Three Rabbis from the Modzjitz Dynasty
Rabbi Yisrael, the Admor of Modzjitz, and his Nigguns
by M. Kipnis
Singing has always been the most important element in Hasidic life.
The Hasidic niggunim are always heard in the festivities of the Sabbath and
holidays. They always express profound, limitless elation, happiness, agony and
hope. The niggunim testify to the fact that singing became the utmost element
of the Hasidic world.
It would be more accurate to say that Hasidic singing is a result of the
Hasidims' religious flame, their devotion and enthusiasm, and from the Hasidic
way of thinking. Therefore, their unique niggunim are one hundred percent
Jewish, while the other forms of Jewish singing are questioned by critics and
Who are the creators of the Hasidic niggunim?
They are not highly-educated composers, not just players and not theorists.
They are also not those composers who add one note to another to create a song.
[See PHOTO-B32 at the end of Section B]
The source of the Hasidic niggun is in the Hasidic ecstasy, their devotion to
the limitless highness. This infinite momentum is what created the Hasidic
niggun, and therefore the song stands out in its power and attraction. This is
why it makes such an exotic impression on them.
The Hasidic niggun is not technical. Its creator was and is the simple,
God-fearing Hasid who knows nothing about sheet music, rhythm and scale.
However, he has a feeling heart and a poetic soul, and these two are not
susceptible to foreign dynasties.
There is no need to go through the entire history of tzaddik dynasties from
sixty or eighty years ago or before, who probably had their own permanent
singers to prepare for their Rabbi, songs for the Sabbath and the holidays. I
know very well, as thousands of others do, names of niggun creators who worked
in the near past at the Hasidic communities of Wohlin and the Kiev district as
well as throughout Southern Russia.
It would suffice to mention Reb Yosef Metalna, Reb Dan, Avraham Leib Gabay of
Hornostopol and others who enriched the Chernobil Hasidim with plenty of
Hasidic music, which became famous and is sung today in every Jewish place and
However, history also tells us of many tzaddikim who obtained an important
place in the Hasidic music. We know that the Tzaddik of Rizhin composed
niggunim himself. A niggun that was composed by the Rabbi of Liadi was arranged
by various musicians to be played by piano, violin and viola. He had other
sects, religious and Hasidic, that composed unique niggunim that were distinct
from those composed by other Hasidic courts. We know very well about the
distinctive tone and color of Chabad's nigguns.
In the world of Hasidic nigguns, especially well known are the tunes by Reb
Ahron Hagadol of Kerlin, which are prayer songs. The niggunim that he composed
for the Passover Haggadah have an extraordinary dramatic power. Every sentence
carries weight and profound content. The Tzaddik of Kerlin, in the eyes of
Hasidim, is comparable only to Wagner in the eyes of the Germans. He developed
the lyrics in the Hasidic niggun to a degree of a dramatic play.
The Polish Hasidim did not stay far behind Wohlin. There is a well known
difference in the quality. In quantity, the Polish Hasidim are just as fluent
as the Wohlin's, and it's possible that he Hasidic courts in Galicia and
Romania were more gifted with imagination.
There were few tzaddiks who converted foreign melodies into Judaism, wrapped
them with Hasidic garb, added to them a great idea filled with mystery, until
the old melody transformed from its crude form and adopted a new, holy form, to
be sung in the twilight hours of the Sabbath.
It seems that for the Polish tzaddiks, singing was one way of devotion and
worshipping the creator.
Rabbi Yisrael of Modzjitz was the only one of Poland's tzaddiks that based all
worship solely on nigguns. He created nigguns by himself, sang them by himself,
and distributed them among his Hasidim through Poland's cities and towns.
As mentioned earlier, nigguns have always been an instrument for expressing
Hasidic ecstasy, and one of the important elements of Hasidic life.
The Rabbi's court has always been the conductor of the Hasidic niggun. Around
the court the Hassidim concentrated, and their devotion gave to the niggun,
which inspired the court's singers.
