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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Slach Nah [Please Forgive!]...Chamol [Have compassion]

This post is dedicated to the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita, Rebbe Yisrael Dan ben Rivka Zlata, may he have a full and speedy recovery!

One of the most poignant parts of this Selichos - Yom Kippur season is a very short prayer which begins with the words, "Slach Nah." It's actually from two verses in Parshas Shelach, the portion of the Torah where we read about the spies who were sent into the Land of Israel, and came back with an evil report. The people, who accepted their report, were punished quite harshly: for every day the spies spent on their journey, a total of 40 days, the people were to spend a year wandering in the desert, a total of 40 years! Before hearing about this punishment, Moshe Rabbeinu pleads before G-d: "Please forgive the sin of this people, according to Your great love, and as You have borne [or forgiven] this people from [the time they left] Egypt until now." And then it says, "And G-d said, 'I will forgive, according to your word.' " [Bamidbar/Numbers, 14:19-20].

The Imrei Shaul of Modzitz questions why this verse should be mentioned in the Yom Kippur service. He explains with a brilliant thought of the Kuzmirer Rebbe. When G-d issues the punishment, the verse says, "yom l'shana, yom l'shana -- a day for a year, a day for a year" [14:34]. His great-grandfather, the Kuzmirer Rebbe, explains that this was a question and answer. The Accuser [Satan] asks, how could it be that the Jewish People could sin for an entire year, and then in a single day of Yom Kippur all their sins are forgiven? The answer is in this verse -- just as they suffered a punishment of a year for each day [that they spied], they can achieve atonement on one day for an entire year! So, indeed, this verse from the atonement of the sin of the spies, is very relevant to our Yom Kippur!

Every year for more than a decade, the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita has composed a new niggun for this section, "Slach Nah." Introduced on the first night of Selichos, it is one of the most moving pieces, year after year, of the dozen or so new niggunim that are created. It is my humble opinion that - perhaps - like his father, the Imrei Aish, is remembered for his "Chamol's" that he composed each year, the Rebbe Shilta will go down in Chassidic musical history for his Slach Nah's. [Time will tell if I am right].

Which, of course, brings us to "Chamol." The words are recited just after Kedusha in several of the Yamim Noraim prayers - both on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. "Have compassion on Your creatures, and rejoice in them. And those that trust in You should say, in justifying those whom You carry [the Jewish people]: May the L-rd be sanctified upon all of His Creation, for You have sanctified your holy ones with Your sanctity; it is indeed fitting for the Holy One to be praised by his holy ones."

Year after year, the Imrei Aish of Modzitz would compose a new niggun to these words. And year after year, the Modzitzer Chassidim would be uplifted -- for an entire year -- with the new "Chamol." It is almost impossible to put into words what this is. Suffice it to say that these are some of the most lofty, soulful and uplifting niggunim one can ever hear. Anyone who's heard them knows I'm not exaggerating. Only one that I know of has been released on an official recording - the one from 5715 or 1954. Besides Modzitzers, they have also inspired the likes of Reb Shlomo Carlebach -- whose "Ani Ma'amin" and "Lecha Ezbach" tunes both bear the influence of the Imrei Aish's Chamol's.

Recently, Modzitz opened an Musical Heritage Institute, for the preservation and documentation of niggunim. One of their first projects was to release a series of recordings of the Imrei Aish's niggunim. To date, recordings of the "new" niggunim for the years 5723-5732 [1962-71] have been released. So, by obtaining these recordings from the Institute, you can get to hear another 10 Chamol's!!! Well worth it!

Yitz: I continue to daven for the Rebbe's health and will make sure that I mention his name for a Misheberach at shul.

Gmar Chasima Tovah!
Any info on where these recordings can be obtained in the United States?
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