Beethoven was born on December 17th, 1770. Right away, I noticed the sevens and looked up the date on the calendar for that year. His date of birth fell on the 7th day of Chanukah (Hanukkah) in the Hebrew month of Kislev. (Although Hanukkah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev, that date can fall anywhere between late November and late December on the Gregorian calendar). Beethoven’s birth, name, and deafness all orchestrate a melody. And just like the celebration of Chanukah, Beethoven would shine his light in the darkness of deafness.
“The name Kislev derives from the Hebrew word kesel (כֶּסֶל), which means either “security,” or “trust.” There are two states of trust—one active and one passive—both of which manifest in the month of Kislev, which in the human body correspond to the right and left kidneys, respectively. In Hebrew, the word for kidney is also kesel (כֶּסֶל).” Gal Einai.
May we actively trust the Father!
Several of my readers may remember a blog I wrote entitled The Kidneys and the Ears. Hearing the most profound truth is attributed to the kidneys. If you slice a kidney in half, it looks just like our ears.
“You are near in their mouth but far from their kidneys” (Jeremiah 12:2 ISR). Our Bible translators have replaced the word kidney with rein or heart and often as inward parts, but kidneys were the original wording.
Beethoven’s autopsy report showed he had renal disease among a whole list of disparaging health issues. Some of his aliments were caused by roots and bark used as medicine back then.
Ludwig van Beethoven is a name most people all over the globe are familiar with. He wrote nine symphonies that took music to another galaxy. But it’s his personal life and calling that I want to zoom in on. This man suffered horribly, and yet, his heart-wrenching soul was able to strike keys, and soar violin bows into a place where melodies leave us mesmerized.
I often say, our pain is usually for another’s gain. Frequently the world sees the gift and not the person. We know Beethoven due to his masterpieces. I could listen to Fur Elise or Beethoven 9th Symphony – Movement IV – “Ode to Joy” daily, but what about the man who composed them?
Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time, had a horrible childhood, was often misunderstood, and later became deaf. His name from birth was prophetically chosen. “Van meaning (from)– Beethoven meaning gardens or fields (from the garden (paradise)). Ludwig–The first element is (h)lūt (“famed; loud”) (whence modern German laut), (whence also English loud), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlew- (“to hear”). The second element is wīg (“battle, strife”)”
A man who would battle hearing loss with great strife would become loud and famous for his musical brilliance. Yes, his name has all those aspects embedded in it.
Beethoven had two younger brothers, Caspar (Keeper of the treasure) and Johann (God is merciful). His mother, Maria (sea of sorrow), experienced so much grief, I find no words to describe the magnitude. She married at the age of 16 and bore a son who died in infancy. Her first husband died after just two years of marriage. By the age of 18, Maria was already a widow and mother. This did not appeal to Johann’s father, the Kapellmeister. Maria would marry Johann, and once again lose a son shortly after his birth. This happened multiple times.
“The British playwright Enid Bagnold once asked a feminist what advice she would give to a twenty-three-year-old housewife who, having lost four children, found herself pregnant again by an abusive, alcoholic husband.
“I would urge her to terminate the pregnancy,” the feminist replied.
“Then,” said Ms. Bagnold, “you would have aborted Beethoven.” (Edmund Morris, Beethoven:The Universal Composer).
Kislev is the 9th month, the time of pregnancy in the womb, and all LIFE is precious. The truth is, Beethoven’s mother lost two sons before him, one of them being her first husband’s, but she did go on to lose even more children.
Besides Beethoven, Caspar, and Johann, she had three more children (one boy and two girls); all of them died very soon, respectively, at the age of four days, two years, and one year. She is poetically described by Edmund Morris like this:
” Her final confinement left her depressed and frail, doomed to expire herself, at forty, of consumption. Slender, earnest-eyed, moralistic, genteel, she floats like a faded watercolor sketch in the van Beethoven family scrapbook, amid more robust images of men of high color and stocky build.”
Beethoven’s father, Johann, was a drunk and a mediocre court singer. He sang in the chapel of the Archbishop of Cologne in Bonn. However, Beethoven looked up to his grandfather, whom he was named after, Kapellmeister (Master) Ludwig van Beethoven, for he was Bonn’s most affluent and celebrated musician. His home was filled with silver and wealth, while Beethoven’s father’s home was filled with banknotes and poverty.
According to Biography, “Sometime between the births of his two younger brothers, Beethoven’s father began teaching him music with extraordinary rigor and brutality that affected him for the rest of his life. Neighbors provided accounts of the small boy weeping while he played the clavier, standing atop a footstool to reach the keys, his father beating him for each hesitation or mistake.”
The one area that brought Beethoven so much pain would also bring him fame and joy. Many times our gifting can cause us pain and joy.
