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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Shloshim for Reb HERSHEL, Z"L

As I mentioned earlier, Reb Tzvi Hershel Taub passed away on 26 Tammuz. He was the youngest son of Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar ZT"L, the second Modzitzer Rebbe, and the youngest brother of the previous Modzitzer Rebbe ZT"L. He was also the webmaster of the Modzitz website.

This Tuesday [tomorrow] evening, on the "Shloshim" [end of 30-day mourning period] of Reb Hershel z"l, a Siyum and seudas mitzva will be made in the yishuv where he lived - Shavei Shomron. Reb Hershel was also the uncle of today's Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita.

In honor of his memory, the Modzitzer Rebbe will be present, along with a sizable group of Modzitzer Chassidim from all across the country. The Rebbe was specially asked to attend, so that he could offer chizuk to Acheinu Beis Yisrael [our brethren] who live in the various yishuvim in the area, so close to Chomesh and the other Northern Shomron yishuvim that were uprooted last week.

This should be a highly memorable evening of chizuk [support] and mutual kiruv levavos [comraderie] - through Torah, Negina and Tefilla that will serve as the "chut haMeshulash lo bim'heira yinatek - the triple-braided rope will not be easily severed."

For those of you who are already familiar with the unique Avodas Hashem of Modzitzer niggunim, I hardly need to say more. For those not familiar, this a golden opportunity to change that.

The Aliya l'kever [visit to the gravesite] of Reb Hershel z"l will be at 5:30, Mincha at 6:15, with the Siyum, Seuda and Divrei Chizuk immediately afterwards. There will be a bulletproof bus and mini-van leaving for Shavei Shomron from the Rebbe Shlita's Beis Medrash at 20 Rechov Habakuk in Bnei Brak, on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 5 pm.

Due to the large number of people expected (more than a few hundred), a second hall will be opened nearby as an Ezrat Nashim [women's section], with a large screen live video feed.

Yehi zichro Baruch - May his memory be for a blessing!

Monday, August 29, 2005


No, this is not for Rav Michel or his nephew, Rav Mottel, two of my favorite ba'alei Negina, but for Rav Michel's brother and Rav Mottel's uncle, Rav Aharon Twerski [pictured above], who just officially became the Dean of the Hofstra Law School. Read about it here.

Hat tip: Chaptzem blog, thank you!

UPDATE: The official Hofstra U. announcement!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Which "Days Are Coming"?

Reb Shlomo Carlebach's song, Days are Coming or Hinei Yamim Ba'im, is the topic of an interesting discussion on Menachem Butler's American Jewish History blog. Be sure to see my comments [#3 and 6] there as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


On his "Mikdash Melech" recording, released around 1964, Reb Shlomo Carlebach had a tune called "Choneinu." Taken from the words of the Tachanun [supplication] prayer [and Tehillim 123:3], we entreat Hashem - "Choneinu, Hashem, Choneinu, ki rav savanu vuz - Be gracious unto us, Hashem, be gracious, because we have been satiated with contempt."

Someone has made a fantastic video slide show of the traumatic scenes our People are undergoing in these past few days, here - with this song as the background music.

Hat tip: Sultan Knish - thanks!

Sunday, August 21, 2005


As I've asked many of my colleagues, what would Reb Shlomo Carlebach be doing tonight? The answer is a simple one - he'd be going from hotel to hotel, in whatever town he was in, to cheer up our exiled brethren of Gush Katif. I'm on my way over to one of the Shalom Hotel in Yerushalayim right now.

In addition, tonight Aharon Razel is playing in Kikar Safra [Square], and Chaim Dovid Sarachik at the Hyatt Hotel. If anybody else is anywhere close to our exiled brethren, please join our efforts!!!

We arrived at the Shalom Hotel on Motzash, but our guitarist didn't show. In any case, the children were occupied with a cartoon movie, and the adults looked quite absorbed with the various friends and relatives who had come to visit them. The Shalom is also a distribution center for the needs of our exiled brethren.

However, Kikar Safra sang and danced well into the night. I'm told that after the amplified music ended at midnight, there was kumzitz till about 1:30 am. For some nice pictures of this, see this. And thanks, Joe Settler!

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Okay, I know, we're almost finished with the Three Weeks. Nevertheless, we should make mention of some wonderful 'a cappella' recordings that are available. For those that don't speak Italian, this means unaccompanied singing - without music instruments. Most poskim [but consult your local Rabbi] say that it is permissible to listen to such music during the Three Weeks and the Sefira period.

