Yeshiva Ateret Tzvi

Torah For Everyone

Text Box: MY Soul Thirsts

A Collection of

Hasidic Songs and Nigunim


J. Hershy Worch



1. Tish Nigun - This composition represents the sort of melody sung at home during Sabbath meals. Although at home it would be sung  acapella, here it is  accompanied by a Central European-style street band.

2. Waltz

3. Libi-Libi - Accompanied by mandolin quartet, this tune is set to a poem by Ibn Ezra (1080-1164), which opens with a quote from Psalm 42: “My soul thirsts for the Living G-d.”

4. Meir Leib’s  Yom Ze Mechubod (Traditional)  - This setting of the traditional Sabbath lyric, Yom Ze Mechubod, (This Day Is Honored) I learned from a man by the name of Meir Leib (thus the title). A klezmer band joins in just for fun.

5. Ki B’Simcha - “For You Shall Depart In Joy” (Isaiah 55:12). In this musical setting, Franz Schubert seems to be heading down the river toward New Orleans!

6. Pokoyd-Yifkoyd - The words, accompanied by a string trio, are from Exodus 13:19. “God will surely remember you, to redeem you,” Joseph swore to his family. “And you must take me with you when you go.”

7. Kinder-Nigun (A Song Just For My Children)

8. Chassidic March  - This unusually introspective march throws together influences of Kurt Weill, Fats Domino, and the Kalever Rebbe. Only in America...

 9. Reb Mendel’s Ein K’Elokeinu (Traditional)  - The words, praising The Creator, are from the daily prayers.The tune was learned in that little shtibl, from Reb Mendel. Once again, the klezmer band adds its own exuberant form of praise.   

Price: $15.00

All hassidic melodies have one thing in common: they are meant to be sung, not merely listened to. Singing, like praying, is something you must do for yourself.


       I remember, as a small boy, sitting between my father and the gabbai (sexton) on a cramped wooden bench in our little neighborhood synagogue during shalosh-sheedes (the mystical third Sabbath meal). As daylight faded, the room grew darker and the singing became more beautiful. We didn’t know if we were on earth or in heaven until Kel Mistater was sung, and it was time to turn the lights back on.


       In our shtibl (one-room synagogue) there were hassidim from Hungary, Poland, Galicia and Rumania. Every Sabbath at dusk, they gathered together to sing the traditional z’miros (songs) which, more than any other Jewish music, express the soul’s deepest longing for wholeness and attachment to G-d. Over the years, members of our shtibl settled into an easy familiarity with each other’s tunes. Leibel sang this song, Yossel that one. Avrum’che sang his late father’s heart-stirring Yedid Nefesh, and the butcher had three different melodies for Shir HaMa’alos. My father sang Oideh to the famous Rizhiner melody, in a variation I have not heard elsewhere. These men, exiles of a lost world, were my first teachers.


                 There are thousands of hassidic nigunim (melodies) of which only a fraction  have been recorded or otherwise preserved. It is an oral tradition; therefore, many of these nigunim might seem to have been lost. But actually they have been reabsorbed into the fabric of the tradition to become new songs in the same style and idiom. Like folk tales, nigunim share common motifs, phrases and rhythms.  There are hassidic nigunim with lyrics in Hebrew and Aramaic, Yiddish, Ukrainian and Magyar. Others begin where there are no more words.


Album cover illustration - watercolor painting

by J. Hershy Worch

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