A Ba’al Teshuva Story: Carlos Santana Returns To Jerusalem

The JPost is reporting that Carlos Santana has agreed to play a concert in Jerusalem this Spring. The news reminded me of a story from 1987, which may be the last time Carlos was in Israel. It was April 29 and smack in the middle of sefirat haomer. Of course, being a good yeshiva mon, I did not listen to music during sefira. Anyway, I’m walking through the square of the Jewish Quarter and I see a flatmate sitting on a bench playing his guitar. I shook my head disapprovingly and walked by him. A few minutes later, I come out of Tony’s makolet, and I see a stranger sitting with my friend, playing his guitar – and boy can this guy play. I take a closer look and, sure enough, it’s Carlos Santana.

I had one of those BT moments, when one has to choose between being really frum or living life normally. I made a bad choice, and went to the bais medrash for my afternoon shiurim. (If this ever happens to you, get professional help immediately.)

I study with all the false fervor I can muster. A few hours later, I run into my flatmate back in the square. He’s alone, and comes up to me. “Shmarya,” he says, “I had a strange day.” “What happened?” I asked, even though I knew. He then tells me the story. Except there’s a great twist. The flat mate doesn’t know it’s Santana. It’s just some guy in the square named Carlos who asks to try his guitar, and then plays it really well, teaching my friend licks. After an hour or so of this, my friend says to him, “Have you seen the Wailing Wall yet?” “Is it close by?” Santana replies. My friend says “Sure, just a couple of blocks, I’ll take you.” And so he does.

Santana gets to the Wall and prays his heart out. When he’s done, he thanks my friend for the help and for jamming with him. He then pulls a couple of tickets out of his pocket, gives them to my friend and says, “Why don’t you come and see my band play tonight? Come backstage after.” At this point my friend says, not looking at the tickets in his hand, “Carlos, what’s the name of your band?” Santana tells him. My friend begins to have trouble breathing.

They part. The upshot as I remember it was this guy wouldn’t go to the concert, because, you guessed it, sefira, and a concert was really live music, unlike simple jamming in the square. I hope for his sake I remember this part incorrectly.

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4 Comments

Filed under History, Music

4 responses to “A Ba’al Teshuva Story: Carlos Santana Returns To Jerusalem

  1. Anonymous

    Carlos Sanatana is worth breaking halacha?
    would you tell a jew who turned down sex with a supermodel for halachic reasons, or a jew who gave up world series tickets because it was on shabbos to get professional help immediately too?

  2. Neo-Conservaguy

    There are many different minhagim with regard to how the halacha for sefira is observed. Not all are so strict. Besides, I suspect Santana may be lamed-vav tzadik that expresses his true nature in his playing 😉

  3. Shmarya-

    When I was in Israel this summer, Ziggy Marley was performing in Ranaana. My roomate went to the concert, but because it was the 9 Days of Av, I chose to stay behind in Jerusalem. I stand by my decision, too bad you regret yours!

  4. Faith

    I really enjoyed your story, I was laughing out loud about your clueless friend! I only found it by chance, because I was doing a search for the Carlos Santana concert in April, which led me to your blog. This site is truly radical.
    I am certainly not one for keeping up with Halachah rules and regulations, but then again, who has the right to judge his fellow man at all? Only G-d. And G-d, if I recall, loved Kind David. King David loved music. Carlos Santana makes beautiful music. No disrespect intended to anyone ultra-religious, but Judaism is also a celebration of life, and not just about what you can or cannot do.
    G-d doesn’t care what you give up or not give up, he/she isn’t keeping tabs, right?
    So this guy who posted above gave up seeing Ziggy Marley. I fail to see how this makes someone more pious than, let’s say, someone who decided to, despite the days of mourning, go to see Ziggy. That same pious guy who gives up on anything pleasurable just to be a good Jew, can turn out to be the next guy cutting you off at the intersection.
    Anyway…
    Hope you see Carlos this time around!

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