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Thursday, December 15, 2005

 
Niggun [from the Parsha] of the Week - V'Nisgav

My thanks to Ellen Horowitz from Art from Zion for this wonderful drawing!
(click to enlarge)
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V'Nisgav Hashem levado bayom hahu
And G-d alone will be exalted on that day;
[Yeshayahu/Isaiah 2:17]
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Vayevaser Yaakov levado, vayei'avek ish imo ad alos HaShachar
And Yaakov remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until dawn
[Breishis/Genesis 32:25]
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The words above are to a niggun composed by Reb Shlomo Carlebach. Although it is now well-known, it was actually unknown until a four-album set of "The Best of Shlomo Carlebach" was released. In this series, a number of previously unrecorded songs of Reb Shlomo's were released, and they, (but especially this one), caught on immediately!
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I have heard from some people who were somewhat surprised about the words to this song, as it seemed to them to come from two disjointed sources, with the only similarity in the word "levado - alone." They were obviously unaware that its source is in the Midrash, Breishis Rabba 77:1.
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The Midrash begins by saying that whatever HaKadosh Baruch Hu [G-d] is going to do in the future, was already preceded by the tzaddikim - the holy righteous ones - in This World. It then enumerates a number of examples, from the Prophets Eliyahu and Elisha, who stopped the rain, revived the dead, etc.
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Then the Midrash says, quoting the verse [Devarim/Deuteronomy 33:26] "Ein k'Eil Yeshurun - There is none like G-d, Yeshurun," as follows: R. Brechia said in the name of R. Simon, "There is none like G-d," but who [if anyone] is like G-d? Yeshurun, which is Yisrael Saba - our grandfather Yaakov. Just like it is written about Hashem, "V'Nisgav Hashem levado," so it says about Yaakov, "Vayevaser Yaakov levado."
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One of the commentaries on this Midrash that I've seen says that Hashem alone will be exalted, when all the other gods [beliefs] dissipate and are lost. "Yaakov remains alone, and wrestles with a man until dawn" means that the entire struggle of Yaakov [and the Jewish People] with the Satan [evil forces] is only until the Dawn of the future Redemption. In the end, Yaakov will remain alone and victorious, as all of his enemies will be dissipated and lost. This is further indicated in the final verses of Psalm/Tehillim 102 [v. 28-29]: "And You [G-d] are always the same, and Your years will never cease. The children of Your servants will dwell forever [in their Land], and their descendants will be established firmly before You." That is, Hashem alone, and Yaakov alone.
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MORE ON THIS TOPIC:
1. For another beautiful explanation of the verse from our Parsha, see the Malbim's commentary.
2. Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson brings the Degel Machaneh Ephraim's expalanation of the above-quoted Midrash on a piece called Alone, at the Algemeiner Journal website.
3. Why did the defeated angel have to leave in order to sing to Hashem? See Singing in Defeat at A Simple Jew's blog.
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A link to this niggun, performed by the BaRock Orchestra, can be found here. If anyone has the link of Reb Shlomo singing this tune, please indicate so in the comments, and I'll add it here.

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