Reb Abish: Today’s Music is a Cholent Pot; Many Songs Are Superficial

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abush-brodtThe noted baal menagein, Reb Abish Brodt, in a recent interview, discussed his years of singing and being mesameiach people, and also commented on contemporary Jewish music. When asked for his opinion of contemporary Jewish music, Reb Abish responded, “I don’t want to talk about it too much; everyone knows my opinion anyway.” He then went on to say, in the interview with the Hamodia weekly newspaper: “The truth is that I really can’t blame those who enjoy it. Today’s younger singers didn’t grow up in the same time period and in the same Jewish atmosphere that I did. I grew up in an environment where we knew what a Modzitzer ‘Mizmor L’Dovid‘ or a Bobover ‘Mah ashiv‘ were.”

“We also knew about secular music,” said Reb Abish, “but the dividing line between us and them – Hamavdil bein kodeh l’chol – was crystal clear. We knew that their way of singing was the goyishe style and we sang the Yiddishe way. Today, all the lines are blurred; it’s all one big cholent pot. Some validate themselves by quoting what is said about the Kaliver Rebbe zt”l [Reb Eizikel], that he used to buy songs from a non-Jewish shepherd. If only today’s singers would have a fraction of the perception that the holy Kaliver Rebbe had toward a niggun! Many of today’s songs are superficial – very often, a tune is taken straight from the radio, a passuk is inserted, and, lo and behold, it has become a ‘chassidishe niggun.’

 “I always tell my partner in Regesh Productions, Rabbi Shmuel Brazil, that we really have no idea what we’re accomplishing; a niggun is the language of the soul,” concluded Rabbi Brodt.

 Kol hakavod, Reb Abish.

 {Dovid Newscenter}


  1. No big news here, he said what many of us have been thinking the last 10+ years, I wish A Fried would stop putting out new stuff and just focus on uncovering treasures from the previous years as he does so well…

  2. Agudah & Torah Umesorah have him at their Annual Conventions. I usually stop in for the keynote session & Melave Malka. I enjoy him a lot (Especially when he sings Uvini Malkaini!

  3. To 5: I think that an interview with R’ Brodt would have been incomplete without that question. I don’t think R’ Brodt was bashing others as much as trying to be mechanech us about what we’re missing, and should aspire to.

  4. I well remember a talk that Rav Mordechai Weinberg, ZT’L, gave about this problem of bad music. He mentioned the Gemora in Meseches Chagiga that relates the story of Elisha ben Avuya. (Elisha ben Avuya was initially one of the Chachamim in the era of the Tanaim; latter on though, he very tragically slipped into k’fira.) Rav Weinberg pointed to the part of the Gemora’s narrative that lists what caused Elisha ben Avuya to turn bad and specifically to the reason that in his house, there was always playing Greek music.

    Rav Weinberg explained that music is something that touches and moves a person emotionally. So if the intent of the music is for bad things, listening to it is going to direct a person’s feelings and emotions toward that corruption.

    He then turned to the phenomenon of taking what is obviously a secular not good intention song and putting it to the words of some Torah phrase. He bluntly exclaimed that (that is going to help “fix” the bad song as much as) (that is like) “a swine wearing a striemal”! (Ie. if you put a prayer hat on a pig, the pig is still going to be a pig!)

    Several years latter, I discussed this subjuct with, Y’bodel L’Chaiyim Tovim V’Aruchim, Rav Moshe Wolfson, Sh’lita. He did not want to spend time talking about it, as it is something that is quite obvious and elementary: “This is ‘table talk’!” He explained that there is such a thing of great Chassidic Rebbes who took certain non-Jewish melodies and used them for Avodas HaShem; we though, are not big enough to do that. And he bluntly exclaimed: “Today’s music is not music; it is ‘noise’!!”

  5. In this realm of Chassidic Rebbes using non-Jewish melodies, I will relate two famous examples from the Lubavitcher Chassidim.

    1.) The first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, Rav Schnier Zalman of Liadi, ZT’L, lived during the events of Napolian’s attempt to conquer Europe. The French forces were initially successful in occupying western Russia and reaching Moscow. When they entered the city, they, understandably, made a massive parade down the main streets with their military bands playing appropriate marches. The Baal HaTanya heard this marching music, and even though he had been strongly opposed to Napolian’s campaign, he still recognized that these marching melodies that they were playing correctly conveyed the feeling of victory. So he took two of them and used them as part of our service of HaShem on the Yomim Noraim, when we have the real “victory” of life — the “conquest” of the Yetzer Hara -the “conquest” over our inclinations to do bad. So at the completion of the concluding Neilah service on Yom Kippur, the Lubavitcher Chassidim will sing and even march around the shul with one of these melodies, and on Simchas Torah, they will march around the shul carrying the Torah scrolls (called the “Hakafos”) with the other one of these melodies.

    2.) The last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Scheerson, ZT’L (who was nifter just about 15 years ago), recognized that one of the famous French patriotic songs did actually correctly convey a feeling of reverence. Of course, the intent of the song was that of reverence that a person must have for his country. At the same time, the rebbe realized — and every nationalistic Frenchman will certainly fully agree with him — that this reverence must be even more directed to the One to Whom all reverence is due! So the rebbe adapted the first two parts of this melody to the Piyut — hymn “HaAderes V’HaEmuna”: “HaAderes V’HaEmuna L’Chai HaOlamim” — “The honor and the faithfullness is due to the Life of all worlds!” So today, when Lubavitcher Chassidim sing this Piyut, they will often use this melody.


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