Monday, December 04, 2006
THE DIVREI YISRAEL ON NEGINA
As we mentioned earlier, today is the 13th of Kislev and the 86th yahrzeit of Rebbe Yisrael, the first Rebbe of Modzitz, known by the name of his sefer, the Divrei Yisrael. Rebbe Yisrael is the recognized innovator of using Negina not only as a vehicle for Avodas Hashem (Divine Service), but as an integral part of it. He was the composer of many dozens of famous niggunim, remembered and sung even a century later, with the most famous one being the Ezkera HaGadol, which we wrote about last year.
In honor of his yahrzeit, here is a selection of some of his sayings, and some short stories about Negina:
Someone once asked Rebbe Yisrael of Modzitz, what is the nature of Negina?
“The greatness of Negina,” responded the Rebbe, “is that it can arouse one to Teshuva, it uplifts one’s soul, and brings the hearts of the Jewish People closer to their Father in Heaven.”
“Is it possible,” asked the person in amazement, “that what mussar sefarim [books of Jewish ethics] cannot do, Negina can do?”
The Rebbe answered, “I will explain this to you with a parable. A simple villager, who owned a flour mill, came to the big city, and saw an alarm clock in the window of a watch store. He went inside to buy the clock. The watchmaker greeting him and asked him his name, where he was from, and his occupation. When the miller responded, the watchmaker burst out laughing. ‘Why do you need an alarm clock? At your mill, there are all these heavy grinding machines working day and night. If that doesn’t wake you up, what could a tiny clock with a gentle ring do for you?’
The miller replied, ‘You don’t understand human nature. It’s human nature that something a person lives with all the time, he gets used to it, and becomes unaware of it. So it is with me – all day and night I am around the mill, and I don’t even notice the noise of all the machinery there; it could never wake me up. But the delicate sound of this little alarm clock is something new for me, and it will easily wake me up.’
“So it is with Negina,” continued the Rebbe. “People are overly familiar with the great works of mussar, they are used to them, and they have no effect. But Negina is something new, and it can effectively arouse people to Teshuva and to the proper path.”
* Negina is the language of the soul, its sound and expression. The language of the soul is very concise. What one niggun can express, cannot be expressed with thousands of words.
* It is said that the Chamber of Song [Heichal HaNegina] and the Chamber of Penitence [Heichal HaTeshuva] are close to each other, and I say, that the Chamber of Song is the Chamber of Penitence.
* A person should not have an ear just to hear the songs of others, but also to hear the songs which sing from within his heart.
* When I hear a song from the mouth of a Jew, I can ascertain how much fear of G-d there is within him and whether he is wise or foolish.
An example of this last statement is found in the following story:
When he lived in the town of Modzitz, the Rebbe would travel every day to the outskirts of town, to be refreshed with the crisp, clean air there. Once he was passing through a pasture field, and suddenly heard a shepherd singing. He asked the wagon-driver to stop the carriage, so that he could hear the song of the shepherd. When the song finished, he continued on his way.
He then said to his entourage, “Surely you wondered why I stopped to listen to the shepherd’s song. But you should know, that whenever a person sings, it is if he is praying and confessing to G-d. A person’s song is his confession, for through a person’s song one can tell the nature of a person. And whoever confesses, no matter who he is, he should be heard.”
Zechuso Yagein Aleinu v'al Kol Yisrael - May the Divrei Yisrael's merits protect us all!