25 February 2010
"I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound"
"When I hear that trumpet sound, I'm gonna rise right out of the ground."
Johnny Cash is one of my favorite Pharisees. One of my favorites because he's constantly resurrected. His new record, "Ain't No Grave," posthumously released by his producer Rick Rubin, is a deeply inspiring call from the other side of the curtain of eternity.
The record starts with the words "There ain't no grave, can hold my body down." And as soon as he utters the next sentence, "When I hear that trumpet sound, I'm gonna rise right out of the ground," a set of chains in a box, rhythmically keeps the beat of the song and one can imagine the chains breaking away and Johnny's body rising up from the cold dark ground to be with his God.
This is a Jewish idea, though for Johnny he finds his God in Jesus. But I hear him singing like a Biblical prophet, resurrected, which is what the Sages had in mind when they codified the notion as a Pharisaic idea that there is eternal life beyond the grave. Maimonides reiterated this idea as well in his thirteen principles of faith which we find articulated in poetic form in the Yigdal prayer.
So deeply American in his faith, Johnny Cash makes me wonder if one day we'll ever see an American Jewish song-writer who writes of life and death, so much at the very edge of life and death, in the English language, that will be music which will be as eternal as the sound and voice of this great artist.
In the meanwhile, Johnny Cash will be one of my favorite Pharisees.