Indeed, while in the rest of the Hasidic courts the singing was just one way of
worship, the Modzjite Hasidim regarded it as a work unto itself.
Rabbi Yisrael, the Admor of Modzjitz, served as the high priest in leading this
work. He himself composed the niggunim, he himself sang them, and he himself
distributed them among his thousands of Hasidim.
The most interesting is: The Admor did not know the shape of a musical note.
Modzjitz's niggunim were not published anywhere, but nevertheless were known
among thousands of Hasidim. They were distributed by word of mouth with great
accuracy, as sung by the Rabbi, and were given to the Hasidim with the explicit
order to sing them as he did. Every note was considered sacred. Every nuance
considered sacred legacy containing valuable hints and secrets.
The niggun legacy that the Admor of Modzjitz left his Hasidim is not small. It
contains prayer melodies, song melodies and also imagined niggunim for every
occasion. Among Hasidic circles, the homeless niggun is famous. The
Rabbi composed it during the World War [first], when he was in Warsaw, when
hunger and distress plagued the thousands of refugees who arrived in Warsaw
looking for shelter and peace during the German attacks. The niggun is shrouded
with legends. There are those who call it the peace and war niggun.
Some say the Rabbi composed it when Emperor Wilhelm offered peace to England
and France. Others call it Song for David, because the Rabbi used
the melody to sing the Song of David on every Sabbath's meal.
The niggunim of the Admor of Modzjitz should not be presented as a new style of
Hasidic songs. But many of the Modzjitz nigguns have a special movement, unique
to Modzjitz. Not everyone can sing the niggunim in the same way that the Rabbi,
in his profound and patriarchal authority, meant the to be sung. His version
expresses heart break, sorrow and the Diaspora, endless compassion. The
Homeless Niggun, which can be superior material for a large orchestra,
expresses both joy and sorrow.
Modzjitz's niggunim are not an exception in the Polish Hasidic tradition, which
expresses in song an upbeat movement, as if the orchestra was playing an upbeat
military marching song. Such marching niggunim are sung to date in Hasidic
homes at the time of
[prayer at the end of the Sabbath], expressing a shift of mood from the third
meal. However, a special color and magic characterizes the Modzjitz marching
nigguns. After each group of rhythmic melodies, an admoric tone is felt. The
march is interlaced with admoric notes and sounds.
This characterized also the Azkara niggun, or the 32-Link Niggun, which is
widely known among all Polish Hasidim, and also is wrapped with lots of legends
According to Hasidim, this niggun was composed in 1913 in Berlin, when the
Rabbi was undergoing surgery by Prof. Yisrael. It is told that after the
professor operated on his foot, the Rabbi awakened and watched the city's
majestic castles. He began to hum: I shall remember God and sing, when
seeing every city is built. By creating a melody to this verse, he calmed
The reason for the influence of the general Western music on his large
creations can be found also in the fact that the Admor of Modzjiyz liked the
outdoors. It is said that once he preferred to ride in a horse-drawn carriage
from Modzjitz to a nearby town rather than take the train. He wanted to watch
God's greatness in nature. Hasidim tell that once when he rode in the forest,
he heard a shepherd singing. He ordered the wagon driver to stop, listened to
the singing, and ordered the wagon driver to go on. When he saw the puzzlement
among his companions, he told them:
You wonder why I stopped to listen to the singer? Wonder no more. When a
person hums a melody, he confesses, and when a person confesses, he deserves to
be heard. There is no difference who the confessor is, as long as he is a
Such attitude to a person's singing soul should be attributed to a very high
This Admor's perception of singing is characteristic, and no less interesting.
According to my research with old Hasidim and those close to the Tzaddik of
Modzjitz, it seems that he inherited his talent for singing.
He was born in 1849 in Ratzionz to his father Shmuel Eliyahu, the Admor of
Zvolin, who was a great singer and sang much with his pleasant voice. His
grandfather was the famous Admor Rabbi Yichzakelah of Kuzmiere, who also was a
singer and a great fan of music.