Most of your are familiar with Eli Gerstner's Chevra, and their recording of Reb Shlomo Carlebach's niggunim. Recently, there has been a release of some Twerski music in a cappella form. It's called "Shabbos in Milwaukee," presented by the "Karbrinsky Brothers." These are actually six cousins, from the Brown, Karsh and Pinsky families, whose families are part of R. Michel Twerski's kehilla in Milwaukee.

Two provisos - firstly, these are not professional singers but yeshiva guys who have put this recording together to raise funds for the family of R. Michel's daughter, whose husband, Rabbi Eliezer Geldzahler z"l, passed away tragically after being injured in a bus accident in Israel. Secondly, I don't know how easily available this recording is, but you can probably find out via the Twerski website which is linked on the left side of this blog [and also about helping the Twerski's daughter's family]. The CD has seven tracks, which include a Bobov niggun, six of R. Michel's niggunim, and "Tzaddik KaTamar" which one of the "Karbrinskys" composed in honor of Reb Michel.

Modzitz has a Machon, a music institute, which has issued four recordings, covering eight years, of the "new" niggunim of the previous Rebbe, the Imrei Aish ZT"L. The Chassidim used to gather together during Sukkos in Tel-Aviv and sing the Rebbe's newest niggunim, those that were composed for the New Year a mere two weeks before. So far, those for the years 5725 [1964] through 5732 [1971] have been released. More about this later on...

Finally, there's a wonderful recording called "Chassidishe Otzros, Vol. 2." This is from a really good group of young men from various Chassidic groups, who have gathered together to produce a beautiful a cappella recording of niggunim of Bobov, Belz, Ger, Vishnitz, Chabad, Modzitz, Melitz, Nadvorna, Skulen and Pittsburgh. All I can tell you is that the Modzitzer who sings here, R. Sinai Barmatz, has one of the sweetest voices I've heard, and this choir harmonizes beautifully! Besides being unaccompanied by musicians, the songs themselves are very appropriate for this time of year. Enjoy!!!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Check this out!

There's a few dozen Chabad niggunim, in Real Player format, here.

Hat tip: The Mikveh

Some are from the Baal Shem Tov's time, as well as from Rebbe Yechiel Michel of Zlatchov.

Perhaps even more interesting are these niggunim, sung by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l himself!

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Like people, Niggunim also go through "gilgulim" or incarnations. As we enter the month of Menachem Av and begin our approach to Tishrei with Rosh Hashana a mere 59 days away, I'd like to discuss two niggunim of Reb Shlomo Carlebach's, which most of you will know by other names than what follows.

Around the year 1962, Reb Shlomo composed a beautiful melody for "Asisi L'Chananach", a prayer recited by the Baal Tefilla [chazan] on the second day of Rosh Hashana. At the beginning of chazarat haShatz, the Reader's [cantor's] repetition of the Shacharis prayer, the following words are said:

Asisi l'chananach, b'lev karua u'murtach,
Bakesh rachamim, k'ani b'petach.
Galgeil rachamecha, v'din al timtach.
They translate as follows:
"I have come to plead before You,
With a torn and burning heart
Pleading for mercy, like a poor man at the door.
Reveal Your Mercy,
and do not mete out harsh Judgment."
The tune actually bears a remarkable similarity to some of the "Chamols" of the Imrei Aish, the previous Modzitzer Rebbe. [We'll have a separate article on Chamol later on]. The tune has three parts, but probably most of you reading this may not be familiar with it. It is to be found only on private recordings of Reb Shlomo's niggunim.
Later on, Reb Shlomo forgot the third part, when the niggun was recorded officially as "Ani Ma'amin." The 12th of the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith: "Ani ma'amin b'emuna shelaima, b'vias HaMoshiach; v'af al pi she'yismameya, im kol zeh, achakeh lo b'chol yom she'yavo - I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I await each day that he should come." If you know this tune, you can try singing it to the first two parts of "Asisi," as above. The third part, "Galgeil" is the one that was forgotten.
In the longest Selichos [penitential prayers] of the year, for Asheknazi Jewry, Erev Rosh Hashana, we find the following words:
"U'malteim mikol ra'os, bzos haShana -
Save us from all evil, in this [coming New] Year."
Reb Shlomo composed a lively tune to these words, but it didn't emerge as such. Its "final" gilgul was "Samcheim" to the words from the Friday evening Zemer, Kol Mekadesh: "Samcheim b'vinyan shaleim - Rejoice in the full building [of the Holy Temple]."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Let's Get Ready - for the NEW YEAR!!!

What? It's only Tammuz, and Rosh Hashana is several months away. Let's see, there's Tammuz, Av, Elul, and only then does Tishrei - the month of the Jewish New Year - follow! So what are we talking about?

