Is Bruce Springsteen’s “Life Itself” In the Bible?
August 11, 2011 at 12:58 am, by Jonah Rank
Lately, I’ve been trying to get into the Boss.
Which is why you
might see a bunch of posts about Springsteen coming up.
Bruce sings to an unidentified lover, naming her “Life Itself:”
You were Life Itself, rushing over me;
Life Itself, a wind in the black elms;
Life Itself, in your heart and in your eyes:
I can’t make it without you.
Biblical sounding, right? With life rushing over this Jersey boy, it sounds almost like life is consuming him–but pleasantly–like the way in which the Psalmist in Psalm 119 speaks of God, good, wisdom, and more pursuing his entire being (check out verses 77, 81, and 86 for starters).
But, “life itself” is “a wind,” says Bruce. The Hebrew word for “wind” (“ru’ach“) also means “spirit.” Life itself is a winded spirit.
Life itself: a lovingly-consuming, winded, spirit amidst the black elms. While black elms might not resonate immediately, the Bible finds great life-related symbolism in trees.
Most poignantly, Proverbs 3:18 describes Wisdom, saying, “Etz chayyim hi” (“It is a Tree of Life”). (The Rabbis say that, because Torah (“teaching”) is Wisdom, the verse says that Torah is a Tree of Life.)
If Bruce and the Bible are on the same page, then the life that lovingly consumes the soul is the life of a spirit amidst wisdom. (A bit abstract…)
Life itself: in your loving heart, in your eyes that consume everything around you, in the wisdom of the trees, in the spirit in God’s words.
“Is Bruce really talking about God?” you might ask. Well, in the final verse, Bruce asks:
Why do the things that we treasure most slip away in time
‘Til to the music we grow deaf and to God’s beauty blind?
Yup. He dropped the G bomb.
He further asks:
Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart
‘Til we fall away in our own darkness, stranger to our own hearts?
Lately, Rabbi Brad Artson has written that a mitzvah is not a “commandment,” but a “connection.” (He argues that “mitzvah” is related to the Aramaic word “tzavta,” meaning “connection.”)
Divine connections give us light in the Bible. From a broad understanding of what Torah and what a mitzvah is, I get the sense that Bruce and the Bible are on the same page.
The final chorus begins with a toast from Springsteen (not a Jewish last name):
So, here’s one for the road.
Here’s one to your health,
And to life itself…
Did Bruce just offer a “Lechayyim!?”
It seems that the life itself which Bruce is celebrating here is the life of meaningful connections (mitzvot), a life of wisdom (Torah), and a life of love filled with music and God’s beauty.
Is Bruce’s deepest venture into the meaning of life the same journey a Jew takes in trying to discover the meaning of life?
What is life itself?
Tags: Brad Artson, Bruce, Bruce Springsteen, Connectedness, Deutereonomy, Etz chayyim, Etz chayyim hi, Fiddler On the Roof, God, Hebrew, Lechayyim, Life Itself, Mitzvah, mitzvot, New Jersey, Proverbs, Psalmist, Psalms, Rabbi Bradley Artson, Spirit, Springsteen, The Boss, Torah, Wind, Working On a Dream, בין עיניך, דברים, לחיים, מצוה, מצוות, משלי, על לבבך, עץ חיים היא, רוח, רוח אלהים, תהלים, תורה