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FEBRUARY 3, 2012 AT 6 PM

The Passion Of Chassidic Music

“Mitzvah G’dolah Lihiyot B’simchah” Chasidic doctrine emphasizes that the greatest Mitzvah is to “Be In Joy”. Its expression through song and dance have been important values of the Chasidic movement since its beginnings in the second half of the eighteenth century. This idealization of music reflected an innovation in Jewish culture.

Music in Chasidic Thought

Chasidic thought and life has always been embodied in its ideology. Both the theological as well as in its psychological sphere has always focused on the connection between the divine and the emphasis on the human soul. In early Chasidic writings, magical and kabalistic doctrine prevailed. These conceptions hold that human deeds, including musical activity, have the power to affect the divine. Chasidism teaches that the expression of innermost emotions cannot be expressed through words alone. The Nigun (wordless melody) helps plumb the depths of a person’s soul, thus achieving the desired Devekut (devotion). A Nigun can provide the ordinary person with a foothold at the edge of the world of the sacred, enabling one self to its soul and raise it to a higher level of existence.

Chasidic movement also developed different styles among Chasidic dynasties. Musical leadership was often provided by the Rebbe. Many Chasidic leaders were highly musical, and some Chasidic court musicians earned fame as gifted composers.

Where as each dynasty has its own flavor and distinct sounds in rhythm melodic curvature and its own tempi, it is the common thread of T’filah that connects this genre to its uniqueness. Sabbath, Festival and High Holy Day prayer services which include Nigunim sung by the entire congregation, generally without text, has given rise to a new meaning of worship in most modern liberal congregations. The Chasidic Nigun is usually independent of any text, nonetheless, it is often woven through within the particular T’filah, thus elevates the energy of the worshiper to higher ground.

Chasidic music originally differentiated between music for prayer and that for the home (like zemirot at the Sabbath table). With time, however, those differences became blurred so much so that Chasidic innovation in synagogue music was the introduction of a multitude of “Nigunim “ which wandered from the Chasidic Tish (table) to the prayer service.

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