The grandson developed his singing talent since early childhood. When he was
still a child he composed niggunim, but was unable to write them and therefore
memorized them. He conducted services when still a boy and everyone who heard
him was puzzled. When he was fourteen, he married a wife from Ozsharov and
became the son-in-law of the then Hasid and rich man Reb Chaim Saul Friedman,
who had a reputation as one of the great singers and prayers in Poland. Young
Rabbi Yisrael was supported by him for fifteen years, during which he was
totally devoted to Torah studies and singing. When it became time for him to
earn a living, his father-in-law made him a merchant. But he neglected trade
and devoted his time solely to singing. He spent days and nights with songs and
niggunim as well as music. At that time he received the book
[Conductor of Melodies] by Zvi Nissan Golumb of Vilna, and from it he learned
everything that was to be learned about general music. By reading the book he
learned that there existed a special script for writing music as well as a
scale: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti. This was enough for him to understand fully
the theory of music, all in his Hasidic way. Of course, he could not learn to
read and write sheet music from Golumb's book, but he had a complete
understanding of music. Then he spent much time writing his books
[Rules of the Torah] and
[Issues of Israel], which were publishing later. On the verse K'chu mizimrat ha'aretz
[Take from the Land's Songs], from the Torah, he wrote a long article on music
in kabala, in which he connected the seven basic musical note to the seven days
of Genesis, to the seven planets, etc., and tried to develop the complex Hasid
idea that is known to just a few. There he touched upon the octave: that the
matter is not simple; that there are seven voices in the universe, and the
voices got up one by one gradually, and when they reached the eighth tone, a
new octave begins with the last tone of the former octave. From this he had a
moral: when man is uplifted to the highest step of greatness, he must still
remember the first note, the first day, when he was humble
His father, the Admor of Zvolin, died in 1888, and Rabbi Yisrael was
immediately called to replace him. He lived in Zvolin for one year, and one
year later was admitted as Rabbi and Admor of the city of Ivangorod, today's
Demblin, which is called Modzjitz by Hasidim to this day. The Hasidim bought
him a luxurious mansion with a wonderful garden, and since then his songs were
known in Poland as Modzjitz's nigguns. The mansion became a temple for the work
of Hasidic niggunim. Every niggun that the Rabbi composed was received as
sacred among the Hasadim. All admoric courts demanded from their singers to
sing only Modzjitz's nigguns.
The Admor of Modzjitz was distinct among other Polish admors not just by his
great singing power, but also by his behavior.
He received his Hasidim only in late hours. Warsaw Hasidim took that into
account and arranged trips to arrive there late at night. They would arrive
with their pieces of paper. The Rabbi would receive his Hasidim until three
o'clock in the morning. In summers, when dawn was breaking, he would open the
window after his sessions with the Hasidim, gaze at the garden, concentrate and
hum several musical motives in silence. At that time, according to Hasidim, he
was totally absorbed in the world of music. Indeed, all his tunes were composed
at dawn. He would repeat the tunes during the day to his son, Yechiel Alter,
who was also musically talented, and his son would distribute the songs among
Hardly a day passed without his composing a new niggun. If he was unable to, he
would be sad. One day he told his family, Too bad. Today I lost some
profound ideas on niggunim.
Except for the 32-verse niggun Azkara, Niggun for the Homeless and Song of
David, which I noted earlier, Hasidic circles know well his tunes for
[Hear Our Voice],
[Yes Indeed], and especially
[All the Believers]. In this last song, he sang every verse with a different
He became very famous not only as a composer, but also as a singer and service
conductor. The Hasidim tell wonders about the prayer services that he
conducted. He had a strong tenor and a wonderful trill. When he vibrated the
middle notes, the walls trembled. His uniqueness was that he did not have to
correct himself and repeat the same word (perhaps he should be a model for his
other prayer services). He used to criticize hazzanim for pulling their voices
and pausing in mid word. He used to say that they break the word because they
had not grasped the idea.
Singing was so important to him that he used to compose a special melody for
every wedding in his family. When the Rabbi's wife complained that she had not
yet completed the preparations, he would say: As far as I'm concerned, there is
not a problem. I already have a niggun.
