Music > Song of the Day > The Journey of a Niggun

The Journey of a Niggun

This is the journey of the metamorphosis of a tune- a geographic journey- from its genesis in an Eastern Europe city in Ukraine, to the Land of Israel where it settled in the new Israeli Settlement and finally to its assimilation into Israeli society.
 "Like clay in the potter's hand" is a liturgical poem said during the evening prayers of Yom Kippur. The poem presents the worshipper with an allegorical description that compares God to "a potter"- and "artist" who makes use of "clay"- i.e. creation- as He wills. Over the years a Hassidic tune, attributed to R. Shalom Charitownow (1886-1933)-" the slaughterer and examiner of Nikolayev, Russia", "the Master of Song", in Hassidic jargon-was attached to it. Since then this is the tune used by Chabad Hassidim for the liturgical poem.  "Like clay" immigrated to Israel and settled in the community of "New Olim" sometime during the 20s of the 20th century.  In its second identity the tune became a classic "Israeli" song, an inalienable asset in the landscape of Israeli song- this time to the words of the poet, Emanuel Harusi, "Sleep my Son".
Emanuel Harusi (Novograbelsky) (1903-1979) was born in Nikolayev, Russia. In his childhood he studied in a traditional "Cheder", all the while his father also taught him Hebrew with Sefardic pronunciation. He moved to Israel as a Zionist activist. He settled in Haifa and started working in "Mikveh Yisrael". In 1929 he participated in the defense of the city of Tel Aviv. At the height of the terrible riots, he received the news that his son, Avner had been born.  In light of this, he wrote the words to the song "A Lullaby for the Infant that was Born" to the tune that he knew, apparently from childhood- the "Niggun of R. Shalom Charitownow".  References to the difficult situation appear in the song in the image "the granary in Tel-Yosef is burning, and smoke also rises from Beit Alpha". "Sleep my son" presents a different, and in some ways an opposing, view to that which appears in the original text. If in the liturgical poem man is presented as "clay in the potter's hand", here man becomes a creator, worker, a laborer and independent actor. This is a sort of new religion centered around man, the land, work and labor.
The Music Department possesses various publications of the tune and song -for instance, the recording from 1966 ,edited by the scholar Jacob Mazor, of the performance of the "Master of Song" Sholom Bruchshtat and various Israeli versions including the famous version of the singer Arik Lavi.
  • "ניגון לר' שלום חאריטאנאוו – שו"ב [שוחט ובודק] מניקאלאיעוו". (ברוקלין: ספר הניגונים: ניגוני חסידי חב"ד, 1957).
  • חלקו הפותח של הפיוט "כי הנה כחומר ביד היוצר"
  • השיר "שכב בני" מתוך "לילה טוב: מחרוזת שירי ערש" (תל אביב: ספרי צבר, [תשי"ד]).
  • דף שער הספר "לילה טוב: מחרוזת שירי ערש" (תל אביב: ספרי צבר, [תשי"ד]).
  • כריכת הספר "לילה טוב: מחרוזת שירי ערש" (תל אביב: ספרי צבר, [תשי"ד]).
  • ( "Hebreeuwse liedern met vertaling" (Amsterdam :Joodse Jeugdfederatie :Histadroeth Hachloetsiem,1946 5706.
  • ( "Hebreeuwse liedern met vertaling" (Amsterdam :Joodse Jeugdfederatie :Histadroeth Hachloetsiem,1946 5706.
  • ( "Hebreeuwse liedern met vertaling" (Amsterdam :Joodse Jeugdfederatie :Histadroeth Hachloetsiem,1946 5706.
Song of the Day
Song of the Day
The songs presented here come from the National Library's extensive collection of songs, prayers and other musical works. The songs are preserved and made available via the website with the assistance of the Legacy Heritage Fund.