May our eyes see your return to Zion with love.
The one who restores his presence to Zion.
The above phrases begin Naftali Kalfa’s newest song, “Zion,” which is part of a larger project undertaken in collaboration with Shlomo Katz, and with other fantastic singers and instrumentalists. This composition’s very existence, as well as its masterful beckoning, illuminates humanity’s fundamental ability to connect with HaKadosh Baruch Hu through music joined with words.
Although all of creation praises Hashem in song, it is humanity to whom Hashem grants the ability to add language to melody. Perhaps one reason for this great gift is to provide us with light in times of darkness. In His infinite kindness, The Master of the Universe, created a communication compelling enough to lift our neshemot up from deeply stuck places in this world toward the world to come. Most people, fortunately, have repeatedly experienced this rise.
No matter the degree of proficiency or practicality in any of our individual tunes, all such spiritually-infused expressions can pull us and others away from hopelessness to the possibility of return and to the probabilities of faith and trust. The nature of “ordinary” combinations of sound is, after all, to produce beauty via form, harmony, and emotional truth.
Relatively speaking, voices gilded by Shamayim, brighten us that much more. Heavenly-impacted human reverberations enable us to think, to feel, and to act as an elevated people, as a klal that is intent on cobbling our lives out of consecutive instances of Kiddush Hashem.
Naftali Kalfa is one such aureate of musical excellence empowered to lead us along that desired route. He looks to Torah to increase the spiritual splendor of our world, claiming that, “religion is an essential part of what defines you and who you are. Everything you do artistically or otherwise comes from that same vessel whose essence is based upon religion.” In other words, Kalfa grasps that not only does music’s quality affect the people that it enthuses, but that musicians’ values, too, impact strongly upon audiences.
It follows that our better middot are awakened by his recordings. I cry in joy, awe, anticipation, and belongingness every time I listen to “Zion.”
As a modest Jew, one who strives not for riches and fame, but to serve Hashem, to advance Bnai Yisrael, and to bring Moshiach, now, Reb Kalfa successfully removes spiritual blockages by dint of his songs. Humble Mr. Kalfa’s tunes shine through his “constantly striv[ing] to connect to higher worlds, worlds which do not involve … finite mediators. [He] believes[s] that music speaks to and touches our neshemot in ways that words never can.” He is right. He correctly assesses that “deep down inside every Jewish neshemah, our souls are all yearning to connect the way we did in the Beit HaMikdash, which was always through song.”
Yet, he would sooner laud his wife and praise his children than highlight his gift, b’ayin tova. Kalfa sees himself as learning from all people, including from his “youngest daughter, Eden, who cannot yet speak[. W]hen she connects to specific songs. [He learns] from [his] baby the power of music to connect in ways that words never can.”
May you built it up in our days as an everlasting sanctuary.
And prepare the throne of David your servant.
Whereas Naftali made aliyah from Toronto, Canada, no matter where he’s lived, “music has always been in [his] soul. From a very young age, [he] would sing in synagogues and for community events. [Naftali''s] musical talent and inclination come from [his] mother, who is a talented singer and musician, who plays both flute and guitar.” His artistry has been influenced, as well, by many greats, including: Shlomo Carlebach, Avraham Fried, and Mordechai Ben David. Beyond his immediate family and the aforementioned artists, Naftali Kalfa has drawn inspiration from his countrymen, from individuals whom have “encouraged and inspired [him] to pursue [his] dreams and ambitions, irrelevant of the likelihood of success or the absurdness of the challenge.” Some folks “never get in touch with [their creativity] or develop it[, but Kalfa has long considered his art to be about] creativity, and how we use [it] with God’s help.”
True, Kalfa seeks first to be “a good Jew, father, husband, son, and friend….to maximize his potential as a human being,” nonetheless, his talent is recognized so extensively that he works with musicians of the caliber of Gad Elbaz, of “Shyne” and of Yossi Piamenta. His Kalfa’s first musical production, "Yihyu Liratzon" was fashioned with the Piamenta Brothers.
In addition, while the array of the music that he embraces (contrast, for example, Kalfa’s “Vaani Tefilati” with his “Zion”) necessitates that he takes artistic risks, he does not let himself sink into worry; “With any art or music, there will always be people who love it and people that hate it. I make music that touches me and excites me. If the public enjoys it, that is a bonus. As long as I make my family proud and I am not creating art that I don’t connect to, I am very content.”
Despite his art’s strength to bring people higher, Kalfa would still love to be able to walk all of his audiences through his work. He wishes he could “sit down with every person before they listen to or watch [any of his] song[s], and tell them the background of the song, how and where it was created and what inspired it, so that when they experience it, they know how it came into being.” Authentic caring is one dimension of Kalfa’s genius.
With so much of our world left for us to repair, before we can herald the advent of Moshiach, we are fortunate to be able to take up the music of Naftali Kalfa. His endowment can help carry us through our most essential work.
May the Temple be built and the City of Zion filled.
And there we will sing a new song, and with joy ascend.
Naftali Kalfa’s next single, “Hachazirenu,” a collaboration with Gad Elbaz, is being released next week. That song is dedicated, in loving memory, to R’ Michoel Ben Yisroel Mogilevsky.