Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Today is the 25th yahrzeit of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner Zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and Kollel Gur Aryeh in New York, and Yeshivas Pachad Yitzchak in Yerushalayim. The following are assorted clips that I have culled from the Internet and other sources, to give a perspective of the strong emotional side of Rav Hutner, as well as his musical inclinations.
Rav Hutner was a builder: “a builder of men, a builder of Torah, a motivator, a teacher and an in-depth expounder. He was a multi-faceted personality who possessed a vibrancy and exuberance that enveloped his talmidim [students]...Whether it was in Brownsville, East Flatbush, Far Rockaway or Flatbush, Rav Hutner’s unique imprint on his talmidim, and through them on the entire American Torah scene, was profoundly felt.” [HaModia, Dec. 14, 2005].
His students included the following Rabbis: Aharon Lichtenstein, son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel; Pinchas Stolper of the Orthodox Union and founder of NCSY, who followed Rabbi Hutner's guidelines in setting up this youth outreach movement; Avraham Davis, founder of the Metzudah religious books series; Shlomo Freifeld, who set up the one of the first full-time yeshivas for baalei teshuva [newly religious] students in the world; Joshua Fishman, leader and executive Vice President of Torah Umesorah the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools; Noach Weinberg, founder and head of the baal teshuva outreach institution called Aish HaTorah; Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg of Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore; Shlomo Carlebach and others.
He published what is considered his magnum opus which he named Pachad Yitzchak ("The Fear of Yitzchak"). His sefarim include volumes about Shabbos and the various festivals throughout the Jewish Year. He wrote in a poetic modern-style Hebrew reminiscent of his original mentor's style, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook. The core of his synthesis of different schools of Jewish thought was rooted in his deep studies of the teachings of Rabbi Yehuda Loew ben Bezalel (1525 -1609) a scholar and mystic known as the Maharal of Prague. It is commonly accepted that Rabbi Hutner "opened up" and "popularized" the writings and ideas of the Maharal.
"…he told Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld that the root of his soul was the same as that of Rav Kook's. He was taken by the multidimensionality of Rav Kook... by his total mastery of both nigla (revealed) and the nistar (hidden) segments of Torah, by his sensitive, refined character, by his poetic nature, and by his fresh, dynamic spirituality...Perhaps the most important thing he learned from Rav Kook was the need to communicate the nishmas HaTorah, the soul of the Torah, including the whole gamut of non-Halachic Torah: Jewish thought, Mussar, Kabbalah, and Chassidus. Rav Kook believed the failure to communicate this part of the Torah was responsible for many of the defections from Judaism. Rav Kook used the term Hilchos Deos V'Chovos HaLevavos ["laws of the mind and obligations of the heart"], which became part of the subtitle of Rav Hutner's great work, Pachad Yitzchak…Rabbi Hutner disagreed with the political and historical views of Rav Kook but this did not prevent him from gaining immeasurably from their close relationship".
Rabbi Hutner developed a style of celebrating Shabbat and the Holy Days, Yom Tov, by giving a kind of talk called a ma’amar. It was a combination of Talmudic discourse, Chassidic celebration (tish), philosophic lecture, group singing, and when possible, like on Purim, a ten-piece band was brought in as accompaniment. Many times there was singing and dancing all night. All of this, together with the respect to his authority that he demanded, induced in his students obedience and something of a "heightened consciousness" that passed into their lives making them into literal Chassidim ("devotees") of their Rosh Yeshiva, who encouraged this by eventually personally donning Chassidic garb, (begadim) and acting outwardly like a synthesis between a Rosh Yeshiva and a Rebbe and instructed some of his students to do likewise.
Rav Hutner on Chanuka: While the Halachos [laws] of the holiday of Purim command an entire Masechta [tractate] of Megilla in the Mishna, the basic discussions of the Halachos of Chanuka appear only in the Gemara (Shabbos 21b). Indeed, no mention of the miracle of Chanuka appears anywhere in the Mishna. Rav Yitzchak Hutner Zt”l, in his Pachad Yitzchak, proposed the following explanation. The miracle of Chanuka took place in a period in Jewish history where the Tannaim and the learning of Torah she'Baal Peh (the Oral Law) were flowering. Indeed, Chanuka is the first holiday that occurred after the conclusion of the Tanach, and thus completely based upon Torah she'Baal Peh. [Purim, while a Mitzva d'Rabbanan [rabbinical], is nonetheless mentioned in Tanach in Megillas Esther.] Rav Hutner notes that Torah she'Baal Peh should ideally never been written but handed down orally from Rebbe to Talmid. Indeed, the Talmud (Gittin 60b) learns that writing Torah she'Baal Peh is technically forbidden, and Rabbeinu HaKadosh only consented to committing the Mishna to writing lest the Torah she'Baal Peh itself be forgotten. As such, argues Rav Hutner, Rabbeinu HaKadosh wished to maintain the Kedusha of the written Torah she'Baal Peh as relates to Chanuka, and ensured that – at least at the time of the Mishna – its details would continue to be transmitted orally from Rebbe to Talmid.
How is it that Shabbos is received - Kabbalas Shabbos - through song? In the sefer Ohr Zarua HaGadol, it’s brought that the source for zemiros [songs] on Motzaei Shabbos is from the words of Lavan, that if he had known that Yaakov was leaving, “I would have sent you off with celebration and song, with drum and lyre” [Breishis, 31:27]. From this it is learned that when escorts the Shabbos [on its way out], it is done with song. The rule is, the honor given when escorting a guest upon his departure cannot be greater than the reception accorded him when he arrives. Therefore, Kabbalas Shabbos is with song, and the soul sings what it innately knows from the cycle of time – “Lecha Dodi - come, my beloved.” [Pachad Yitzchak, Shabbos].
