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Friday, December 30, 2005

Chanuka Belz - and a DOUBLE BONUS!

To our visitors from Havel Havalim: thanks for stopping by. Please be sure to check out our archives before leaving. Besides the music of Modzitz, Carlebach and Twerski, we've featured the music of Yaakov Avinu, as well as Rav Yitzchak Hutner, Rav Kook, and Rabbi Nachman Bulman, to name but a few. Enjoy!

R. Yirmiya Damen and the Belzer Rebbe Shlita

I cannot think about Chanuka without including the wonderful Negina that are heard in the Belzer Beis Medrash every night of Chanuka at candle lighting. But first, some background about Negina in Belz, mostly from the Mishpacha magazine supplement Encore, which came out this past Sukkos.

“When Rebbe Aharon of Belz began rebuilding Belzer Chassidus in Eretz Yisrael after the Holocaust, there were very few survivors who remembered the Belzer niggunim. Rebbe Aharon taught one prominent Chassid all the tunes of the special chapters of Tehillim [Psalms] which the Belzers sing during Chanuka, according to a set order [see below].

“In general, the Rebbes of the Belzer dynasty did not compose their own tunes. Still, the current Rebbe is a multi-talented composer, and many of his songs have gained fame among the general public, such as Yehi HaChodesh HaZeh and Ki LaShem HaMelucha (second song) [which he composed at a Purim Tish]. In addition, the Rebbe is greatly involved in Niggunei Kodesh, advising the musical-oriented Chassidim about their niggunim, including sometimes setting the tune to different words, or altering a section or a note. Many times when these musical Chassidim go in to the Rebbe, he asks that they compose a tune to match specific words.

“Belzer Chassidus cannot claim a long musical history; in fact, back in Galicia [where the town of Belz was located], Belz never had a choir at all…When the present Rebbe took over, there was still no sign of a choir in Belz, and that’s how it was until the winter of 5733 [1973]. The Rebbe would make his Tish…and they used to sing only one song, “Menucha v’Simcha”… And suddenly, the Rebbe started asking for songs and inviting people to get up and sing…At first, they sang Modzitzer niggunim, or the niggunim from Ropshitz…But the Rebbe soon began demanding more. He would summon Reb Yirmiya Damen and tell him, ‘Start composing’…Then, in honor of the Rebbe’s son’s bris in 5738 [1978], they made their first recording.

“During Chanuka of that first year [1973], the Belzer choir gained some new members and began taking on a more organized form. But they were still using borrowed material, mainly the melodies of Vizhnitz and Modzitz. With much encouragement from the Rebbe, the talented composers of Belz – including Reb Yirmiya Damen, R. Yosef Tzvi Breuer, R. Shlomo Kalish and his son R. Eliezer, R. Aharon Levinger and others – gradually built up a repertoire of original Belzer niggunim, which are enjoyed outside the Belzer community as much as they are enjoyed within it.”

CHANUKA Candle lighting in Belz is as follows [this applies to a weekday night, not Friday night]:

The crowd gathers is the Rebbe’s magnificent Beis Medrash*. Then the Rebbe enters and lights candles. This is a link to a video of the Rebbe lighting candles on the first night of Chanuka. Note his enthusiasm as he jumps up and down while reciting the Shehechiyanu bracha [third blessing]. He is accompanied by thousands of his Chassidim, and you can hear some niggunim as well. The video is obviously far from professional, and is blurry at times due to a lack of experience, or perhaps being jostled by the huge crowd.

After the Rebbe’s brachos, the following niggunim are sung:
1. Maoz Tzur, the traditional Chanuka song, through the verse “Yevanim.” They do not sing the traditional final verse. The Belzers have many tunes for this, some of which have been released on recordings.
2. Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis [Tehillim 30].
3. Lamnatzeach b’Neginos [Tehillim 67]
4. Shir La’Maalos [Tehillim 121]
5. “Tmanya Apei” [Tehillim 119] – literally, “eight faces.” This refers to the fact that this Psalm goes through the entire Hebrew alphabet eight times. That is, eight verses for Aleph, then Beis, etc. They sing four letters [32 verses] for each of the first four nights of Chanuka, then three letters [24 verses] for the remaining two nights. It is not sung on Leil Shabbos [Friday night] or Motzaei Shabbos [Saturday night].
6. Lamnatzeach Mizmor L’David [Tehillim 19]
On Zos Chanuka, the last night, the following are added:
7. Mizmor L’Sodah [Tehillim 100]
8. Ranenu Tzaddikim [Tehillim 33]

*A description of the Belzer Shul, from the Jerusalem Municipality website: The Belz Synagogue Complex, located on Dover Shalom Street, is the hub for members of the Belzer Chassidim. An item for the Guinness Book of World Records - the largest Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) can be found in the Belz Synagogue, Jerusalem. Twelve meters high, weighing 18 tons, with the capacity to hold over 60 Torah scrolls, this ark is a sight-to-be-seen in a Synagogue to-be-seen. When entering the main sanctuary, one is in awe in addition to the ark, the synagogue has over 5,000 seats, and a dazzling array of massive chandeliers. It was modeled after the original Shul in Belz, Galicia, that was built personally by the first Belzer Rebbe, the “Sar Shalom.”

1. A Chabad page of Chanuka songs: Blessings on the Menora, HaNerot Halalu [A. Fried], Maoz Tzur, Oh Chanuka, Sevivon, “Miracle of the Maccabees” [27-min. drama enactment].

2. And a 2-1/2 minute video of Tzlil V’Zemer singing Oh Chanuka.


If you would like to link-ki lashem
- it is the second track on the mimkomcha album@www.mostlymusic.com
Thanks, Nachman. I've added it, and also another one for the Belz Chanuka recording, available also at Mostly Music.
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