Save the Bassoonist!

I wonder about the ego of the bassoon player in an orchestra. Most of the glory goes to the first violinist or the piano soloist. Even the cellist sometimes gets a star turn. The poor bassoonist, with his oversized double reed contraption, is often in the back corner. The deep, rich tones of the bassoon are only noticed in the rare orchestral moment during Scheherazade or in a theme of Peter and the Wolf. Please don’t ignore the bassoonist. Not as sexy as the sax, fewer students are taking up the bassoon. There is a Save the Bassoon campaign begun in Europe in 2015. We need the bassoonist because the depth of an orchestra comes from the variety of instruments that often do the heavy lifting with little notice.

Whatever their seat in the Orchestra, we measure a musician’s value by the amount of playing time they have or the position of their seat toward the front of the stage. Our sense of merit assigned each human being is exhibited in a similar way as we assign value to prominent positions and featured skill sets.

As one who lives in an affluent suburb, many of my neighbors are doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. They are the violinists and pianists of our communal orchestra, receiving more attention and compensation than many others. Yet, the music of life requires the participation of those whose work does not garner the same attention and might not even seem instrumental.

In the Torah portion, Naso, we read this week a description of two of the clans of the priestly family. By virtue of their lineage, we might expect them to have exalted status. Not so. Their jobs are to shlep and tote. The Gershonites are tasked with carrying cloths, screens and ropes. The Merarites carry planks, bars and sockets. While seemingly unimportant, these are sacred tasks. The portable sanctuary that served as focus for B’nai Israel during 40 years in the desert needed a devoted group willing to perform the tasks of disassembling, portage and reassembly. Without them, there would be no mobility for the ark, which was the focal point of God’s presence on earth.

The seemingly menial tasks of these priestly clans are deserving of special mention in Torah. If so, then there must be a lesson to be learned about the value of being a shlepper. Or rather, that we must learn to value every member of our community, from the high priest to the water carrier. Each person can offer an essential contribution. Each musician is as necessary to the performance of a symphony whether exhibiting the dexterity of the first violin or the timing of a timpanist. Our tradition tells us that the work of our hands is holy. All we need do is pick up an instrument and play sweetly.

Your days will improve if you notice each person you meet and appreciate that they are an instrument of God’s great creation. The UPS driver that delivers your Rue La La package to your door is as essential as the fashion designer who created the dress you wear. The person who cuts the grass is as important as the architect who designed the houses in your neighborhood.  Will you greet the garbage collector warmly and thank the toll collector in the booth for doing their jobs? Recognizing for the Gershonites and the Merarites in our society is a holy endeavor that will bring greater melodiousness to the cacophony of life.

As you conduct your life, may your gratitude direct you toward each of the people who contribute to your comfort. May the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart, include an expression of appreciation for every member of God’s orchestra.

R’ Evan