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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Ba-a-al Shem Tov and Yaakov Avinu's Melody

In this week’s parsha [Vayetzei], we read about Yaakov Avinu’s experiences as a shepherd. But let’s hear about it first-hand, from someone who was there:
We often think of the Baal Shem Tov as this great and lofty personage, perhaps the ultimate in spiritual perfection. And yet, did you know that he began his sojourn on earth as a sheep? And are you aware that he almost returned to that state? Furthermore, everybody knows that Moshiach told the Baal Shem Tov that when his (the Baal Shem’s) teachings would overflow outwards, the Redemption would come (more about this shortly - later this week). Yet the Baal Shem Tov himself said that it would come about through a niggun. Amazing? Please read on…

Sheep grazing in the Judean Hills of Israel

(Perhaps Yaakov Avinu looked something like this as a Shepherd)

Throughout his life, the Baal Shem Tov had a yearning to remember Yaakov Avinu's melody. He once told his close circle of followers: "During my first incarnation, when I was a sheep in Yaakov Avinu's flock, I used to listen to a beautiful melody, which is very pleasant for the ears and the soul. Yaakov Avinu always sang this melody when pasturing his sheep – when he could pour out his soul to his Creator – until he would hear Hashem's voice blessing his (Yaakov Avinu's) sheep.

"I know for a fact that Yaakov Avinu also sent this melody with his sons when they went down to Egypt, to Yosef – as it is written in the Scriptures (Breishis 43:11): 'And Yisrael their father said to them, “If it has to be, then do this: take from the song (zimras) of the land.”' "

The Baal Shem Tov continued: "I merited to hear this melody only once more, which was when I happened to pass by a shepherd pasturing his sheep and singing this melody. When I heard it, I almost turned back into a sheep..."

And when the Baal Shem Tov wanted to go to the Holy Land, he said: "Perhaps I will merit one more time to hear that melody 'from the song of the land.' When I do, I shall learn it thoroughly until I know it so well that I will never forget it again. And when this melody will be spread out so far and wide that everybody knows it, Redemption will come to the world.... "

–– from "Kfar Chabad" Magazine

UPDATE: See our Comments section, where Nachman has alerted us that Yaakov Avinu's niggun can be found on a Lipa Schmeltzer album, "L'eila U'leila". This link will take you to that album, and you can click on "Yaakov Avinu's niggun" to hear a clip of it. I cannot verify if this indeed is the niggun that is referred to above. Thanks, Nachman!

Is that niggun the same as Niggun HaBesht here?:


See track #3
yaakov avinu's melody can be found
on the following albums

1-niggunei chanukah-produced by Rabbi Yitzchok Ginzburg-violin version by mordechai brodsky

2-lipa schmeltzer leilo uleilo
Nachman: Do you know if there is a sound clip available on the internet?
Simple, et al,

I have updated the post with a link to Lipa Schmeltzer's rendition of "Yaakov Avinu's niggun." I couldn't find anything on Rav Ginsburgh's website.

It should be quite obvious to everyone that it is highly unlikely that we have a Mesora [tradition] from the time of Yaakov Avinu as to what niggunim he may have composed.

More likely, but also not inevitable, is that someone has a Mesora from the time of the Baal Shem Tov - although from the story, it's not clear that the Baal Shem Tov could identify the niggun, much less pass it on.

In short, I don't know if there what's being touted as "Yaakov Avinu's niggun" can be truly from him. There are very old Chupa niggunim that are sometimes labeled "Adam HaRishon's niggun." This doesn't mean that he composed it; rather, they are very old and their actual source is unknown.

[One of these was mis-identified as such, and is really a niggun from the Divrei Yisrael of Modzitz].
Thanks Yitz. Do you recommend the Lipa Schmeltzer CD?
Sorry for off-topic.

I built a web site, that makes possible to people from all over the world to read Tehilim together and complete the wholeTehilim book. Please take a look: http://TEHILIM.TZ4.COM

I'll appreciate if you will inform your site visitors about it.
Thanks Yitz for your great site,
keep up your good work.

Here is some info on the nigun att-ributed to Yakov Avinu.
from the linear notes to the cd
Meditative Melodies for Chanukah
compiled and produced by Rabbi Yit-cak ginsburgh.

