Niggunim

These niggunim are sung during our services.  The recordings and descriptions on this page are by Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler.

Zmirot

These table songs, or zmirot, serve as beautiful accompaniments to the liturgy of Shabbat. They offer lovely melodic lines that can also stand alone as niggunim. With or without the words, they add a special delight to communal singing.

  • Yedid Nefesh (first version) Hear it (mp3)
    This is a Chassidic melody that accompanies the singing of Yedid Nefesh during our Friday evening services.
  • Yedid Nefesh (second version) Hear it (mp3)
    The piyyut, liturgical poem, and love song of Shabbat, as we call upon our true “soul mate” with compassion and anticipation.
  • Tzur Mishelo Hear it (mp3)
    This melody has traveled across time and across cultures. The melody is taken from a beautiful Ladino love song called Los Biblicos. Over time, it has been incorporated into this zemer of Shabbat, calling upon us to praise and thank the Rock who has given us everything.
  • Yah Ribon Hear it (mp3)
    This melody, also a wonderful niggun on its own, adds to the beauty and the power of calling out to God in delight and thankfulness as the Shabbat bride has joined the table. The melody is from Rav Shlomo Carlebach who created, throughout his life, songs of praise and inspiration and instilled in so many a love of music and its spiritual possibilities. He wrote beautiful yet simple melodies that have enhanced our liturgy and all our communal prayer experiences.

Niggun Kol Dodi Hear it (mp3)

This Niggun has specific words that form its core, although it stands alone also as a lovely melody line. It is from Rabbi Shefa Gold, who is also a teacher, singer and creator of beautiful liturgical and spiritual chants. This chant, in two parts, uses words from Song of Songs: Kol Dodi, Hineh Zeh Bah: the sound of my beloved, here it is coming. Using the metaphor of Shabbat, for example, before you see and know that Shabbat has truly entered, you can hear and feel its sounds and smells coming across the fields, the streets to you…so that the feel of anticipation and the delight in that anticipation is really evident in this two-part chant.

One of the powers of this type of singing is the repetitive nature of the sounds. Instead of moving through the sound as in a round, each part holds to its own piece, creating more of a mantra effect. The two parts play off each other and complement each other beautifully.


Niggun Yakar Hear it (mp3)

This niggun is part of the Kabbalat Shabbat liturgy at a wonderful yeshiva, beit midrash and beit knesset, called Yakar, that I visited in Jerusalem this summer. The service involves a wonderful interweaving of Niggun and prayer, often using the same melody throughout the experience. This niggun serves as an underpinning, a foundation for the welcoming of Shabbat, the bringing in of the Shabbat bride. It is sometimes accompanied by words, but often used only as a Niggun. The sounds of the voices, often hundreds of voices singing together, fill the room with the power of wonderful connection. One of the delights of this melody, even with its simplicity, is the ease with which fellow singers can harmonize. As you listen to this, imagine all the variations you can add to fill the wondrous chords of the melody line.

Webmaster’s note: This niggun was authored by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and appears on his CD, “Shabbos in Shamayim.”


Niggun Der Philosophe Hear it (mp3)

This is a melody based on a 19th-century song that was written as a satirical piece to poke fun at the Chassidim. This was done by the Mitnagdim, who were the opponents of the Chassidim, and it talks about the follower of a Wunder Rebbe who tries to convince a skeptical Mitnagged that his Rebbe can perform miracles that are more marvelous than the great inventions of the day. In recent times, the melody which is so hauntingly beautiful, has become something that we sing once again with a sense of wonder and pious devotion. (Note by Janet Buchwald)


Niggun Simcha Hear it (mp3)

This niggun came to me through a women cantor’s conference, and was sung to the words for Mah Tohvu, the words that we sing often at the very beginning of the service as the community comes together, “How lovely are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel”. It also is sung as a niggun without words written by A. Chanatono.


Zeller’s Niggun Hear it (mp3)

This niggun is perhaps in the category of neo-Chassidic, and it was written and sung by David Zeller, who is a teacher-composer living in Jerusalem, who has made chant and niggun an important part of his spiritual experience of God. This is a two-part niggun, with each section repeated.


Nehemia’s Niggun Hear it (mp3)

This niggun was taught to us by Rabbi Nehemia Polen who, while observing the power and the flexibility of the oral tradition, is very clear and exact about his passing on of these important Chassidic niggunim. When he taught it to our group he actually asked us not to learn it or pass it on to other people until he had clarified and gone back to his tape to make sure that he had the correct melody. So there is a flexibility to the oral tradition as we pass on these niggunim, and yet it holds to the authority and the respect that we give to those individuals and those communities who have created them. At Beth El, we call this Nehemia’s niggun in honor of his teaching. It is a three-part niggun and clearly follows in the traditional Chassidic pattern of three-part niggunim.  You can feel the lifting both of the tone as it rises through the three parts and the intensity of the melody. It can be done very slowly and quietly, or it can get faster and a little bit more intense as it progresses. Each of the three parts is repeated.


Niggun of beauty and delight for Shabbat Hear it (mp3)

This melody comes in part from the Bratslaver Chasidim, and in part from our oral tradition. One part of the melody actually contains some words that translate roughly as, “a taste, a hope, a glimpse of the world to come, of the complete perfection and beauty that might be, is right here, in our Shabbat of rest.”


Niggun Shabbat Shuvah Hear it (mp3)

This niggun represents the perfect blending, to my mind, of powerful melody and important words. The melody is from Rav Shlomo Carlebach (z’tz’l) who had a tremendous ability to touch the core of the yearning of every soul with the power of his songs. The words are from the haftara reading of Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur which falls in the ten days of reflection, repentance and turning.

The words say: “Take with you words, and return – turn to God.”

Webmaster’s note: This piece should probably be listed as “K’chu Imachem”, since that is how it is referred to in printed form (The Shlomo Carlebach Anthology, p. 47, put out by Tara Publications in 1992; call 1-800-TARA-400 for more detail).”

The opportunities for adult study are exceptional. I had a wonderful opportunity to study Torah for my adult Bat Mitzvah. Now my daughters are experiencing their own Bat Mitzvah and I am fully able to appreciate their journey.
— Maxine H