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Three surprising remarks from Avraham Fried

אברהם פריד
צילום: גלעד תדהר

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Yesterday via Zoom, I heard Avraham Fried, the world's pre-eminent performer of Jewish music, provide surprising answers to three questions raised during a MItchadshot (women's renewal) workshop.

I asked him how he finds ways to renew and revitalize himself after a decades-long career. He answered that renewal is not about continually doing something different but rather about doing what you have always done, only better. "People try to reinvent themselves instead of staying true to their individual and unique mission. It's like prayer. The words don't change. It's we who need to change, to find new meanings in the same words. I sing in English, in Hebrew, in Yiddish, and in duets, but always stay within my realm. And if I am asked to sing 'Tanya' (whose words are taken from a classic Hasidic work of the same name) for the millionth time, I say to myself that through Divine Providence I was given another opportunity to sing 'Tanya' in this moment."

When I asked him about the honor and the fame and the inflated ego that come with success, Fried said he does not think these phenomena come from the yetzer hara (evil inclination): "People want to succeed in their chosen area of endeavor and that's only natural and completely okay. We need only pray that we will act in a manner that will be a Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God's name), that we will be an influence for good, that we will bring joy and inspiration to others."

At the end of the workshop, the participants wanted to know where they could hear him lead prayers as the chazan for the HIgh Holidays. The answer was surprising: "I pray in a corner of our synagogue in the Crown Heights neighborhood (Chabad's world headquarters) of New York. I do not stand before the bimah to lead the prayer service. I stand instead as just another worshiper. No one disturbs me and I am not concerned with the sound of my voice. Over the years I have received many offers to be a High Holiday chazan, but I only want to focus on my prayers at this time of year. All year long I'm appearing on stage, but on the High Holidays I appear before the Master of the Universe alone."


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