Indeed, whether it is the latest technologies being unable to recreate the Stradivari violin sound, nor the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers, which has repeatedly attempted to discover the master’s secret with no luck, there have been all kinds of logical explanations such as the wood being different, or the times being different, and so on, but no one really knows the secret.
We first need to understand what happens inside our ear, why and how it is possible to elicit the kind of reaction that Stradivari’s strings derive, and how the sounds enter us.
There is indeed a secret at play, but I think that even Stradivari himself was unaware of it. He was simply working according to a certain intuition.
The secret lies in a special combination of sounds that influences the heart, and we need to think about how the heart responds first, and the ear follows. The primary role of the heart is of utmost importance in this area, yet nobody knows about it.
Even Stradivari did not know about it. He was unaware of such internal mechanics. He and his hands were generally driven by an inner intuition, and of course, the guiding higher force played a role in that interaction.
We are talking about a person who was really just an ordinary person with a certain profession, but at the same time, he became chosen to perform a certain role, and this secret became conveyed through him.
As such, the secret of Stradivari’s violin sound applies to everything beyond musical instruments. The sound has to enter the heart first, and only then does it reach the ear. Of course, this runs against what we commonly think, i.e., that we do not hear with our ears, but with our hearts.
Words also have such a quality, and it is how words are formed. When we speak or write, we have to find a word that enters the heart, and we hear it only afterward.
It is actually very easy to find such words in the wisdom of Kabbalah. My teacher, Rabash (Kabbalist Baruch Ashlag), said about this, “Michael, haven’t you heard what it says in the Shema prayer? It says, ‘Shema (Hear O) Michael.’” I was surprised, thinking why is he saying “Michael” and not “Hear O Israel”? “Israel” is a general name, but in reality, we can insert our own names there. That is, this “Hear O Michael” speaks to the heart, and the composition then begins.
The Shema prayer is considered one of the loftiest prayers, and a prayer is heard by the person’s heart first and only afterward by the ear—if it is even heard at all.
We say in the wisdom of Kabbalah that the prayer of an ordinary person is more exalted than prayers composed by sages and Kabbalists. This is because the person feels it; his heart resonates with the word that is rooted in a spiritual sensation. When a person thus pronounces the prayer with his feelings, he first hears it above. It is not something born within any of us.