The Sikh Temple Massacre and Yaakov Shwekey

The Sikh Temple Massacre and Yaakov Shwekey

“Wisconsin Killer Fed and Was Fueled by Hate-Driven Music”

That was the New York Times’ front page headline this morning about Wade Page, the white-supremacist who murdered 6 people at a Sikh Temple outside of Milwaukee this week.

I don’t tend to think of music as something so important or powerful. For me, I guess, music is something nice to have on in the background while I’m thinking about other things and doing other stuff.

But in the case of the Sikh Temple massacre, music wasn’t just something innocuous playing in the background of Wade Page’s life. For Wade Page, music inspired and empowered him to carry out the savage murder of 6 innocent human beings.

The New York Times’ Erica Goode and Serge Kovaleski reported this morning:

“The music that comes from these bands [that Wade Page played for] is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies”…Although little known among music fans, a steady subculture of racist and anti-Semitic rock bands has existed on the margins of punk and heavy metal in Europe and the United States since at least the 1970s…

In an interview posted on the Web site of the record company Label56, Mr. Page mentioned going to Hammerfest, an annual white-supremacist festival well known to civil rights advocates. He also said he played in various neo-Nazi bands, including Blue Eyed Devils, whose song “White Victory” includes the lines: “Now I’ll fight for my race and nation/Sieg Heil!”…

A song called “Welcome to the South” by Definite Hate, another band that Mr. Page played in and that Mr. Berger found online, refers to “our race war” and asks, “What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?”…

As a child [Page’s former step-mother remembers]…his aspirations and dreams centered on music.”

This article got me thinking about the intense power of music–to promote evil. But also, at times, to inspire tremendous holiness. Just think of the rebbes for whom the spiritual peak of a week devoted to prayer and Torah learning and leading their Chassidim is the Friday-night tisch. The spiritual peak of the week for these spiritual greats centers around music.

Which got me thinking about another musician I was reading about this week, Jewish superstar Yaakov Shwekey. When an interviewer from Orot TV (video below) recently asked him: “You are a religious guy, who was in yeshiva, in Kollel. What’s driving you to go here and there in order to make music?”

And Shwekey’s answer made a strong impression on me. He told the interviewer:

“Hashem gave me a gift. There are many people out there who need an injection. Who need to wake up. And music enters the soul and wakes up people like nothing else can.”

Shwekey continued:

“I’ll tell you a story. There was a story in Tiberias that I personally couldn’t believe. So I told this man to come and tell me this story in person, since I couldn’t believe it when he told it to me on the telephone. In short, this man’s wife needed very serious brain surgery, and following the surgery she fell into a deep coma. Afterwards, the husband was taking his kids to school and he heard my song ‘Rachem, have mercy, God our Lord on Israel, your people,’ and the husband started crying. He goes to buy the CD, goes to the hospital, runs to his wife and puts the earphones on her to play her the song ‘Rachem.’ And he told me that the moment that the song ended, his wife woke up from her coma. I told him, ‘I don’t believe stories like this.’ I’m not a mekubal. I’m not a mystic. But this is a story of revival of the dead.”

“Praise G-d, who gave me the gift to make people happy. I’m going now to South Africa, to Brazil. I’m going to every place where there are Jews, to wake them up with music.”

The power of music. To take life, God forbid, when inspired by a heart full of hatred and darkness. Or to give life, B”H, when one’s heart is inspired by the light of Hashem and His Torah.

Yaakov Shwekey performs Rachem, the song that brought the mother back to life…
YouTube Preview Image

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3 comments

  1. Of course. Lubavitch is very careful what we let our kids listen to. When u hear music u r connecting to the soul of the composer. Do u want to connect to tzaddikim or non-Jewish popular musicians who are often immoral?

  2. I don’t think music can “make” anyone DO anything. Obviously, this was a deeply disturbed individual, and to imply the music made him do it harkens back to Tipper Gore’s PMRC (which failed).

    People with dark motives will find a way to hurt other people. Thank goodness there are more loving, kind people out there in the world. Because there are.

    This is just one headline. It is always easier to point to music as a root cause rather than look at all the other broken places where we, as a society, have failed.

    • Shalom Eunice Khan

      Renee, Greetings. I understand you concept but Shwekey is right…DID YOU KNOW THAT THE NERVES OF THE EAR (AUDITORY NERVES) ARE MORE WIDELY DISTRIBUTED AND HAVE MORE EXTENSIVE CONNECTIONS
      THAN THOSE OF ANY OTHER HUMAN SENSE. CONSEQUENTLY, WHAT WE HEAR
      AFFECTS OUR ENTIRE BODY.MUSIC MOTIVATES…YOU KNOW WHAT? READ THIS ARTICLE … MUSIC, THE SOUND AND THE UNSOUND.YOU’D GAIN A NEW PERSPECTIVE TO MUSIC AND WORSHIP.

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