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Monday, August 01, 2005



Hi to all you Jewish Music lovers in Cyberspace! This is Yitz here, from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, a lover of Negina, and Niggunim - authentic Jewish melodies, usually of the Chassidic variety. My site will concentrate on three "schools", all of whom are masters of Negina.

First and foremost, the Modzitz Chassidic dynasty, and its two predecessors, Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir and his son, Rebbe Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvolin. Indeed, it is the words of the first Rebbe of Modzitz, Rebbe Yisrael [known for his sefer Divrei Yisrael], that gives this site its name. But first, we need to hear from one of the great Chassidic Rebbes of our past, Rebbe Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz. He proclaimed that the Heichal HaNegina (the heavenly Mansion of Melody) was next to the Heichal HaTeshuva (the heavenly Mansion of Return or "Repentance"), and the person who did not jump from the former into the latter was an absolute fool because the doors were interconnected. Regarding this statement, the Divrei Yisrael added: "Everybody says that the Heichal HaNegina is next to the Heichal HaTeshuva. But I say that the Heichal HaNegina itself is the Heichal HaTeshuva" [Found in sefer Imrei Shaul, p. 309]. In the words of Velvel Pasternak, the Modzitzer Rebbes "were instinctively first-rate musical composers." He also describes the second Rebbe, R. Shaul Yedidya Elazar, as a composer "in the true sense. His niggunim were not merely the simplistic folk type melodies of many of his predecessors. A number of them were intricate, musically structured, and quite lengthy." The same could be said of those of his father, the Divrei Yisrael, as well as his son, the Imrei Aish. More about this later.

Another great, modern-day prolific composer of niggunim is none other than Reb Shlomo Carlebach. While I am quite aware of his being a controversial figure, I prefer to "judge him on the side of merit" as our Sages bid us to do in Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers]. Let us suffice with two brief quotes about him. Firstly, from the present Amshinover Rebbe, when asked why he shows him so much respect: "That man's reward in Heaven will not only be greater than the one in store for me, it will even exceed the reward you think I am destined to receive." And from the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, who delivered a hesped [eulogy] at Reb Shlomo's funeral: "Your songs and your tunes are living monuments which, in this generation and in generations to come, will build you 'a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters.' Every niggun, every letter, every note bears witness tothe creative genius of that man whom it was our privilege to know." And briefly about his music, again from Velvel Pasternak: " His melodies were so widely known that they were sometimes given a historical longevity as if they had come from and belonged to an earlier era. In addition, they were often incorrectly attributed to other composers and Hassidic groups... In the last 35 years Reb Shlomo had the distinction of being one of the few American Jewish composers whose songs were performed by Israeli artists on radio and television. The Rabbi HaRoked, the Dancing Rabbi, as he was affectionately known throughout Israel...composed hundreds of tunes. They became and remained part of the world Jewish song repertoire. His Am Yisrael Chai was the unofficial hymn of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. His melodies served as the cornerstone for music programs in the most right-wing Orthodox yeshivos as well as the most left-wing congregational Hebrew schools. His songs were sung with exuberant joy in Camp Torah Vodaas and in the Reform movement's Camp Swig. Every wedding and Bar Mitzva band paid and continues to pay homage to Reb Shlomo by playing sets of his melodies." Again, more later...

Finally, last but certainly not least, the Chassidic dynasty of Hornesteipel, as manifest in its American branches of Milwaukee and Denver. That is, the music of the Twerski family - Rav Michel Twerski of Milwaukee, Rav Mottel Twerski [and his saintly father of blessed memory, Rebbe Shloime] of Denver [now of Flatbush, NY], and to a lesser extent, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel Twerski of Pittsburgh.
While the Twerskis were not as prolific composers as the Modzitzer Rebbes or Reb Shlomo Carlebach, their niggunim are very soulful and touch my heart in a very deep way. In addition to their own Hornesteipel family tradition, they are related to the Bobover Rebbes' families through marriage, and maintain that tradition of negina as well.

Of course, I listen to much more music than the above. For example, Bobov, Skulen, Breslov, Chabad and Melitzer niggunim are part of my music collection. I am also fond of Regesh, and to a lesser extent, the heartfelt niggunim of Lev v'Nefesh - i.e., Abie Rottenberg.

Again, more about all of this later. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment!!!

Welcome to the block Yitz.
Thanks, Chaim, or as we say here in Israel, "Baruch Hanimtza!" :)
Yitz: I just added a link to your site. Welcome.
I'll add my welcome..
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