Friday, January 27, 2006
A note to my readers: as I privately wrote to someone this week, “a man’s Home Page is his Castle.” This is especially so in the world of blogging, where we try to express ourselves and our own personal tastes. While I try to be faithful to the [rather bombastic] title of this blog, "Heichal HaNegina," I cannot help but choose those people and music that I most appreciate and enjoy. An example is found below: although HaRav Hirsch zt"l was not particularly known for his Negina [and I don’t know if he had any niggunim, or even if he could sing], I have a long-standing appreciation of his Torah that he has enlightened the world with. I would consider him one of the Gedolim of the 19th Century in which he lived.
Today, the 27th of Teves, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch [1808-1888], known by some as the father of modern Jewish Orthodoxy. Rav Hirsch taught that a Torah-committed Jew could live in modern society by using Torah - the Divine Truth - as the yardstick by which to measure all new ideas and developments. His vast works include his philosophical Horeb and Nineteen Letters of Ben Uziel, and his commentaries on the Chumash [Bible], Tehillim [the Psalms] and the Siddur [prayer book]. He was a staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany.
Below are two examples of Rav Hirsch’s writings about Music, taken from his Commentary on the Chumash.
“And his brother’s name was Yuval. He was the father of all those who play the lyre and the flute.” [Breishis, 4:21]
Rav Hirsch explains: “Yuval, the father of all those who play the harp and flute – in other words, Art. In Kayin’s [Cain’s] world, art is just as necessary as industry or handicraft. When Man departed from G-d, inner harmony departed from Man heart. Art seeks to restore Man’s inner harmony through external stimulation. This is especially true of Music, which expresses neither images nor concepts, but only moods and feelings; it presents and awakens feelings and thus sensitizes the soul. Like all fine art, music is a preliminary stage in the education of mankind toward goodness and truth. Music – like Yuval - produces no actual assets, and its existence depends on the support of anshei mikneh [cattle breeders]. In Kayin’s world, Art signifies that Man has aspirations more exalted than the increase of material possessions.”
“Yisrael, their father then said to them [his sons]: ‘If it be so, then do this – take from that of which the land boasts [Zimras ha’aretz] in your vessels and bring down a gift to the man [Yosef].’ ” [Breishis, 43:11]
Rav Hirsch comments: “It is very peculiar that, in our language [Hebrew], ‘song’ and ‘tendril’* [zemora*, to be explained below] are designated by words of the same root. There are three words for ‘song’ – shir, niggun and zemer. Shir is song in poetry. Niggun is instrumental music. It is possible that nagen essentially denotes an instrument…Zimra is a melody, the singing of a wordless melody.
“If the foregoing is correct, how does our language regard the relation of melody to song [shir], if melody is called zimra, which is related to zemora, “tendril.” As a rule, it is not foreign to the spirit of our language that phenomena from the realm of thought and speech are assigned terms from the realm of plants…
“If we bear in mind the relationship of zemer with Shomer and tzemer, it becomes clear that the *zemora is a part of the vine where the juices rising in the vine are preserved, blended and refined, so that they are able to produce the fruit of the vine. The fruit does not grow directly on the stem. Rather, the juices flow through sprawling, twisting tendrils* until they emerge as fruit in the berry.
"We find the same relation between the melody and the words of a song. Emotions and perceptions that have not yet ripened in the human spirit, have not yet reached full clarity in thought, have not yet been suited for expression in words, are ripened and clarified on the wings of melody, and in the loftiness of inspiration they find the word. Natural man speaks to others and sings to himself. In true art, which has not distanced itself from nature, the melody is the bearer of the word, the melody’s whole existence is for the sake of the word, and not vice versa…Melody is a gently winding tendril, and on the threads of its tone it presents its fruit: the impassioned word."