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The Niggun (Chassidic melody)

צילום: שניאור שיף

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

I was priviledged yesterday to host one of the "Tzama" events in honor of the 19th of Kislev. On this date 222 years ago, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, after being arrested on spurious charges, was released from a Russian prison.
Not only was the Rebbe released from prison on this date but, in a wider sense, the entire Chassidic movement gained its freedom, for now it had been granted heavenly permission to teach and to spread the Chassidic message.

Last night was a women's event dedicated to Chassidic songs and expression. From song to song, from niggun to niggun, I understood how I do not relate to music in the proper way. During the evening many "intentional niggunim" were sung. These were melodies composed by tzadikim with a particular intention or subject in mind. Before each niggun, we explained the matter at hand: this niggun is meant to cleanse the dirt from the soul; this niggun can stimulate thoughts of teshuva; this niggun is supposed to awaken gladness in the soul. It was a complete playlist of internal longings.

And the words? From King David, or the Baal Shem Tov, or the prayer book. How much depth and richness does the Hebrew language contain! Yet the niggunim that arouse the deepest feelings, as we learned in the course of the evening, are those without any words. They are beyond the limitation of words and enter straight into the soul.

Music that is truly heard is not just a collection of notes, not just background tunes, but an essential part of who we are. Yesterday I promised myself to relate to it in a more serious way.


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