25 October 2017

Come, Children, Sing Shema' Yisrael!

6 Heshvan 5778

Credit: Ruth Lebowich, Teaching Jewish Art

NOTE: Some links are updated below, for those who have already read this post.

Many thanks to R' Yeranen Yaakov for the inspiration...and to R' Yeshuah Toledano, zz"l for teaching us the Moroccan way to sing the Shema'. May they both be blessed on earth and in Shamayim.

As written in R' Yaakov's account, R' Ovadia Yosef, zz"l, dreamed in 2001 that he had a conversation with Mashiah. The part we're dealing with today is this (R' Yaakov's translation, my emphasis in bold):

"I asked him, the Mashiah: 'Why don't you reveal yourself already? Look, we are suffering, and we're all in pain.' The King Mashiah answered me in these words: 'Because there are a million Jewish children who do not say the Shema Yisrael every day - because of this, I have not come. Go tell all single Yeshiva students and Avrechim to go out and bring people closer to Avodat Hashem.' " 
So, I have come with a tool to teach the Shema'.

Usually, when we say the Shema', we sing it; and, as I understand it, we're supposed to use the ta'amei haTorah (Hebrew), or Torah trope (Yiddish), which is the melody used to sing the passages when reading the Torah. I have been to both Ashkenazi and Sephardi batei-knessiot, but have never heard either one do it this way, until I came to a Moroccan synagogue. Actually, it was the above R' Toledano's living room, back in 1993. Both Sephardim and Ashkenazim went there on Shabbath; we all enjoyed the tefilloth, the great melodies, the divrei Torah, and kiddush afterwards. It was unique for the area we lived in. Hey, it was almost unique for America. Most people know it as an Ashkenazic country even though the first synagogues were Sephardic.

We stayed there for 10 years, when the Rav retired. Two years after we made aliyah, we learned that the Rav had passed away (here's more about him). His kashruth agency, Mekor Baruch Orthodox Kosher Supervision in Philadelphia, still lives on under his son, Binyamin Toledano, shlit"a.

Now, to the point. I'm not an avrech, but I feel the need to apply R' Yosef's words from Mashiah: Teach the children to say the Shema' Yisrael! So, here's a video with the way the Moroccans sing the Shema'. It's pretty close to R' Toledano's way. I'm back in a Moroccan beit-knesset once again, here in Yerushalayim, and everyone who leads the Shema' sings some version of the way I learned it almost 30 years ago.

I'm not Moroccan, by the way; I'm Syrian on my mother's side. But I have to give it to the Moroccans: they sing the most beautiful, flowing melodies that match up with the words. You have to be there, or try some of the other videos on YouTube, such as this one of Yedid Nefesh ("soul friend") or Shir haShirim (unfortunately, incomplete. If you have an account with OneDrive, you can hear the complete version linked to below the YouTube video.).

(Warning: Ashkenazic Jews and others who are not used to Middle Eastern music might have to retune their ears for this style, as well as those from other Mizrahi Jewish music sources...)

So, c'mon kids! באו בנים ובנות! Sing with R' David Kadoch, may he live and be well לשיר אם ר" דוד קדוש שליט"א (I believe he sings slowly here in order to make it easier to learn). He's the Hazzan from Abir Ya'aqob in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Listen up, