Wednesday, December 06, 2006
HaBocher B’Shirei Zimra – The Imrei Shaul of Modzitz
Tonight, the sixteenth of Kislev, is the 59th yahrzeit of a man who left his mark on the Jewish world in an extremely unique fashion. Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub Zt”l, the second Modzitzer Rebbe, known for his sefer, the Imrei Shaul, is remembered by Polish, American, and Israeli Jews with much respect and fondness, regardless of their level of observance.
The Imrei Shaul was world-renowned as phenomenally gifted in both musical ability and Torah scholarship. He guided thousands of Chassidim in Poland, later in the US, and finally in Eretz Yisrael. So much of his life was legendary - over ten thousand at his Tefillos on the Yamim Noraim; non-Jewish composers trying to furiously write down some of the notes from his stellar musical compositions during the davening; his miraculous escape from the Nazis across Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Japan and the US; rebuilding the Chassidus from near extinction in America and Eretz Yisrael; the only Rebbe allowed to lead a Tish in Vilna; interceding for freeing Jews while in the Far East and in the US - including the Mir Yeshiva; up until even after his petira [passing] - being the last Jew to be buried on Har HaZeisim [Mt. of Olives] the day of the UN Declaration for a Jewish State, and the war started.
We introduced Reb Shaul to our blog last year, focusing on his Kah Ribon niggun. I would now like to focus on one poignant expression of his, which almost became the name of this blog. If I were to have my own shul or minyan, I would give it this name.
HaBocher B’Shirei Zimra
As we mentioned regarding the Divrei Yisrael, all of the Modzitzer Rebbes use/d Negina not only as a vehicle for Avodas Hashem (Divine Service), but as an integral part of it. This often amazed people, who couldn’t understand how one could place so much emphasis on Negina as opposed to Torah scholarship.
When asked about this, Rebbe Shaul once responded with the following:
In the Yishtabach prayer, we praise Hashem as "Habocher b'Shirei zimra," the One Who chooses song and melody. In the Birchos Haftorah [the blessings following the reading from the Prophets on the Sabbath], we praise Him as "Habocher baTorah uv'Moshe avdo" – the One Who chooses the Torah and Moshe Rabbeinu, his servant. Hashem is given the same title – "Habocher" – for both Torah and Negina.
Moreover, Rebbe Shaul points out that regarding Torah, our relation to Hashem is one of servitude – 'Moshe avdo;' whereas with Shira, song, Hashem's Majesty is emphasized – "Habocher b'Shirei zimra, Melech yachid…" [a unique King].
This concept is best understood through a story which was heard from R. David Shternshuss of blessed memory. In 1935, Rebbe Shaul came to Eretz Yisrael for a visit. He spent a Shabbos in Yerushalayim, with the Tishen being held in the Chassidishe Shul in Batei Warsaw. Rebbe Shaul entered the Shul, at the beginning of the Tish, and started saying Shalom Aleichem (in Modzitz the minhag is that Shalom Aleichem and Eishes Chayil are said without any tune, and Azamer B’Shvachin is sung during the meal). People started wondering, why isn't the Modzitzer Rebbe singing? Ribon Kol HaOlamim and Eishes Chayil were said without any tune, to the amazement of more of the people.
After Kiddush and Hamotzi [the blessing over bread], the fish was served and Shirayim [remnants of the Rebbe’s portion] given out, a procedure that took close to an hour. The people quieted down, Rebbe Shaul cleared his throat ... and said Divrei Torah for three-quarters of an hour!
Many people became discouraged, and quite a noticeable amount of people started leaving the Shul. At the end of the Divrei Torah, without any break, Rav Shaul started to sing Azamer B’Shvachin. People heard him quite a distance away and started running back to the Tish. Even more people came in then, than the people that were there at the beginning of the Tish. This pattern of a course of the Shabbos meal, long Divrei Torah, and Niggunim repeated itself throughout the Tish. As a writer described the Tish, it was hard to figure which was more important: Was the Niggun an epilogue to the Divrei Torah, or were the Divrei Torah a prologue to the Niggun?
Zechuso yagein Aleinu v’al Kol Yisrael – May the Imrei Shaul’s merit protect us all!