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Celebrating Sabbath Music with Breslov

Quite a few music albums have been released, all of them by musicians inspired by or following the Breslov way and teachings.

By Binyamin Nakonechny, Arutz Sheva
November 9, 2008

Celebrating Sabbath Music with Breslov

Breslov and Rabbi Nachman have become household names in many Jewish homes in recent years. Many books based on Rabbi Nachman's teachings have been published, including spiritual guides, complementary teachings and even two fiction books - one based on the real life story of the author, the other a fantasy.

Quite a few music albums have been released as well, all of them by musicians inspired by or following the Breslov way and teachings - and all of which are soaked through and through with the spiritual sweetness of Rabbi Nachman.

"HaShabbat Shel Rabbeinu" (lit. 'The Sabbath of our Master') is quite different, both in its goal and in its outlook. The collection includes 11 tracks of the traditional Shabbat zemirot (lit. Sabbath songs) as sung for generations by Breslov Chassidim. As with all Chassidic courts, some of the tunes are original - and some adopted from other Chassidic sources.

The first three, Eishet Chayil, Oz V'hadar and Azamer Bishvachin are traditionally attributed to Rabbi Nachman himself. The goal, it would seem, is to allow those who are interested to learn and incorporate these zemirot in to their own Shabbat table, as well as provide an accurate reference for those who know the tunes imprecisely.

As to the outlook, these tunes were sung by Breslov Chassidim in the not-so-long-ago days when the entire Breslov following in the world was a total of seventy families in Jerusalem. The Shabbat zemirot seem to mark a borderline between those dabbling in Breslov - to those who, fully committed, jumped in and have immersed themselves completely.

This seems to be reflected nicely in the identity of the musicians behind the collection. Yehudah Glantz keyboard, digital editing), Danni Maman (guitars, keyboard, arrangements and recording) and Gadi Pogatch (violin, mixing) are all super-talented musicians with impressive resumes - as well as Ba'alei Teshuvah (returnees) who connected to Breslov long before it became so popular. Their 'immersion', wardrobe for instance, varies from Chassidic garb ('more') to contemporary Western ('less'). Nachman Elkaslassi, the executive producer, as Hindik, the production company itself, follows the same lines. On the other hand, the singer, Yitzchak Shapira, is a 'home-grown' deeply-rooted Breslover, to whom these tunes are the Shabbat he has from home - and to whom Rabbi Nachman has always been the one and only spiritual source and teacher.

All that said, the mix works beautifully. The three musicians' (Glantz, Pogatch and Maman) talent, coupled with their obvious deep connection to the zemirot, music and spirit, create a delightful music accompaniment which delivers the music very nicely.

A major challenge facing recordings intended for layman singing at the Shabbat table is the absence of musical instruments. Attempts to imitate the music are mostly frustrating - and almost always unsatisfying. "HaShabbat Shel Rabbeinu" succeeds in avoiding this pitfall, by harnessing the music to the original tune and singing and refraining from "taking off" with variations on the thematic basis.

The singing could be better, which is understandable, considering the fact that Shapira is not a trained professional, but this does not take away much - and might actually assist in creating a close-to-the-heart "layman" sound.

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