Beethoven was deprived of sleep for extra hours of practice. On a near daily basis, he was flogged and locked in the cellar by his father, but one can’t hide LIGHT in the darkness because a lamp will only shine brighter. Sadly, Beethoven received custody of his nephew and was often cruel like his father had been to him. He longed for him to be a musician, but the young man was not gifted in this area.
“He studied the violin and clavier with his father as well as taking additional lessons from organists around town. Whether in spite of or because of his father’s draconian methods, Beethoven was a prodigiously talented musician from his earliest days.” Biography.
Some historians say, by the age of 13, Beethoven became Assistant Court Musician and placed on salary to support his family because his father’s alcoholism had reached the point that he could no longer provide for the family. In 1787 the court sent Beethoven to Vienna, where he longed to study with Mozart. “Tradition has it that, upon hearing Beethoven, Mozart said, “Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world something to talk about.”
When the Father sends people who want to learn or be mentored from us, we should have the heart of Mozart and not see the person as a threat, but instead, someone who will use their gifts to glorify the Father. All people are unique in their gifting. Although Beethoven had a cruel upbringing, he later composed much that was for the sole purpose of exalting the Father of LIGHTS.
Beethoven started becoming deaf at around the age of 26. The intense buzzing in his ears caused irritability, and for many years, the people around him had no idea he was suffering so. I cannot imagine losing my eyesight. I never know what story will come forth from my fingers until I start typing, and that is the one course I failed–typing. So as I write books and blogs, my eyes are always on the keys. Beethoven’s ears were still on the keys, straining to hear a vibration.
While giving piano instructions to a Hungarian countess, Beethoven fell in love with her, but he was not allowed to marry her due to his social status. He later would dedicate his “Moonlight” Sonata No. 14 to her. He wrote, “No friend have I. I must live by myself alone, but I know well that God is nearer to me than others in my art, so I will walk fearlessly with Him.”
What a quote!
His ruddy complexion bore the scars of childhood smallpox. He unruly dark hair and bushy eyebrows stood out making his sorrowful eyes only more dramatized. His deafness was socially awkward for him. He was a short man and unprofessional in his behavior. I’m reminded of a passage that may have comforted Beethoven. “He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” (Isaiah 53:2). The leprous Messiah.
One friend described Beethoven like this.
“His clumsy movements lacked all grace. He rarely picked up anything without dropping or breaking it… Everything was knocked over, soiled, or destroyed. How he ever managed to shave himself at all remains difficult to understand, even considering the frequent cuts on his cheeks. – He never learned to dance in time with the music.”
A man so highly gifted in one area, yet lacking in so many others.
Listen to Moon Light Sonata #14 and tell me if you picture a dyslexic, clumsy, awkward man with no rhythm? Many times, when a person is gifted in one area– and that area is sensitively magnified, they may be quite challenged in other areas.
Several close friends left a multitude of adjectives to describe this creative genius.
“Beethoven’s personality was also challenging:
“As a young man, Beethoven was frank to the point of rudeness. Headstrong and proud, he was never willing to conform in his behavior… As he grew older and deafness overtook him, the negative aspects of Beethoven’s personality came to the fore. He was increasingly given to bouts of despair, the difficulties of communication made him more reserved, and he became more suspicious and distrustful of others.” (read more, HERE).
Our ears and what we hear and how we hear it can affect our thoughts. If my heart sees your heart as FOR ME, and you speak something that sounds the opposite, I am going to ask you to elaborate. On the flip side, if we do not think the person in front of us has a good heart, we may take their words and misconstrue them. Hearing and seeing are vital in the spiritual sense.
Beethoven’s behavior and personality—utterly unpredictable. Domestic luxuries were unimportant to him, and he was a creature of disorderliness.
Baron de Tremont writes of a visit to Beethoven in 1809:
“Picture to yourself the dirtiest, most disorderly place imaginable – blotches of moisture covered the ceiling, an oldish grand piano, on which dust disputed the place with various pieces of engraved and manuscript music; under the piano (I do not exaggerate) an unemptied pot de nuit; (portable toilet)… the chairs, mostly cane-seated, were covered with plates bearing the remains of last night’s supper and with wearing apparel, etc.”
Count von Keglevics, the nephew of one of Beethoven’s students, wrote:
“he had a whim, one of many, since he lived across from her [his student], of coming to give her lessons clad in a dressing gown, slippers, and a peaked nightcap.”
Many times those gifted with extreme wealth in one area are labeled strange in another. Beethoven couldn’t spell very well or do simple math, but he could surely compose! Because Beethoven dropped out of traditional school at 10, he never learned the fundamentals. Multiple historians believe he had learning disabilities and possibly dyslexia. From reading the few comments left by acquaintances, and knowledge of his upbringing, it’s easy to see the genius was still suffering from trauma, suspicions, and fearful of the world. He was most comfortable alone in his apartment wearing pajamas and writing music in his head from the memory of what each musical note held. Bathing was overrated, and cleaning up would take away from the very thing that had been beaten into him from childhood.
