November 03, 1990|By Murray Saltzman

THE RABBIS tell us that when God wanted to make man he made a single mold, Adam. Then after Adam was fashioned the mold was destroyed. Hence every human life is unique. Every human spirit is wondrously special and sublime. What greater testimony exists to this Jewishly exalted perspective of our humanity than Leonard Bernstein.

He was a Joseph wearing a coat of many colors. His dreams were often as self-centered as were Joseph's. When he was on stage he was the center of the universe. Every gesture and every movement of his head was invested with an intensity that made the music he conducted effervescent with drama and tension. Thus he became more than Joseph the spoiled child who was doted upon by his father. Lovingly acclaimed by the world, Leonard Bernstein fed the world's inner soul with sounds that reflected his ubiquitous energy and captured his artistic flair. Leonard Bernstein gave vitality and endless beauty to a crescendo of notes, notes born of musicians and instruments, magically combined in a heavenly symphony. As Joseph fed humanity, Bernstein did so also.

Leonard Bernstein was as exuberantly in love with life as Hosea was obstinately in love with Gomer, his wife. Hosea was able to accept his wife's emotional instability expressed by her sexual adventures because he was so profoundly in love with her. Leonard Bernstein reveled in life. Physically, spiritually, morally, he was an adventurer.

Leonard Bernstein was an Isaiah-like character as well. A passionate, moral, sensibility opened his conscience and heart to the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. Prophetic in the intensity of his moral passion, he saw injustice clearly and rebelled against it. And with equal vigor verging on brazenness he proudly appreciated his Jewishness. No American Jew did more for Israel than did Bernstein. No American heard and celebrated the diversity of ethnic America with more joyousness.

So we celebrate the Maestro of America -- Leonard Bernstein. And in so doing we confirm the intuition of our sages: We are created but little lower than the angels. Crowned with honor and glory.

How do we know the validity of this wisdom? Leonard Bernstein is our testimony and evidence. He has bestowed a legacy whose brilliance will elevate and inspire life for ages to come. God made a special mold when he fashioned Adam, and called him Leonard Bernstein.

Rabbi Saltzman delivered these remarks last night at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

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