Jews with Views – Purim Edition 5782
We asked five accomplished Jews from around the world to reflect on the Jewish music that is most meaningful to them.
BY EITAN KATZ
When I listen to music, the most important thing, for me, is that the niggun (melody) reflects the deeper meaning of the words being sung. If the niggun does not deepen our understanding of the words being sung, if the composer chooses words for his niggun simply because they rhyme and superficially sound good, then the song is a waste – even if it has a catchy tune.
There are so many niggunim that I feel connected to. That being said, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s Ani Ma’amin (I Believe) is the one that hits me the hardest, especially when I am focused and can properly reflect on its meaning. Every word of that song is soaked through with yearning for Mashiach, the yearning that has sustained Am Yisrael for thousands of years.
Eitan Katz – a member of an extremely musical family – is one of the acclaimed Jewish singers of our generation, inspiring Jews all over the world through his powerful songs and niggunim. He recently released his 11th album, Truma, with guest appearances by Joey Newcomb and Levi Falkowitz.
BY REBBETZIN CHANNAH HAMBLING
A few years ago, we participated in a pre-Shavuot “Shabbat Chazzanut” in Alon Shvut. The guest chazzan was Shulem Lemmer, and his tefillot were beautiful and deeply moving. Once Chazzan Lemmer was on my radar, I began listening to his songs, and ultimately discovered Face the Unknown, which quickly became my favorite. Released in October 2019, it holds a special place in my heart. I was due to have a baby that November and so the words “Face the Unknown” carried extra meaning for me.
Since the pandemic arrived, the song has taken on a different meaning, reminding me that no matter who you are or where you come from we must all work together to make the world a better place. We all struggle and we all have our own problems, but we have to remember that together we can face the unknown and find the strength to continue.
Rebbetzin Channah Hambling grew up in London. She studied at Midreshet Yeud and participated in World Mizrachi and Matan’s Lapidot program. She is currently the Community Rebbetzin at Birmingham Central United Synagogue.
BY RABBI DR. BENJI LEVY
This is like asking me who my favorite child is, when I love each in a unique way, or asking what my favorite food is, when it really depends on the mood I am in and the context of the meal. That being said, I’ve recently preferred listening to niggunim without words. For while music brings words to life, sometimes the words can get in the way of the music of life. Music is the language of the soul and a niggun is this in its purest form, without any distractions.
Lately my family has been singing the Berditchever niggun each Friday night. The author, Reb Levi Yitzchak, was known as the great defender of Am Yisrael, always judging favorably and interceding on behalf of our people. It is stirring and evocative from the very first line. There is no real verse and no real bridge, but there is a tradition that to sing it properly, one must elevate the key each time it is sung. This is a microcosm for the chorus of life, a constant journey requiring elevation from each of us, for in lifting it, it lifts us.
Rabbi Dr. Benji Levy is the Co-Founder of Israel Impact Partners, advising philanthropists across the globe. He was the CEO of Mosaic United, a major partnership between the Israeli Government and key leaders, and Dean of Moriah College in Australia, one of the largest Jewish schools in the world. He recently authored Covenant and the Jewish Conversion Question with Palgrave Macmillan and shares teachings online @RabbiBenji and on www.RabbiBenji.com.
BY ALIZA ABRAMBS KONIG
I love music; I find listening to music evokes a range of emotions, inspires creativity and conjures up memories of my past. My favorite song does just that; it never fails to move me, and reminds me of beautiful personal memories.
Ani L’Dodi (I am to My Beloved) by C. Lanzbom of Soulfarm is the song I chose to walk down the aisle to at my wedding. Many people choose to walk down to a variety of versions of Ani L’Dodi, but the Soulfarm version holds particular significance for me.
During the year and a half I spent learning in Israel, I got hooked on Soulfarm. I went to a few of their shows and even crashed a wedding they played at The Moshav. Their music has always moved me; I find it deeply spiritual and uplifting. And so even though I hadn’t heard it sung at other weddings, when it came to choosing a song to walk down to, it was the first song that came to mind. To surprise my husband, I arranged for a group of Chassidic back up singers to be at the chuppah, where they sang beautiful harmony to this song – kapotahs and all!
Aliza Abrams Konig is the Senior Program Director of the Leadership Scholars at Yeshiva University, an undergraduate program to develop emerging leaders for the Jewish future. She lectures on leadership, education, faith, prayer and issues related to the contemporary Jewish family.
BY RABBI JOSH LEHMAN
March of 2020 was a turbulent time for everyone, but for my wife and I, the onset of the pandemic and the ensuing pandemic came at a particularly inconvenient time. Our wedding was scheduled for March 16, and it quickly became apparent that our wedding would not be anything like what we had envisioned…
In an effort to cheer us up, my brother-in-law arranged for Yonatan Razel to sing at our chuppah, something we will never forget. As my wife walked down the aisle, he sang “Ashira” (I will sing to Hashem). In that moment, the words of the song spoke very powerfully to me; its call to have faith in Hashem and to rejoice in the goodness He gives us could not have resonated more. Despite the difficult times and Covid’s effects on our special day, we had so much to be thankful for. That song will always have a place in my heart, not just for its beautiful lyrics and melody, but for the deeper perspective and joy that it gave us on the most significant day of our lives.
Rabbi Josh Lehman studied at Yeshivat Hakotel and served as a combat soldier in the IDF, after which he studied Computer Science at the Jerusalem College of Technology. After earning semicha from the Mizrachi Musmachim Program, he taught at Yeshivat Hakotel and Aish HaTorah. Together with his wife, he is currently the OU-JLIC director at the University of Maryland.