Okay, the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita has reminded us that the sefarim - our holy books - teach that the Hebrew letters of Tammuz are an acronym for "Zman Teshuva m'Mashmesh Uba - the time for return [to G-d and His Torah] is rapidly approaching." Indeed we are in the midst of the "Three-Week" period of mourning for our Holy Temple, the Beis HaMikdash, which culminates in the Fast of Tisha b'Av. This itself is a time for teshuva, for returning to G-d. This is immediately followed by the "Shiva d'Nechemta - the Seven Weeks of Consolation," which lead us directly into...you guessed it, Rosh Hashana. So the period from 17 Tammuz until Rosh Hashana is really one continuum.

What does all of this have to do with Negina? you might ask. Firstly, I'd like to add "my own" version of the acronym for Tammuz - "Zemira-Mangina-Tefilla [or Tenua]-U'Shira" - meaning, "Tune, Melody, Prayer [or Movement] and Song." Why is this so?

The Tzaddikim of Modzitz have a custom of greeting the New Year - Rosh Hashana - with a new SET of melodies, or niggunim. Thus the Rebbes of Modzitz in recent years have composed new niggunim for several parts of the High Holyday services, which are sung. I'll give two brief examples of this, and then we'll continue in the next post.

Already on Selichos night, the first day in which the penintential prayers of Selichos are recited [towards the end of the month of Elul, according to the Ashkenazi custom], the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita introduces TWO new niggunim for the upcoming year. S'lach Na - is a short request that Hashem should forgive us, and the Rebbe Shlita usually composes a very soulful tune, usually in 3/4 time, for this prayer. The Selichos are ended with a Kaddish-Tiskabeil, for which the Rebbe composes a lively dance tune. The joy in this tune expresses the surety that our prayers will be accepted by the One Above. He sings it throughout the Yamim Noraim at the end of each prayer service.

So - if these niggunim are "unveiled" on Selichos night, and then some more on Rosh Hashana, and still more on Yom Kippur - when are they composed? Last year the Rebbe revealed 17 new niggunim!!! Obviously, they are being composed right now, during the months of Tammuz, Av and Elul!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

R. Tzvi Hersh Taub, z"l

Yesterday, we were saddened to be informed of the passing of R. Tzvi Hersh Taub, son of Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub, the second Modzitzer Rebbe. [R. Hersh was thus the uncle of the present Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita].

Dozens of people attended his funeral in Shavei Shomron, the beautiful yishuv ["settlement"] in the Shomron in which he lived with his lovely family, may they all live and be well. Among them was a busload of Modzitz Chassidim and others who made the journey from Bnei Brak and points beyond such as Yerushalayim and Rechovot.

R. Hershel was also the webmaster of the modzitz.org website, and ran it without any compensation and with complete dedication. The website features divrei Torah, Niggunim and Late News of the Modzitzer Chassidim, both in Israel and the US, with pages in both Hebrew and English. The niggunim can be downloaded for free, and then played back at any time on your computer - or you can just click on them to listen to them while visiting the site.

Obviously, the Modzitz website will not be updated for a short period of time until a new webmaster can be found. But you can find a wealth of information there, as well as Chassidic stories. And all this, in no small part, due to the wonderful work of R. Hershel, may his memory be for a blessing!

The family is sitting Shiva in their home in Shavei Shomron, and will spend one day in Kfar Saba as well, for those who cannot make the trip to Shavei. Send your comments to this if you need further details.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Tonight is the third Yahrzeit of Rabbi Nachman Bulman, Zt"l, who held many Rabbinical positions in America, was the Mashgiach Ruchani in the Ohr Sameach Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, and led an American community in the Galilee town of Migdal HaEmek, Israel.

However, perhaps less known was Rav Bulman's very strong connection to Negina. Although born in America, Rav Bulman's family were Gerer Chassidim from Poland. When the second Modzitzer Rebbe came to America in the early 1940s, Rav Bulman attended his Tishes [communal meals with the Rebbe] and davened in his shul. Rav Bulman absorbed a tremendous amount of niggunim, from the early Chassidic masters like the Shpoler Zeide [Kol BaYa'ar] and Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, to the Chassidim of Ropshitz, Ger and Modzitz. He did not refrain from teaching them to us, his talmidim.

As someone who is very attached to Jewish negina, I must acknowledge that the tune that Rabbi Bulman often used to bless the new month was a unique, rare Chassidic niggun that he learned from Rebbe Shaul of Modzitz. Having become very close to the Modzitzer Chassidim, I can attest that there are very few people that know this tune – another sign of his true greatness.

