Audio: Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz Composes Addendum to “Shaka Chama”

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rechnitz-shlomo[Audio below.] In the year 1907, the poem, Shaka Chama, was written by the rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Lerabonon in Berlin, Rav Avrohom Eliyahu Kaplan zt”l. He wrote it at the age of seventeen while learning in Slabodka.

As a student of the famous Slabodka Yeshiva, he internalized the teachings of mussar, as is evident from this poem, which contains a sense of depression and searching. It begins: “The sun has set… my soul has set / In the depth of its sorrow as great as the sea…”

More than a century later, Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz composed an amazing addendum to the poem, an original high part with its own lyrics. While the tune of the addendum is clearly inspired by the original melody, the new lyrics written to the poetry, take on a more encouraging and uplifting theme.


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  1. a very pretty rendition; though the hebrew lacks the genius of RAEK.. R. AE Kaplan ztl, was named for his father who also died in his early thirties. His father was considered by R. Chaim Brisker as the only person to whom the title Gaon applies. The son was probably the greatest student that Slaboka ever produced. From early on he repeated shiurim that were not well understood more clearly and in rhyme; as mentioned he did that to a pshetel by RAK ztl.. Before taking over for Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman ztl in Berlin, who had died, he took a year to familiarize himself with different (more academic) derech halimmud. Little remains of his halakhic writings; he planned to write the equivalent of the encyclopedia talmudit. Some entries exist; the one on alot hashachar demonstrates his complete mastery of bavli,yerushalmi, tosefta, midrashim, rishonim, etc. He was succeeded by another Slabodka talmid, also able to bridge yeshivish and academic learning, R. YY Weinberg ztl.

  2. Others have tried to append/modify this powerful poem/song. But this “addendum” is truly impressive, reflecting the depth and power of the original, through niggun and lyrics that enhance rather than dilute. This is a hosafa that blends with the original, rather than altering it. Yasher koach for producing, again, a quality piece that is very much “tzum zach”.
    Ksiva V’chasima Tova

  3. Dr. Bill,
    I’m amazed at how much you know about RAEK. He was a relation of mine (though our common last name is a coincidence as he was related through my mother). R’ Chaim said, his father was one of 2 people to earn the title of Illuy- the other being R’ Y.L Diskind. Reb Chaim knew his father well as he prepared his shiurim with him and one other bochur. He was a brother in law to R’ Faivel Meltzer- they married sisters.

  4. A work of genius is just that, and should be left alone. It certainly does not call for “enhancement”., and should remain as a n undiluted Zecher for the noble Niftar.

  5. Wondering what the moral perspective is on taking an intensely personal work and creating a NEW & IMPROVED version, without the permission of the composer.
    Seems off limits to me.

  6. CK, I should have qualified my statement to his contemporaries; rav diskin was from a previous generation. I heard a lecture about (the reality of) slabodka and read his short piece on alot hashachar

  7. Here are the original lyrics:

    שָׁקְעָה חַמָּה שָׁקְעָה נַפְשִׁי
    בִּתְהוֹם יְגוֹנָהּ הָרַב כַּיָּם
    כִּי עוֹמְדָה לִפֹּל הִיא בְּמִלְחַמְתָּהּ
    אֶת הַבָּשָׂר וְאֶת הַדָּם

    יָמַי עוֹבְרִים יָמַי כָּלִים
    מִבְּלִי קַחַת מִבְּלִי תֵּת
    אִם לָזֹאת קָרָאתָ חַיִּים
    אֱמֹר נָא אֵלִי מַה זֶּה מֵת
    חוּסָה אֵלִי כִּי לֹא אֵדַע

    אֵיכָה אוּכַל כֹּה לִחְיוֹת
    הַאִם לִשְׁכֹּחַ כֹּל וּשְׂמֹחַ
    אוֹ לִזְכֹּר הַכֹּל וּבְכוֹת

    הַחֲיֵינִי אֵלִי נָא לְמָחָר
    אוּלַי אֶפְתֹּר אֶת הַחֲלוֹם
    שָׁקְעָה חַמָּה עָבִים בָּאִים
    לַיְלָה עוֹלֶה מִן הַתְּהוֹם


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