Originally composed spiritual and folk songs, inspired by the Jewish tradition and the heart.
My name is Ariel Root Wolpe, and I am a musical rabbi dedicated to Jewish life, tradition and spirit. My music aims to inspire common themes of humanity and give voice to the unspoken sentiments within us all, and my lyrics hope to open your heart to the truths they hold.
Before I started my rabbinic journey, I devoted my music and studies to interfaith work. My senior year of college I created the inter-religious CD Spirit Sounds, which features musicians from six religions and centers around coexistence, struggles of faith, and the spiritual force of music. In my accompanying honors thesis on inter-religious music, I argue that interfaith music can convey fresh dimensions of understanding, raise up an individual within the context of a tradition and help build co-existence. I believe that all this is possible when composing music within the Jewish tradition, and so I create music inspired by Torah, Jewish community and the Divine Source.
I was ordained at Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, California in 2019, and now live in Philadelphia studying music through the Rising Song Institute. At the start of my rabbinic path, I made music and Jewish ritual in Oakland, CA. My album My Teachers was a San Francisco Bay Area collaboration and a fundraiser for my first year of rabbinical school. I am currently focused on writing songs of prayer—my latest compositions can be found on my soundcloud.
The morning of October 27th, 2018, I learned about the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh right before I got up on the bimah to lead services. I held those killed, their families, and everyone present in my prayers throughout the morning. And on my walk home, a new tune came to me for Psalm 130, which we recite when we are so distraught and desperate that all we can do in the moment is call out for help. The words are:
מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ יְהוָֽה
אֲדֹנָי֮ שִׁמְעָ֪ה בְק֫וֹלִ֥י תִּהְיֶ֣ינָה אָ֭זְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁב֑וֹת לְ֝ק֗וֹל תַּחֲנוּנָֽי
Out of the depths I call You, Havaya.
Adonai, hear my voice,
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
Channeling our suffering into song and prayer is the beginning of the road to healing and change. I hope this tune offers you some comfort and can give you strength to keep moving forward, keep working against hatred and bigotry, keep transforming our world into a place of peace and love for one another and the generations to come.
It’s a long road, but we are walking it together.
Sometimes we feel the joy that makes us want to praise the universe! And sometimes it seems that clouds and darkness blur the faith we had in others, in the world and in God. These past few weeks have been a mixture of these two poles for me, celebrating a child soon to be born, and pained by the shortcomings of the culture she will be born into.
The beginning of Psalm 97 holds these two truths - עָנָן וַעֲרָפֶל סְבִיבָיו; צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט, מְכוֹן כִּסְאוֹ - Clouds and darkness surround the One; righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's chair. I pray that righteousness and justice are close at hand and that this Shabbat gives us the strength to continue doing the work our country and world needs.
It is not upon us to complete the work, but neither may we desist from it.