The Yamim Noraim [Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] were unforgettable, and many who were there say that to this day the inspiration they feel on the Yamim Noraim relates back to those days. During the silent Musaf Amida [prayer recited while standing] for Rosh Hashana, the Rosh Yeshiva, who had a rich, powerful, but delicate voice, would sing a haunting melodic fragment that shattered the complacency of all those present.
One interesting letter that he wrote to a talmid recalls memories of a shared experience at a simchas beis hasho'eiva [festive Sukkos celebration]. The place was, "a spacious sukka, full of people celebrating, on a high rooftop, separate and set apart from the dwellings of lowliness below. Among the members of the party, all of whom are of the same mind, divrei Torah are delivered that uplift the soul and draw streams of nobility upon the gathering, preparing them for expressing the joy that is inspired by [the fulfillment of] mitzvos. The space inside the sukka is filled with song and playing of intimate melodies directed primarily to the point of the Divine soul which resides in its hidden recesses. One of the melodies is a wonderful combination of a powerful tune with the words, Achas sho'alti."
Rav Hutner followed that talmid and noted, "I saw with clarity of vision that your tears then, at the simchas beis hasho'eiva, were drawn from the wellspring of your soul. And lo, something wondrous: those tears transformed the skin of your face (skin, "ohr" with an ayin), to the light of your face (light, "ohr" with an aleph)."
Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner notes that just as the ears hear by detecting sound waves and the eyes see by responding to light waves, the mind also has its medium: pleasure. The mind learns what it wants to learn, what it enjoys learning. Hence, our Sages tell us that a person should study subjects which he finds pleasurable. For this reason, the blessing said before beginning the day's Torah studies contains the request, "And sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouths...." This principle is as true of discipline as it is of developing a disciple.
Rav Yitzchak Hutner, of blessed memory, once explained that a niggun serves to separate one from the mundane world and elevates us spiritually.
Rav Yitzchak Hutner z”l explains that there is a difference between the Hebrew word for a song that the Torah uses and between the word that David HaMelech used. The Torah uses the word “shira”. David HaMelech called the Torah a “zemer”. Although both of these words are translated into English as “song”, there is a difference in the type of song that they describe. The word “zemer” can also mean to cut or to prune. The word “shira” is related to the word “shura”, meaning a straight line. “Zemer” is a song that is sung when a difficulty is overcome and an obstacle is surmounted. You cut yourself away from the impediment and you emerge happy and triumphant. “Shira” is a song that does not relate to any negativity at all, it is the song of pure happiness that wells from the straightforward flow of a good life.
The nusach [lyrics] of the song "Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh" was composed by Rav Hutner Zt”l, based on an earlier piyut [poem].
Bilvavi mishkan evneh l’hadar k’vodo
U’v’mishkan mizbeach asim l’karnei hodo
U’l’ner tamid ekach li et aish ha’akeida
U’l’korban akriv lo et nafshi hayechida
In my heart, I’ll build a sanctuary to His glory’s splendor.
And in it I’ll place an altar to the rays of His grandeur.
And for an eternal flame, I’ll take the fire meant for Akeidas Yitzchak [of old] --
and the sacrifice offering I shall make to Him is my one and only soul.
R. Shmuel “Shmelke” Brazil, who composed the tune, says the following about it: “I composed Bilvavi in 1968, when I was a bachur [bachelor]. On Tisha B’Av night, in the beis medrash of Yeshivas Shor Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, I sat by myself in the dark after completing Megillas Eicha and Kinos. That’s when the tune came to me. Several months later, I heard the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner’s beautiful words, which he was inspired to write after studying Sefer HaChareidim, and then took his words and set them to my tune.” [Mishpacha magazine, "Encore"].
In the late 1950s or early 1960s, a recording titled “The Torah Lives and Sings” was issued by Rav Hutner’s Chaim Berlin Yeshiva. It contained niggunim composed by the Rosh Yeshiva and his talmidim. Among them are Rav Hutner’s Elokai Neshama*, and the famous march tune, later set to the words V’haviosim L’Har Kadshi. If anyone has this recording or any more info about it, please let us know in the Comments section, thanks!
*The link for the tune "Elokai Neshama" will take you to a Hebrew page of the Shalhevet Group, of a double-disk. For those who can read Hebrew, look for song #5 on "Disk Sheni" [the second disk], called "Neshama." You can then click on various pop-ups to get the words & info about the song, or the notes, or to hear a 50-second clip of the tune itself. Thanks, Nachman! [See comments section].
by the shalhevet orchestra on their double album,volumes 4&5 on the second disc.
A part of the song can be heard on their website
He [Rav Hutner] was the mentor of some controversial figures in modern Jewish outreach to non-Orthodox Jews. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach who became the "Singing Rabbi" was one such student...Another was a cousin to the earlier Shlomo Carlebach, who also was called Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who was appointed as the Mashgiach (spiritual supervisor) at the Yeshiva Chaim Berlin...
I was privileged to have attended some shiurim by the Mashgiach RSC; and I also heard from others who attended Chaim Berlin when the singing RSC was there. In fact, Rav Hutner was the Rav who ordained - gave semicha - to Reb Shlomo Carlebach, the singer. This is recorded in M. Brandwine's book, "Reb Shlomeleh."
I have added the link to the Niggun & to Shalhevet's page to the original article.
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