In this manner the Admor shepherded his congregation for more than twenty years.
Before the war he became ill with his leg and was forced to travel to Prof.
Yisrael in Berlin for surgery. Before the trip, a few admors came to bid him
farewell. The Admor of Mamshinov told him, Only on behalf of your
singing, which brought back to Israel thousands of people, God shall give you
During the war he lived in Warsaw and was seriously ill. But he was never weak.
Hasidim say that only three years ago, when Dr. Cherkovski put a pad on his ill
foot and cut in the live flesh, the Rabbi would hum a tune. Cherkovski once
told him, Mr. Rabbi! I've just told something to a cabinet minister. I
cut in his live flesh and he cried bitterly. I told him: Shame on you. I have
here an old Rabbi, and when I cut his foot, he sings, and you, minister,
Singing did not leave him even in his last hours.
Before the second surgery to amputate his foot, in the middle of the night, he
ordered that candles be lit and that his family gather around him. When they
came to his room, he stood up on the bed and said, I don't see that it is
possible for me to conduct services any more. My prayers and songs are not
something out of hand. I would like to repeat all my niggunim the way I did
them, without any mistakes.
Because he was weak, he ordered his young son to sing all the prayers on the
spot. Where he made a mistake, the Rabbi motioned with his hand, interrupted
him and corrected the tune.
In this way his son repeated all his prayers and songs, including those of the
Two days later, the Admor passed away. It was
[about December] 1921, in Warsaw.
The Admor of Modzjitz was, if not one of the original creators of Hasidic
music, then one of the major builders of the Hasidic music in Poland.
The Power of Modzjitz's Nigguns
(An interesting story I've heard from Hasidim)
The Admor of Modzjitz was especially good when singing at the last meal of the
Sabbath. On the Sabbath eves and mornings he would let one of his sons or
Hasidim sing. For the third meal, he sang himself, including
Bnei Hechala, Yedid Nefesh and Mizmor Ledavid
and other songs from his imagination. Usually he sang by himself. The Hasidim
listened to him intently, capturing every nuance.
Except for the Hasidim who always filled the Rabbi's beit hamidrash, there were
always many people outside, including non-Hasidim, who listened to the Rabbi's
In Fort Ivangorod near the town, a military conductor, a senior officer,
conducted the battalion's large band. Nobody in town knew that he was Jewish,
and he did not tell his secret to anyone. He did not look Jewish. He was from
the Tomsk district.
Once, at the time of the third Sabbath meal, the conductor walked nearby and
heard from the distance a strange music. He stood near the window with the
people outside. But the longer he listened to the Rabbi's singing, the more he
became attracted to it. When it became dark, he entered beit hamidrash, stood
at the corner and listened ever more intently, unable to leave.
When candles were lit, he was seen standing at the corner. The hall was abuzz:
the fort's conductor was standing in a corner of the synagogue!
The conductor walked to the table and asked to approach the Rabbi.
The Rabbi agreed to speak to him after the havdalah, at the Rabbi's residence.
Immediately after the havdalah, when the conductor was asked to come in to the
Rabbi, he came to the Rabbi with tears in his eyes, Rabbi, I am far away
in Russia. My parents were Jewish, but all my brothers became Christians, and I
myself has already forgotten that I'm Jewish. But the Rabbi's singing awakened
my Jewish soul. The more I concentrated on the Rabbi's singing, the more my
Jewish identity became alive. Rabbi! I shall not leave this place. I need help,
counseling, so I can feel Jewish from now on. I want to remain Jewish. As
he spoke, his eyes filled with tears.
The Rabbi comforted him an asked if the conductor still remembered a word in
Hebrew, from a prayer or from the Torah.
I forgot all, Rabbi. Answered the conductor in tears. I
remember only a few words that a teacher taught me in my childhood. I can only
[blessed are you], and that is all.
Go then home, and every morning, after rising, say several times baruch
ata, and come back here in a few days.
The conductor went home, spirited up. After two days he returned to the Rabbi
with his wife.
