Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Who Can Say Who's Experiencing Deveykus?"

Smashed Hat commenting on "Cross-Pollination"

Davening is such a subjective thing -- who can say who's experiencing deveykus?

But to judge from outer appearances, there are still a number of Chassidic groups and smaller chaburas that stress intense davening: Breslov, Toldos Aharon, Toldos Avraham Yitzchok, Slonim, Karlin-Stolin, Stutchin (54th St Borough Park), Emunas Yisrael (16th Ave Borough Park), Rav Zilberger's chaburah (Yerushalayim), Rav Ehrlanger's chaburah (Yerushalayim), etc.

The Rebbes and roshei ha'chaburos of these groups do speak about deveykus, at least much more than in the broader "frummer velt."

But the emes is I davenned in Chaim Berlin on Simchas Torah morning and found it to be a high quality davening, too. This probably reflected the fusion of Mussar and Chassidus that Rav Dessler was recommending.

In the final analysis, it really depends on the individual, not so much on the group, just as long as the group situation is congenial to davening more deeply.

Maybe the criticism of contemporary Chassidus was not so strictly centered on davenning but in general on the de-emphasis of individual avodah, involving hisbodedus / hisbonenus / cheshbon ha'nefesh / limud pnimiyus ha'Torah in depth, and the dominance of the kehillah aspects of Chassidus, keeping away from secularism, and emphasis on kedushah.

All of this existed in the past, too, but maybe the emphasis has shifted. Especially after the Tzanzer Rov and other great Rebbes of the mid-1800s decided that "mysticism for the masses" was not succeeding, and began to put this stuff under wraps for those who were real mevakshim and who prepared themselves properly.

As for niggunim, it is true that Jewish music took a nose-dive here in America. I think the niggunim are still sung with hislahavus in Chassidishe shuls, and Borough Park is much better off than Flatbush in this department. But who is creating new niggunim in the traditional styles that are as deep as the old ones? This worries me.


At October 24, 2006 at 2:22:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

The points above are on target.

Regarding the state of nigunim:

America has produced many great Jewish composers of music in other idioms, so why so few in traditional Jewish music? Are the potential contributors in the frum camp too busy with something else, not encouraged enough, lacking the right role models, too influenced by the degeneration of general music, or what? I can't believe our innate talent has vanished.

At October 24, 2006 at 2:58:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

But who is creating new niggunim in the traditional styles that are as deep as the old ones? This worries me.

Ah, finally someone is bothered by this! BUT, THERE IS HOPE, and IMNSHO, there are not too many addresses for this. But by far, the top of the line is: the Modzitzer Rebbes. For 5 generations now, they have composed dozens of niggunim each and every year. As I've mentioned on my blog, each year there are usually between a dozen and a dozen-and-a-half niggunim for the Yamim Noraim alone.
The previous Rebbe, the Nachalas Dan, composed 19 new niggunim last year, before suffering a stroke which he was eventually niftar from. Baruch Hashem, they were recorded and sung for the Yamim Noraim.
This year, the Rebbe Shlita composed 10 new niggunim for Rosh Hashana, the 10th one was actually composed on Yom Tov, and he taught it to us at the Tish on the afternoon of the Second Day.
They usually compose another 10 or so throughout the rest of the year, for Yom Tov, simchos etc.
The newly-established music institute [Machon L'Musika] has collected over 3000 Modzitz niggunim, so far!
So come to a Tish in Bnei Brak, or at least go to the Modzitz Shtibel in Flatbush [Coney & L], where Reb Ben Zion Shenker davens. RBZ has composed several hundred niggunim himself!

At October 24, 2006 at 3:49:00 PM EDT, Blogger FrumWithQuestions said...

I think the key component in this post is the word "composed". If niggunim are coming from the heart or from learning Torah they are not being "composed". They are being brought down by Hashem in merit of the Torah or the situations going on. Just look into all the stories about how the greatest niggunim came about. Not by sitting in a recording studio or office and "composing" music.

At October 24, 2006 at 8:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Head said...

There are plenty of composers and musicians in the frum world -- but with only a few exceptions, they all have droppped traditional Jewish music and are working in one phase of pop music or another.

(Exceptions are Rabbi Ben Zion Shenker, the Bostoner Rebbe of New York, the Modzitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Chaim Banet, and a few other Chassidishe composers who I don't know by name.)

The underlying problems are both sociological -- we are subject to new, powerful influences from the surrounding culture -- and spiritual, as discussed above. We really need Moshiach!

At October 25, 2006 at 3:09:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

FWQ - you are getting caught up with semantics here. Of course, when someone "creates" or "composes" a niggun, it is coming to him from Hashem. But just like "dibra HaTorah b'lashon bnei Adam - the Torah speaks in the language of Man", so too, do we speak of "composing" a niggun.

At October 26, 2006 at 7:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...


Please note that my blog-name is not "Smashed Head" chas v'shalom! Although that's how some of the neo-"niggunim" that reverberate through the streets of Flatbush make me feel sometimes...


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