God Is Not That Frum
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God Is Not That Frum

Moriya Naveh, a  new voice in the Jewish music scene and a truly free spirit, has released her first album. She has a lot to say about women in the world of Jewish music.

Translated and adapted with permission from an interview by Yifat Erlich, originally published in Hebrew on ynet.

Moriya Naveh’s voice is gentle yet stirring. After years of arduous work this young Israeli musician is releasing her debut album “Touching Light / אור באור נוגע,” which combines biblical and liturgical texts with her own original poetry and melodies. A first music video from this album gives a glimpse into Naveh’s intriguing work.

Naveh grew up in the settlement of Ofra, in southern Samaria. In second grade she began piano lessons, later taking up guitar as well. “As long as I can remember I have been playing and writing songs,” she relates. “Usually the melodies take shape before the words, but not always. I feel that my inner language is first and foremost musical—sometimes I dream about singing a song I’ve never heard before, and then I wake up and immediately write it down.”

“Usually the melodies take shape before the words, but not always. I feel that my inner language is first and foremost musical—sometimes I dream about singing a song I’ve never heard before, and then I wake up and immediately write it down.”

Moriya studied at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat Hasharon. When asked if she was concerned about studying at a secular institution, she answers honestly: “I wasn’t, but my family was. They were concerned both about the secular framework and how it’s not exactly an academic degree. But with time they saw that I felt at home there—much more than I had ever been in Ofra. This was the first time in my life that I really felt I belonged, that I was flourishing. Rimon has an atmosphere of freedom and acceptance; I had grown up in a harsher and more unforgiving environment, and suddenly I found myself surrounded by sensitive artists.”

Today you sing for audiences of both men and women. Did this issue concern you from a religious perspective?

“I went through years of soul-searching before I found I place where I really felt comfortable with how I related to this question. But the minute I felt I had arrived at an answer it stopped bothering me entirely. I grew up in a society where it was taken for granted that women mustn’t sing in front of men, and I had thought that I would conform to that ideal.

In plays put on by Bnei Akiva, women’s roles would be played by boys, while the girls woulddo a dance in the dark with sticklights. To me, this felt oppressive. If a woman who is singing, or speaking, or otherwise onstage is somehow always perceived as sexual, that’s objectification of both men and women.

“On the other hand, I was bothered by the treatment of women in the religious world. In plays put on by Bnei Akiva, women’s roles would be played by boys, while the girls woulddo a dance in the dark with sticklights. To me, this felt oppressive. If a woman who is singing, or speaking, or otherwise onstage is somehow always perceived as sexual, that’s objectification of both men and women.

“I have faith that men are capable of seeing a woman sing and benefitting from it spiritually. If there are men who can’t, they don’t need to listen. No one is forcing them. In the end, we all receive gifts from God in order to share them with the world. Why should the gifts given to men be shared more widely than those given to women?

Moriya tells of the process she went through struggling with this idea all the way to center stage: “I now have my own position on this, but it took me a long time to reach it. Once I spoke with Rabbi Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch, the Rosh Yeshiva of Maale Adumim. He surprised me by saying that in his opinion, songs that are sung with modesty and sanctity in both style and content aren’t problematic, and that of course men should also be paying attention to their style of their singing.

“This was new to me, but it’s not like I had been waiting for the approval of a rabbi. I knew from the start that this was issue was between me and God. At the end of the day, I arrived at the correct answer as soon as I was able to formulate the right question: God, why did You give me this musical gift? What did You mean for me to do with it? In this context I was able to arrive at an answer that gave me inner peace. My family respects my decision, and my husband, who grew up in a feminist community in the US, never saw it as an issue to begin with.

Do you feel that there is inconsistency in singing in front of men and a wearing a full head covering?

“I feel very connected to the idea of covering my head. It’s a mitzva that I love. I don’t do it because I have to or someone is forcing me. I’m a free spirit; and at the same time I am deeply connected to the Torah. For me, everything comes from there, but not out of a feeling of obligation or need to represent the religious world, only out of love.

Sometimes I feel that in order to really do tshuva, I have to peel off the layers of frumminess that separate me from God. Because God is not that frum. People needs to bring themselves closer to Him through their own hearts and personalities.

Sometimes I feel that in order to really do tshuva, I have to peel off the layers of frumminess that separate me from God. Because God is not that frum. People needs to bring themselves closer to Him through their own hearts and personalities.

What’s your dream?

“To continue creating music. I have literally hundreds of songs that are waiting to see the light of day—this album is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why I recently opened a page on Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform for independent artists that operates on the basis of individual “patrons” paying monthly donations starting at $2. In return, patrons receive the new album and all kinds of exclusive original content including relaxation music, original artwork, and even demos of as-of-yet unpublished songs. All the money goes towards recording more songs and albums. This is my way of sharing my music with my fans and finding a community that feels a connection to my work.”

Click here to check out Moriya’s Facebook page.

 

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