Rabbi, he said. I did as you ordered. I repeated the words baruch
ata in Hebrew, and so did my wife. Now I want the Rabbi to tell me something
The Rabbi asked him to come closer, and agreed with him that from then on, he
should observe the Sabbath, and that his wife would not cook on the Sabbath but
on Friday. He himself should not ride his bicycle to the orchestra as usual,
but walk instead. And that in general, he should try as much as possible to
observe the Sabbath when off duty.
The conductor promised to obey, and began slowly to act like a Jew. His wife
would light candles on the Sabbath eves, despite the fact that they lived with
gentile officers in the fortress. She would draw the curtains so they could not
Thus the conductor became one of the regular visitors to the Rabbi's court. He
would come every the Sabbath to hear the Rabbi sing during the third meal. He
also used the Rabbi's tunes for his band. His band played in all the
festivities and receptions for the army officers who would often come from St.
Petersburg and Warsaw to visit the fort.
Passover drew near, and the conductor intended to observe the holiday lawfully.
He asked the Rabbi about every detail, and what he was told he kept sacred.
Regardless of the fact that he lived in the fort with gentile officers, he
observed Passover, including the mitzvah of eating matzoth. He kept a servant
at his home, who was a Christian soldier, and he was not allowed to eat hametz
in his home.
Once, when the conductor ordered his servant to eat his bread in the hallway,
an officer passed by and saw the soldier eating there. Why are you eating
outside, he asked the soldier.
I was thrown out of the house, because I am eating bread. The conductor
eats matzoth like the rest of the Jews.
What asked the officer. The conductor is a Jew who throws his
Pravoslav soldiers out of the house? The event upset all the officers in
After three days, the conductor received a letter from the battalion commander,
in which he was told that he should leave the fort in two weeks, and that he
was allowed to look for another job.
After receiving the letter, the conductor ran to the Rabbi and told him about
the situation. He also told him that he was teaching the battalion commander
how to play the viola. He asked if he should still go to teach him, despite his
The Rabbi advised him to give the lesson to the commander as usual, and ask him
during the lesson to explain the reason for his firing.
So he did.
When he was seen at the door, the commander shouted at him: How dare you
come to me? You must know the rage that you caused for being Jewish and eating
matzoth, and throwing out the servant soldier during a Pravoslavic holiday,
without letting him eat at the kitchen.
Please, commander, let me say my words.
Well, say what you have.
The conductor told him his life story, that he was born Jewish and almost
forgot his Jewishness. But that he once walked by the Rabbi's synagogue and
heard him sing, and thus was transformed. And that since then, he was
influenced by the Rabbi to a degree that he feels like a real Jew, observing
the law and unable to act otherwise.
Is it true that the Rabbi's singing persuaded you to return to your
Jewishness? The commander asked.
Then I would like to hear it myself, said the commander.
I shall play the Rabbi's tunes for you with the violin, if you
agree, said the conductor.
The conductor took the commander's violin and played on it the Rabbi's songs
including all the Hasidic nuances and wrinkles and all their soul searching.
The commander listened intently. After the conductor finished the playing, the
commander went to his desk, opened a drawer, took out a sheet of paper, and
said: Look, said the commander. This is the report of your
dismissal which I wrote today to the authorities. I am tearing it in front of
you. The Rabbi's music is indeed majestic and religious, and can influence also
those who are not Jews. It also touched me, and I am Christian, by its
enchanting beauty. Do no worry. You are to continue your work as a conductor.
And I would like to know this Rabbi.
The conductor remained at his job. He would often be seen with the commander
walking by beit hamidrash, both listening to the Rabbi singing
The conductor continued to behave privately as a complete Jew, under the
commander's protection, without fear. When his wife gave birth to a son, ten
Jews were called to the fortress. The Rabbi was the godfather and a mezuzah was
affixed on the door.
The commander himself became a great fan of the Rabbi's music. When the Rabbi
celebrated his grandson's marriage, and the conductor asked the commander to
allow the military band to play all night at the Rabbi's, the commander
answered, Not only that I allow the band to play all night, but I will
come to the wedding myself.
