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Friday, September 16, 2005

Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkassy - and Twerski niggunim

This Shabbos, the 13th of Elul, is the yahrzeit of Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael of Cherkassy, a Twerski ancestor. Before we get to the niggunim, we need a little history. Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl was a talmid of the Baal Shem Tov and then of the Maggid of Mezritch. His son, Rebbe Mordechai, the Maggid of Chernobyl, had eight sons to whom he referred as "the eight candles of the Menorah," and all of them became Chassidic Rebbes. One of them was Rebbe Yaakov Yisrael who became a Rebbe in the town of Hornesteipel, and in the latter years of his life moved to Cherkassy.

The Chernobler Maggid said that "it used to be that the angels would sing their songs of praise to Hashem to a certain niggun, and then that niggun would be sung at the tables of the Tzaddikim [righteous ones, Rebbes]. But now the reverse is true - the niggun that is sung at the Rebbe's table is then sung by angels in their praise to Hashem" [from the sefer, Meorei Ohr]. Indeed, one of these angelic niggunim was composed by Rebbe Mordechai himself. [It is known as a "Belz Hakafa niggun;" however, Rebbe Yissachar Dov of Belz was a son-in-law of Rebbe Aharon of Chernobyl, hence this niggun "travelled" to Belz.]

The following is a quote from R. Avraham Twerski's book, "The Zeide Reb Motele": The Cherkassy Zeide was sixteen when he married Devorah Leah [daughter of the Mitteler Rebbe of Chabad, and granddaughter of the Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi], and was fortunate to spend two years under the tutelage of the Alter Rebbe in Liadi. We have only a few stories about their relationship.

"The Alter Rebbe said to his newly acquired grandson, 'Now that you are in our family, you will include the verse ki vanu vacharta in the Friday night Kiddush. (This verse was omitted by the Rebbes of Chernobyl).'

"The young Yaakov Yisrael was very assertive and responded to the Sage, 'If grandfather will say v'shomru Friday night, I will say ki vanu vacharta. (The practice of Chabad is to omit v'shomru, because it is considered an interruption between Shema and the Amida).'

"The Alter Rebbe stroked his beard and said, 'The beard is too white for me take on any new practices. However, when my Siddur will be printed, I will have v'shomru included.' "

Indeed, v'shomru appears in the Chabad Siddur, although it is not recited by Chabad Chassidim.

[to be continued...]

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