In his earlier days, Beethoven would leave Bonn and travel abroad, teaching students and being taught by the likes of Hayden and other greats. It has been said that this free spirited man, Beethoven, rewrote the rule book for Classical music.
“Beethoven bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated the Classical style, believing completely that its rules, rituals, and traditions were only useful up to the point that they served the expressive context. Beyond that, he reserved the right to do exactly what he pleased.”
In his later years, reaching total deafness, he depended on writing pads or notebooks to communicate. He stayed isolated in his apartment much of the time. Many of these conversations written on notepads have survived. Some of them are only one-sided, but they give the reader much to ponder.
“On one occasion, it seems Beethoven was discussing the Resurrection with his friend Karl Peters. We don’t know what question Beethoven asked, but Peters’ reply sums up the contemporary crisis of faith and the hope of overcoming it: “You will arise with me from the dead—because you must. Religion remains constant, and only Man is changeable.”
Taking advice from one physician, during his darkest days of depression, he took to nature.
– July 1814
“My miserable hearing does not trouble me here. In the country, it seems as if every tree said to me: ‘Holy! Holy!’ Who can give complete expression to the ecstasy of the woods! O, the sweet stillness of the woods!” (Ludwig van Beethoven).
In 1814, in a rehearsal for the Archduke Trio, it was said that Beethoven pounded on the keys until the strings jangled, and in piano, he played so softly that whole groups of notes were absent. His deafness had crippled his ability to discern this. How many of us have a beautiful melody inside but at times when we try to orchestrate the words, they come out harsh?
“When it came to the premiere of his massive Ninth Symphony, Beethoven insisted on conducting. The orchestra hired another conductor, Michael Umlauf, to stand alongside the composer. Umlauf told the performers to follow him and ignore Beethoven’s directions. The symphony received rapturous applause, which Beethoven could not hear. Legend has it that the young contralto Carolina Unger approached the maestro and turned him around to face the audience, to see the ovation.”
Sometimes we just need help with the gift.
One day, we too pray that Yeshua will turn us toward the Father and we will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” In the mean time, let’s become so swept up in HIM, that we do not even hear the accolades of men. Our gift is for the Father. We work with our hands to glorify Him. In this week’s haftarah, we read of David. He is old, dying, and trying to stay warm, but his Psalm’s warm our very souls with glory, glory for the Father.
What is the Glory of Adonai? Dr. Skip Moen explains it this way in his blog titled Glory.
“Glory – Our western culture pushes God into categories governed by the Greek mind. We think of God in terms of logic and rationale. We end up with descriptions of God as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. All true, but all sterile. David knows God in an entirely different way. David’s God is amazing in deeds, awesome in power, and wonderfully beautiful.” (Here)
Can we be so caught up in His Glory, that even our weaknesses become our strengths? Paul said, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, THEN I AM STRONG.” (II Cor. 12:10).
Who are we with stinky chamber pots, needing a change of garments or warmth, pounding on keys to make a melody for You that we often cannot even hear Your Voice, Oh, Great and Mighty, Father. And yet, You are mindful of us! May we run the race with horse blinders on, running to get the prize even with our imperfections and times of deafness. Not a prize given to men by men, but a prize that transcends time.
Surprisingly, it was in Beethoven’s late years, that he produced some of his most admired work, and he was utterly deaf then. When we have spiritual ears, we can still hear the melody of heaven. These outward bodies are perishing daily, but our spirit man grows stronger. I laughed at the last words recorded by Beethoven, “Pity, pity—too late!” as the dying composer was told of a gift of twelve bottles of wine from his publisher.
Beethoven’s father wanted his son to become Mozart. As a piano virtuoso, Beethoven went on to surpass Mozart in measures unheard of. Every flower has its day in the sun when its colors burst forth, and people walk by and say, “Look at the beauty of those orchids, roses, and daffodils and smell their sweet aroma.” But once the colors fade and the petals drop, the stem bent and shrinking towards the earth, that season is over. Let us work while its still light and let us shine even in the darkest cellar.
Some sources have listed his last words as, “I shall hear in heaven.” And so shall we, friends, and even now as our Father’s Kingdom is burning in our kidneys like a flame. During the month of Kislev, the month of dreams, the month of light in the darkness–May we dream, and may we get to the very root of the riddle. May we hear and obey. May we take our precious gifts from Abba and use them as Beethoven did. Even with the loss of his natural hearing, he could still hear the music!! Even with our disfigurement, our frailties’, our lack of communication skills, our dyslexia’s, our past beatings, and cruelties,’ MAY WE SHINE.