Indeed, the military band with the commander and the conductor came late in the
afternoon to the Rabbi's court. It played marching tunes and many of the
To keep the peace among the thousands of visitors, the commander summoned his
Cossack soldiers from the fort
And so the little town of Modzjitz, by Fort Ivangorod, enjoyed the goodness of
the Rabbi's music until the Great World War broke out.
(From the book, Hymn to the Hasidim, edited by M. S. Geshuri, Jerusalem,
The Life, Creation and Death
of the Modzjitzer Rabbi, Rabbi Saul Taub
by Shmuel Rotstein
The Modzjitzer Rabbi was one of the three greatest Polish Rabbis, who through a
miracle, was able to survive the Hitler massacre. The Rabbis who were able to
survive were the Modzjitzer Rabbi and the Amshinover Rabbi, Simone Kalish.
The death of the Modzjitizer Rabbi occurred on the historic day of November 29,
1947, when the United Nations, with a majority vote, created the State of
Israel. The Rabbi, who was unusually devoted to the land of Zion, had visited
Israel 5 times. But he, a religious authority, who, with a lot of energy had
worked for the creation of the State of Israel, did not, however, live to take
part in the celebration which surrounded the great day when the State was
declared. He did, however, have the honor to be buried in Israel.
[See PHOTO-B33 at the end of Section B]
Among the religious Jews in Israel the celebration of the 29th
of November was considerably diminished because of the death of this saint who
was extremely popular there and had thousands of devoted supporters. For
wickedness the righteous perished. Enough Jewish blood has been spilled
in the Holy Land since that day.
The life journey of the Modzjitzer Rabbi would provide enough material for a
tremendous biographical work. He went through a lot in his stormy life and more
than once he drank from the cup of sorrow. He was, however, a man with a very
strong spirit, full of spiritual strength, resolution and faith. He was deeply
rooted in the Hasidim of Kuzmiere. He believed in the words of his grandfather,
Rabbi Yechizkale of Kuzmiere, that even when something really tragic befalls
you, this kind of blow can be worked into a fabric of mercy which will give a
person the required strength and courage to bear out the sentence that life has
given him. In this he believed the person who receives this kind of sentence
receives strength to bear it out. Blessed be he who is sentenced and
persecuted this had influence over him and helped him to remain
courageous and spiritually fresh, and from every sorrow that he lived through,
a new melody was produced.
He was born on the 7th
[the day upon which every man's fate is sealed in heaven], in the
Hebrew Year 5649
[Common Era 1889], to his father Reb Yisrael, the first Modzjitzer Rabbi, the
son of the old Zvoliner Rabbi, Reb Shmuel Eliyahu, and grandson of the famous
Rabbi Yichzakelah of Kuzmiere, one of the greatest Hasidic teachers in Poland.
His father, Rabbi Yisrael, was a famous Hasidic personality who had thousands
of supporters and followers. His books, Articles of Israel, about
the Torah, Laws of the Torah, and others, were very popular, but
the thing that really made him the most famous, was his songs which were
distinguished for their originality and composed in an oriental style. Every
song of the Modzjitzer is a prayer which brings forth from the person that
which one is unable to put into words. The older Modzjitzer Rabbi, who never
left the town, had never heard any modern music and the famous musicians and
composers, with their immortal creations, were very strange to him; he didn't
have anything to do with them. Given all of this, everybody wondered at how he
was able to create with such artistry. In hindsight he was truly a quite
Hasidim recount a whole list of documented incidents in which the elder
Modzjitzer was able, through the power of his music, to bring them back to
their spiritual roots, their Jewishness, these stumbling souls that were
wandering, who later became true and very devoted religious Jews.
