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A New Song

Friday, 25 January, 2019 - 9:58 pm


Dear Friend,

Boy, this week flew by.

As we celebrated Tu B’shvat this week, I am reminded of the following anecdote:

About two decades ago I got hooked on Jewish cantorial music, in particular the music of the greatest of the 'Golden Cantors’ Yossele Rosenblatt. (These days, I only listen when I'm solo as the kids throw a riot when I turn on anything of that genre). There was one song especially that tugged at my heart, a Yiddish song called 'lomir zich iberbeten avinu shebashomayim', translates as , ‘lets make up with our Father in Heaven'. The lyrics of the song detail the arrangement:  'we keep his mitzvos'...'He stops the pogroms'.

It was such a tragic and compelling tune that I literally could not get this song out of my head. Until one day, when I encountered the great cantor Zalman Baumgarten walking on the street in Crown Heights.

Me: What do you think of Rosenblatt's 'lomir zich iberbeten'?

Cantor Baumgarten: Why do you ask?

Me: I can’t get it out of my mind.

Cantor Baumgarten chuckled and told me the following:

"I performed that song many times nationally and internationally until at one point, when I reported to the Rebbe regarding my concerts and travels, I included the concert programme. I then received a pointed answer. The Rebbe circled that particular song in the programme  and noted מכאן ולהבא אינו כדאי (loosely translated: 'in the future this song may be deleted'.) As a true follower of the Rebbe; I literally forgot the song!

I stood there quite stunned! Upon reflection, though, it all made sense.

Many Jews today feel uncomfortable with their Jewishness. Judaism evokes a Pavlovian association with Shtetel, Shoah, and victim-hood in general. The Rebbe's life mission was to transform this negative association from a sorry tale in black and white to a beautiful story in full blu-ray/ high-def. While it’s true that we may "never forget", we must also never forget that the authentic symbol of our faith is a Jewish school- not a museum. In my humble opinion, the Rebbe was conveying to Cantor Baumgarten to stop reinforcing that sorry stereotype and to choose from the thousands of happy songs depicting the joy of Judaism in his performances.

At Manhattan Jewish Montessori and all of a Chabad ‘s educational programs, we convey THAT story. By doing so, we are conveying our true identity to the next generation, in a tale of hope, happiness and replanting.

Which leads me right back to Tu Bshvat. Tu Bshvat is all about planting seeds, with eyes on tomorrow. Our best days are ahead; the horrors of the past will never be forgotten and at the same time they will not define our core self in any way.

May Hashem bless us that the seeds we plant today flourish into a full bloomed garden and that our children grow as happy and proud Jews.

With blessing,

Rabbi Shmuel Metzger

PS The Tuesday night class is INCREDIBLE to reserve click here .

PPS Raizy will be joining three thousand female powerhouses, aka Chabad Shluchos (female emissaries) for an annual conference, culminating in a Gala on Sunday evening at 5:30pm. You can watch it live on www.Chabad.org.

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