After singing the traditional songs
for the third meal on shabbos,and
before his torah teaching,the But-shatsher rebbe would sing a special
melody which was handed down by the
family from generation to generati-on.He sang this melody without wor-ds,uniting himself with G-d until
he would reach a spiritual state
transending space and time.Sometim-es he continued singing this melody
for more than half an hour,and then
he would start his holy teaching of
Once during a business trip to rus-sia,a butshatsher chasid decided to
visit the tzadik of Rizhin for the
High Holy Days of Tishrei.On the
holy day of Yom Kippur itself,the tzadik from rizhin sat in deep med-itation,uniting himself with G-d.
The chasid suddenly became aware that the tzadik of rizhin was sing-ing to himself this very same melody of the Butshatsher rebbe.
The chasid was amazed,and became so
excited that he could hardly contain himself.How is it that the
holy tzadik of rizhin is singing
that melody on the holy day in such
a way that through it,in sweet san-city,he is uniting his whole being
with his creator?He decided that he
must find out how this melody got
from Butshatsh to Rizhin.

That following day,the Butshatsher
chasid worked up the courage to ask
the tzadik of rizhin for an explan-ation.When he asked him,the holy
tzadik closed his eyes and said,"Nu
so what's the wonder?Didn't Yakov
Avinu pasture his sheep his sheep
with this melody?!"
In the course of time,the chasid
returned to Butshatsh.When he rela-ted the words of the holy tzadik of
rizhin to the rebbe of Butshatsh,
the Rebbe's expression changed and,
while swaying his head,he said:"Nu,
so what's the wonder?Doesn't Reb
Yisrael(of rizhin)have the soul of
Yakov Avinu.......?"
(from the book Daas Kedoshim by the
rebbe of Butshatsh)

p.s.-this same story is related in
the hebrew notes to Lipa Schmeltzer's album L'EILU U'LEILO

Thanks so much for sharing this with us!!! Please keep visiting my site, and tell your friends about it!
While were on this subject of "legendary" chasidic nigunim,it is interesting to note,that there are some nigunim about which tzadikim claimed to have learned while they heard the angels
singing-and later taught these nigunim to their chasidim.

I am aware of three such nigunim
which can be heard on the following albums

1-Chozeh of lublin-lakel asher shavas
CD-nigunei beis dzikov volume 1
shiru lashem
(thiry seconds of this nigun can also be heard on song #12(second song of the six song medley)on lipa
schmeltzer's "l'eila album)
2-Magid of kozhnitz-march ein kitzvah
CD-mit kozhnitz geshmack(2005)track

3-hoidu lashem-of which the Apta Rav commented-"thus i heard the angels singing"
cassette-nigunei apta mezibuz
produced by the ohev yisroel torah center-1991

I am aware of 2 of those three. I was not aware of the Kozhnitz niggun, when did that disk come out? If you're in America, it can sometimes take a few weeks, if not months, for a disk to arrive here in Israel [the opposite also happens if the disk originates in Israel].

I also heard from Rebbe Mottel Twerki, Hornesteipel Rebbe [now in Flatbush] that the Chernobler Maggid heard a niggun from the angels as well. It's on the very first Belz album, Hakafa #1 [the very first song]. How did Belz get that niggun? That'll have to wait for another post!

Two albums of kozhnitzer nigunim
were released during the past year. The first,the above mentioned
MIT KOZHNITZ GESHMACK-sung by moshe gutman and arranged by Jeff Hurvich
I purchased in New York(I currently reside in New Jersey)I don't know if it available in EY.
The second one NIGUNEI BAIS KOZHNITZ was produced by mosdos kozhnitz in Tel Aviv and arranged by Dovid Kalish and is not yet avilable in the USA.
This album also has this song nigun hamalachim -Ein kitzvah and samples can be heard at
My grandfather was born in Cleveland in 1899, his father having moved there from Galicia some 20 years before hand. My grandfather had a beautiful voice and was a bal tefilah for many years. When I was a child he told me a story that when he was growing up in Cleveland, any meshulach, or Chasidisa yid making his way across the country would stop at their home for Shabbos, since they were one of the few frum Jews living there at the time. It was from these passers by that he learnt many of his nigunim. Once such yid sang a beautiful song, which when asked afterwards replied "the song is Yakov Aveni's Nigun" and explained that this was the song Yakov sang when he took care of his father's sheep. My grandfather and his brothers laughed at the idea, but this stranger became adamant and told them that this song was a mesora in their family from generation to generation. My grandfather taught me the nigun, and I was always under the impression that I was the only person who ever heard of this story. About a month ago I accidentally heard about this Lipa Schmelzer (I now live in Israel and am no longer current on the whose who in Jewish song), and found out that there is more to the story than what I thought. I listened to the clip of his record, and it sounds very close to the one I learnt from my grandfather over 30 years ago.
Can you help me determine the full citation for the story's original source in Kfar Chabad Magazine? I'd like to cite this appropriately in my own project about the holy nigunim of shepherds. Thanks for your guidance. Email me: phishtalmud@gmail.com
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