To the group of his famous creations belongs the Azkara [I Shall Remember], which went through a variety of changes and transformations until it came to
its final form in Berlin, during an operation on the Rabbi's foot by the famous
Dr. Israelis, and the homeless melody, a psalm of David, which he composed
during the First World War. The Azkara is a very complicated composition, it's
very seldom that it can be sung to do it justice. The Modzjitzer's Rabbi eldest
son had for a short time made a short trip to Israel and he began to work on
this composition as if he had a premonition that his days were numbered. He was
though, the only person who was really capable to properly sing the
The elder Modzjitzer died in Warsaw in the
Hebrew Year 5681
[Common Era 1921]. At that time he designated his son Saul his successor, who
had already held numerous Rabbinical posts in Poland. He was also a successor
to his father in that he was someone who composed music himself, with
comparable skill in his father's stead.
When he was very young, he had already become a Rabbi in Rakov near Kieltz. An
individual with great energy, he undertook an enormous amount of activity on
behalf of the community. From there he left and became a Rabbi in Kartchev near
Otvotzk and at the request of his Hasidim he settled down in the renowned place
at Otvotzk, near Warsaw, where he established his court.
The Modjzitzer Rabbi was engaged intellectually in both the study of things
that are manifest and apparent as well as in the study of things that are
hidden, both day and night. His Torah commentaries were distinguished for a
variety of reasons, sharpness of mind and expertise, hints and
[calculating the sum of letters in words so they an be compared with other
words, for associating]. His writings were, however, destroyed in Poland, and
this fact has been much lamented. Among his lost writings was a research
monograph about his grandfather, the elder Kuzmiere wise man. He had worked on
that project for many years. He was a very skilled writer. What he wrote was
distinguished in both style and form. Only a little bit of his writing was
published as a supplement to the Articles of Israel of his
father's. An interpretation of the Haggadah from Passover entitled Ashy
Yisrael and seven notebooks of his Torah commentaries and Torah sermons
of his forebears with a great portion of notes of the Modzjitzer music, were
published in New York with the name The Glory of Yisrael, while he
was residing in New York.
Of course, when we consider the actual publishing of the Modzjitzer we should
remember the strength of his musical creation. He possessed a very rare musical
talent. He was able to know all of the events of daily life including things in
his private life and give to them a musical interpretation. Thousands of songs,
including operas, marches, waltzes, dances, verses and prayers found their way
into his melodies he composed. They were quickly spread and sung by all classes
of people throughout the whole Jewish world.
His court in Otvotzk was very popular in Poland. Thousands and thousands used
to come on the high holidays and other holidays in order to hear his songs and
prayers. Extra trains were supplied by the Polish rail authorities for the
followers of the Modzjitzer Rabbi.
There, in Otvotzk, he founded a yeshiva where 50 students studied Torah under
the guidance of famous Torah scholars. The students, every month, produced a
journal with their writings about the Torah.
As has been said already, the Modzjitzer Rabbi was distinguished for his very
close bond to Palestine. As soon as the First World War ended, he went there.
He was warmly received by greatest Rabbis, the then High Commissioner Herbert
Samuel and he prayed in the Ruins of Rabbi Yehuda the Hasid synagogue.
Afterwards, the High Commissioner invited him to the palace and they formed a
life long friendship.
After the first visit to Israel his bond to the land became even stronger. The
melodies and songs that he composed in Israel were very important to him. From
time to time he would revisit there and each time his arrival and his presence
became a very important event for the community. In order to establish a firm
position for himself in Israel 14 years ago, he established his eldest son, his
substitute Admor, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
[acronym for may live long, good life] who lives in Tel Aviv and
until the death of his father was a member of the Tel Aviv Rabbinate. The Rabbi
himself before the outbreak of the Second World War had made plans to settle in
Israel, but the world catastrophe wrecked his plans.
When the war broke out, he was one of the first to be able to flee. He sent
word to all the Rabbis who were in Otvotzk, but only one of them was able to
respond and in so doing save him, that was the Ameshinover Rabbi.
He endured a great deal on a long road of exile. He never ceased to tell the
Hasidim what the Lord had done with him until he arrived in Vilna, and there in
Lithuania, which had a reputation for its scholarship and antipathy for the
Hasidim, he once again established his court which attracted not only Hasidic
refugees from Poland but also Lithuanian scholars, who had begun to hum his
melodies. The Modzjitzer Rabbi was invited to a variety of Lithuanian towns,
like Kovne, Shavel, Ponevetch. Everywhere he came, his presence was an event of
the highest order.
