Sunday, April 30, 2006
the following three paragraphs are adapted and excerpted from a larger article by R. Eliezer Weger, a Modzitz Chassid from Rechovot, and a dear friend. You can read the entire piece on the Modzitz website.
This Monday night and Tuesday - the 4th of Iyar - is the 22nd yahrzeit of the previous Modzitzer Rebbe, Rebbe Shmuel Eliyahu Taub (known as the Imrei Aish), zecher tzaddik v'kadosh l’vracha. For anyone who was zoche to meet, hear, or see the Imrei Aish, he left an indelible impression on their memories, a living link to the beauty and depth of Polish Chassidic Jewry from before the war, and the noble and challenging efforts to rebuild Torah Chassidic Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael in the 1930s through the 1980s.
The task of rebuilding the Chassidus in Eretz Yisrael was no simple one, especially since he had left his father, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar zt"l, and settled with his family in the newly developing city of Tel Aviv, after he and his father, the Rebbe, had visited here [in 1935]. But the distance and non-conducive environment didn't dissuade him, and Modzitz developed a new, vibrant focus in the cradle of the new Jewish State. He became a member of Tel Aviv Rabbanut [Rabbinate], after nearly being forced to return to Poland. Carefully balancing the emotional overflows from the Holocaust and the new State, with the deeply rooted values of Agudist-Polish Chassidic Jewry, the Imrei Aish earned the love and respect of all kinds of Jews, from all walks of life. The Modzitzers who survived or fled Europe flocked to him, as did hundreds of others who found his home and guidance an Ir Miklat (City of Refuge) from which to rebuild their own lives. To this very day, one sees on any given Shabbos by the Rebbe Shlita’s Beis Medrash heads covered with hats, spodiks, kippot srugot, streimlach, and even some hastily donned kippot, all by people who definitely consider themselves Chassidei Modzitz... talmidim of Rebbe Shmuel Eliyahu zt"l.
Regarding his niggunim: there is no question that they were hewn from the same sources as David HaMelech's Tehillim, of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi's writings, the lifeblood of all that seeks to return all that we can to the glory of our Creator. The very walls of the Tel Aviv Beis Medrash danced with the Kaddish on Rosh Hashana; rivers of emotion flowed with each waltz; and hearts yearned for the Geula Sheleima with each Tish niggun. Although his father Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar zt"l is universally recognized as the Chassidishe composer par excellence, the Imrei Aish was nearly his equal in some ways, and some feel he even exceeded in his waltzes. Just hearing the niggun he composed in 1967 when he first was able to return to the Kosel gives you a clear insight into what kind of Kedusha [holiness] inspired him, lifted him and countless others at the time... and to this very day. [Many of his niggunim, such as "Lo Savoshi" and "Kadsheinu B'Mitzvosecha" have become "velt niggunim," sung throughout the Jewish world.]
We have also previously discussed the Imrei Aish’s “Chamols”, but it is worth repeating here: "Chamol al Ma’asecha." The words are recited just after Kedusha in several of the Yamim Noraim prayers - both on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. "Have compassion on Your creatures, and rejoice in them. And those that trust in You should say, in justifying those whom You carry [the Jewish people]: May the L-rd be sanctified upon all of His Creation, for You have sanctified your holy ones with Your sanctity; it is indeed fitting for the Holy One to be praised by his holy ones." Year after year, the Imrei Aish of Modzitz would compose a new niggun to these words. And year after year, the Modzitzer Chassidim would be uplifted -- for an entire year -- with the new "Chamol." It is almost impossible to put into words what this is. Suffice it to say that these are some of the most lofty, soulful and uplifting niggunim one can ever hear. Anyone who's heard them knows I'm not exaggerating. Only one that I know of has been released on an official recording - the one from 5715 or 1954. Besides Modzitzers, they have also inspired the likes of Reb Shlomo Carlebach -- whose "Ani Ma'amin" and "Lecha Ezbach" tunes both bear the influence of the Imrei Aish's Chamols. Recently, Modzitz opened a Musical Heritage Institute, for the preservation and documentation of niggunim. One of their first projects was to release a series of recordings of the Imrei Aish's niggunim. To date, recordings of the "new" niggunim for the years 5723-5732 [1962-71] have been released. So, by obtaining these recordings from the Institute, you can get to hear another 10 Chamols!!! Well worth it!
Recently, Modzitz’s publishing arm, “Machon Aish Tamid,” published the sefer Imrei Aish, with the Rebbe zt”l’s chiddushim [innovative insights] on Torah, Moadim [holidays], and Likkutim [miscellaneous topics]. What follows is a small part of what he says about Negina.
Negina in Modzitz, says the Rebbe, has a place in Avodas Hashem that is not found in other paths. To explain, it is generally held that the way to dveykus [attaching oneself, clinging] to Hashem is only through Machshava, the realm of Thought. However, this method has a disadvantage, in that it is not open to sharing with others, which can be done through speech. However, in speaking one can share his ideas with and arouse others, but because of his efforts in communicating to the other[s] – the listener[s] – one cannot focus on dveykus to Hashem.
However, there is another way – through sound [Kol], specifically the musical sound of a wordless niggun. This combines both advantages [of thought and speech], without any lacks. That is, it has the advantage of Thought, which can be deepened and lead to dveykus baShem. But not only does it lead to dveykus, Negina can also lead one to Teshuva [return to Hashem; penitence]. Moreover, it has the advantage that speech has, in that it can involve others. That is, those who are in earshot of the niggun can hear it, join in, and deepen their experience by attaining dveykus in Hashem and arousal to Teshuva. Thus the niggun has the advantages of both Thought and Speech, without the disadvantages.
The Rebbe specifies that when he refers to niggun, he is referring to song without words, for only in this way can a deeper experience be attained. Even though at times one may sing the tune with words, the deepening is in the tune and not the words. This is because the words are recited several times throughout the day in various forms, and therefore his main effort is in the tune. [It should be noted as well, that in Modzitz, only the one that leads the tune generally sings it with the words, while the Rebbe and the Chassidim that sing along with him only sing the tune.]
Rebbe Shaul said that a niggun composed from the knowledge of musical theory and notation is not a true niggun, for it does not come from the heart. Only a niggun that is formed in the heart and thought can enter another, as “dvarim hayotzim min haLev, nichnasim el haLev – matters which come from the heart, enter the heart” [of another]. Such a niggun can become deeper and deeper, and pave the way to dveykus in Hashem and arousal to Teshuva.
Finally, as we approach Israel’s Memorial Day for its soldiers and its Independence Day, it is proper to relate what today’s Rebbe Shlita [he should be well] wrote: “I recall that during the Six-Day War, there were young men who were called up to go to the War in the middle of the night. When they returned, they told me that they took a tally, and whoever went into the Rebbe [his father, the Imrei Aish] for a blessing before departing for the War, returned unharmed. Hashem should bless us, that just as he [the Rebbe Zt”l] protected us in his lifetime, he should do so now.”
Zechuso Yagein Aleinu, v’al Kol Yisrael, Amen!