Sunday, January 29, 2006

Heichal HaNegina - Alter Rebbe on "Nigun" - Hasidic Song

Again, I feel we would be remiss if we didn’t include some of Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s words about Negina, his music “theory,” as well as some of his niggunim, on his yahrzeit – which is today. Since he was the first Rebbe of Chabad/Lubavitch Chassidim, he is affectionately known in their circles as der Alter Rebbe, or Admor HaZaken – which translates as the "The Elder Rebbe", meaning the first one in their dynasty.
from the website:The founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), passed away on the eve of the 24th of Tevet, at approximately 10:30 pm, shortly after reciting the Havdala prayer marking the end of the Shabbat. The Rebbe was in the village of Peyena, fleeing Napoleon's armies, which had swept through the Rebbe's hometown of Liadi three months earlier in their advance towards Moscow. He was in his 68th year at the time of his passing, and was succeeded by his son, Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch.
What follows are some sayings by the Alter Rebbe about Negina, and then a listing – with links – of some of his niggunim.
The tongue is the pen of the heart, but melody is the quill of the soul.
A Niggun can pull one out of the deepest mire.
A Jew is a human being in touch with his inner essence and possessed of the ability to unveil it, and bring it forth. How does one connect with one's inner self, one's highest levels of soul, above all, wisdom and comprehension, and then reveal it in a mundane, finite world? This can be accomplished through song.[thanks to A Simple Jew for this quote]
Rabbi Dov Ber, the son and successor of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, often used to say, 'My saintly father could penetrate into the innermost recesses of a Chassid's soul by either a word of Chassidus or a niggun.'" Worth mentioning is another story of the rhapsodic fame and simplicity of niggunim, again involving Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. A man of unconventional ways, he filled his homilies with folk tales and wise sayings of the Jewish People. One day, as he preached in the shul, he noticed the bewildered look of an old man who was trying hard to get the drift of his words. After he had finished his sermon and the congregation was departing, he said to old man: "I saw by the expression on your face that you did not understand my sermon.""Yes, you are right, Rebbe," confessed the old man.The modest Rebbe apologized, saying, "It may have been my fault. Perhaps I was not clear enough. At any rate, I'm going to sing to you now, for melody goes right to the heart and the understanding where words fail." And so he threw his head back, and closing his eyes, sang with ecstasy a niggun, the song of return. As the old man listened his face lit up."I understand your sermon now, Rebbe!" he exclaimed happily.
CHABAD MUSIC THEORY For Chabad, Niggunim were not only an integral part of Chassidism – the songs are a complex philosophy unto themselves. The Chabad system, as first formulated by Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, strives for the same goal as the other branches of Chassidim, namely the attaining of Divine bliss. But it had, and still has, a unique approach to that goal. Chabad contends that it is impossible to leap immediately from extreme melancholy to extreme joy. It is impossible for a human being to rise from the lowest to the highest state without proceeding through the whole scale of the intermediate sentiments of the soul. Great stress and care is laid upon each progressive stage of development, as significant for the education of the soul and for the improvement of the spirit. It is, Chabad Chassidism contends, as of someone who had never seen the interior of a palace suddenly stepped into its bewildering splendor without first having passed through its corridors. Such a person will never be able to sense fully the glory of the palace. The approach to joy, therefore, is extremely important, and each and every step must be achieved through deep meditation. The various stages in the process of elevation according to Chabad philosophy are:1) “Hishtapchus Hanefesh”, the outpouring of the soul and its effort to rise out the mire of sin, out of the Klipa, the evil shell.2) “Hisorerus”, spiritual awakening.3) “Hispaalus”, the stage in which the individual is possessed by his thoughts.4) “Dveykus”, communion with G-d.5) “Hislahavus”, flaming ecstasy.6) “Hispashtus Hagashmius”, the highest state, in which the soul completely casts away its garment of flesh and becomes a disembodied spirit.Many of the Chabad songs are analyzed according to these steps of elevation. A system such as this could with much less success than the Beshtian School seek tunes from the outside, because no such program underlay the folk songs of the gentiles. True, one can find among Chabad Niggunim many songs of Russian and Ukrainian origin, often sung verbatim in these languages. By and large, however, these are the shorter and happier melodies of their repertoire. For the achievement of the goals as outlined above, Chabad was compelled to create original tunes which could express the meanings and thoughts of the various stages of elevation, tunes to be used as a means for the attainment of its purpose. Every Chabad tune aims to voice either all, or some, of the stages of elevation of the soul.
The following are attributed to “Sayings of Chabad,” so they are not necessarily from the Alter Rebbe – although they might be:

A person sees himself as he truly is through a Chassidic Niggun.
Song opens a gate from the mind to the heart.
If you sing a Niggun correctly without mistakes then the Niggun speaks for itself.
Every locksmith has a master key with which he can open many doors. Negina is such a key, for it can unlock all doors.
Comparatively of slower movement are the cadre of ten Chabad niggunim [link is in Yiddish] with a distinctive character and temperament of their own, created by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. Although he didn't write the first niggun nor did he write the last one, his ten are greatly revered as the classics of Chabad niggunim the world over.
Niggunim from the Alter Rebbe:
Niggun Three Bavos – from the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, and the Alter Rebbe.Niggun Four Bavos – sung at all Chabad chuppos [weddings].Keili Ata – from Hallel; I have heard that the Alter Rebbe sang the entire Hallel with this tune. Can anyone verify this?Tze'ena u'Re'ena; Kol Dodi; Avinu Malkeinu; Niggun Dveykus in Tefillas Shabbos; Niggun Likras Shabbos; Niggun Dveykus Rosh Hashana; K'Ayal Ta'arog; Tzama Lecha Nafshi; Niggun and Bnei Heichala.
A Niggun from the times of the Alter Rebbe; From the Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe
All of these can be found here. You will need the RealPlayer to hear them.
And finally, Shoshanas Yaakov - From Chassidim of Alter Rebbe, with aYiddish commentary.
UPDATES: You can find more Chabad niggunim on other locations on the World Wide Web. Among them:
1. There are many Chabad niggunim here. They also have the notes and history behind many of the nigunim. For example here. [from our Anonymous commenter].
2. Another place to find Chabad niggunim is at the Kesser website. Here you will find them in RealPlayer and MP3 formats.
3. Also visit Paul Kornreich's audio gallery of the Rebbe ZT"L singing some Chabad niggunim.
4. Finally, if anyone knows the composer of this Chabad Rikud [Dance tune], please answer in the Comments or e-mail me. Thanks!

# posted by yitz


yitz said...

I'm flattered you chose to copy my posting word for word. However, the links that are in my post, your readers will have to come to my site for. Also, there's a story there about the Baal HaTanya and a niggun of his that had a profound effect on his audience - enjoy!

Editor said...

See Yitz's blog for my response.

Editor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.