The Modzjitzer Rabbi was the first who left the Soviet Union by way of Japan to
America and in so doing, he created an escape route for thousands. It was not
just that he was able to succeed in persuading the Soviet authorities to give
him permission to travel in this way and to leave the Soviet Union, but in so
doing, he broke the lock of the borders. He was the messenger of good deeds who
was able to break the Chinese wall which a president was able to do later. He
was the first European Jew to arrive in Kove, in Japan, where he found a
community of 12 Jewish families. He prepared them for a stream of refugees who
would need to arrive in their land and would need to get a lot of help.
In 1940, the Modzjitzer Rabbi came to New York and settled in Brooklyn, in
Williamsburg, and started a center for Torah Hasidic music. From time to time,
he used to visit Jewish centers in the United States and Canada. Everywhere
that he visited, it was an event of the highest order. He was able to wake the
sleeping spiritual strength, to renew the spiritual inclination, the desire to
do good deeds and the desire to study Torah. The number of his friends grew and
included people from all walks of life and circles.
His longing for Palestine, which was a piece of his soul, didn't let him rest.
The decision that he had made before the War, to go to Israel and settle there,
to build a new center for Hasidic studies, constantly drove him and reminded
him until he left his house and family. In the month of
[June-July] in the
Hebrew Year 5707
[Common Era 1947], he came to Palestine.
His friends and followers enthusiastically welcomed him at the airport in Lod,
where there were gathered hundreds of people, among them respected Rabbis and
Hasidim who welcomed the Modzjitzer Rabbi with a Modzjitzer march and dancing.
He stayed in Tel Aviv for several weeks where he lived with his son, the
present Rabbi, and held forth at a table in the Talmud Study Hall, with the
attendance of hundreds and thousands of people. When he used to go out of his
dwelling to this Talmud Study Hall, hundreds of his followers would accompany
him through the streets of Tel Aviv, with song an with joy. He himself, the
Rabbi, was in a very joyous mood, and he composed new melodies and gave a lot
of commentaries and was inspired by the fact that the day was coming closer
when Palestine would be in our hands.
His hit songs were the melody which he composed on Simcha LerTzach
and the very heart felt composition that was composed to the prayer, Joy
for your Land. He acted not for our sake but for yours, and do not
destroy the memory of our remnants.
He also spent several weeks in Jerusalem where the same enthusiasm that had
greeted him in Tel Aviv was evident and afterwards, Haifa and Pentach-Tikva.
Hasidim even bought a site in which to build the Rabbi's court in Ramat-Gan,
near Tel Aviv, but the sickness which had long been nesting in him suddenly
showed itself in a very stark form. He became weaker by the day, but nobody,
even the doctors, believed that his days were numbered. The preparations were
underway for the high holy days, where he was going to pray in one of the
greatest synagogues. But later he wasn't up to it and instead his son stood in
for him and prayed at the ceremony, Rabbi Eliyahu
Shlita, from which the Rabbi had great pleasure. His crown is given to his son.
He felt better on Succoth. The last day that he held forth before an audience
was at a banquet, on the first day of Succoth. It took all day until evening,
Simchat Bet Hashuvah
[a ritual of the second holiday of Succoth], the whole thing lasted more than
8 hours. The Rabbi gave a lot of Torah commentary and sang with great spirit as
if he had a premonition that this would be the last time.
After the holidays his sickness became worse. He lost he ability to speak, but
his mind was very clear up to the last moment. He would kind of hum to himself
the sounds of his melodies which he wasn't really able to actually sing out. He
did that until he died, in a day of general celebration for the creation of the
State of Israel.
At his open grave, his son Shmuel Eliyahu Taub was present, and he noted the
great virtues of his father. In spite of his arrogance in the Torah, he
nevertheless continued the tradition of Modzjitz as both a composer and a
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