Rav Bulman also composed his own niggunim. Although they were very few in quantity, their quality was exceptional. I have been asked by the Modzitzer Rebbe's son, for example, to sing the waltz Rav Bulman composed for Menucha v'Simcha, a Friday evening zemer.

Yehi zichro baruch - May his memory be for a blessing.

Monday, August 01, 2005



Hi to all you Jewish Music lovers in Cyberspace! This is Yitz here, from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, a lover of Negina, and Niggunim - authentic Jewish melodies, usually of the Chassidic variety. My site will concentrate on three "schools", all of whom are masters of Negina.

First and foremost, the Modzitz Chassidic dynasty, and its two predecessors, Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir and his son, Rebbe Shmuel Eliyahu of Zvolin. Indeed, it is the words of the first Rebbe of Modzitz, Rebbe Yisrael [known for his sefer Divrei Yisrael], that gives this site its name. But first, we need to hear from one of the great Chassidic Rebbes of our past, Rebbe Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz. He proclaimed that the Heichal HaNegina (the heavenly Mansion of Melody) was next to the Heichal HaTeshuva (the heavenly Mansion of Return or "Repentance"), and the person who did not jump from the former into the latter was an absolute fool because the doors were interconnected. Regarding this statement, the Divrei Yisrael added: "Everybody says that the Heichal HaNegina is next to the Heichal HaTeshuva. But I say that the Heichal HaNegina itself is the Heichal HaTeshuva" [Found in sefer Imrei Shaul, p. 309]. In the words of Velvel Pasternak, the Modzitzer Rebbes "were instinctively first-rate musical composers." He also describes the second Rebbe, R. Shaul Yedidya Elazar, as a composer "in the true sense. His niggunim were not merely the simplistic folk type melodies of many of his predecessors. A number of them were intricate, musically structured, and quite lengthy." The same could be said of those of his father, the Divrei Yisrael, as well as his son, the Imrei Aish. More about this later.

Another great, modern-day prolific composer of niggunim is none other than Reb Shlomo Carlebach. While I am quite aware of his being a controversial figure, I prefer to "judge him on the side of merit" as our Sages bid us to do in Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers]. Let us suffice with two brief quotes about him. Firstly, from the present Amshinover Rebbe, when asked why he shows him so much respect: "That man's reward in Heaven will not only be greater than the one in store for me, it will even exceed the reward you think I am destined to receive." And from the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, who delivered a hesped [eulogy] at Reb Shlomo's funeral: "Your songs and your tunes are living monuments which, in this generation and in generations to come, will build you 'a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters.' Every niggun, every letter, every note bears witness tothe creative genius of that man whom it was our privilege to know." And briefly about his music, again from Velvel Pasternak: " His melodies were so widely known that they were sometimes given a historical longevity as if they had come from and belonged to an earlier era. In addition, they were often incorrectly attributed to other composers and Hassidic groups... In the last 35 years Reb Shlomo had the distinction of being one of the few American Jewish composers whose songs were performed by Israeli artists on radio and television. The Rabbi HaRoked, the Dancing Rabbi, as he was affectionately known throughout Israel...composed hundreds of tunes. They became and remained part of the world Jewish song repertoire. His Am Yisrael Chai was the unofficial hymn of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. His melodies served as the cornerstone for music programs in the most right-wing Orthodox yeshivos as well as the most left-wing congregational Hebrew schools. His songs were sung with exuberant joy in Camp Torah Vodaas and in the Reform movement's Camp Swig. Every wedding and Bar Mitzva band paid and continues to pay homage to Reb Shlomo by playing sets of his melodies." Again, more later...

Finally, last but certainly not least, the Chassidic dynasty of Hornesteipel, as manifest in its American branches of Milwaukee and Denver. That is, the music of the Twerski family - Rav Michel Twerski of Milwaukee, Rav Mottel Twerski [and his saintly father of blessed memory, Rebbe Shloime] of Denver [now of Flatbush, NY], and to a lesser extent, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel Twerski of Pittsburgh.
While the Twerskis were not as prolific composers as the Modzitzer Rebbes or Reb Shlomo Carlebach, their niggunim are very soulful and touch my heart in a very deep way. In addition to their own Hornesteipel family tradition, they are related to the Bobover Rebbes' families through marriage, and maintain that tradition of negina as well.

Of course, I listen to much more music than the above. For example, Bobov, Skulen, Breslov, Chabad and Melitzer niggunim are part of my music collection. I am also fond of Regesh, and to a lesser extent, the heartfelt niggunim of Lev v'Nefesh - i.e., Abie Rottenberg.

Again, more about all of this later. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to comment!!!

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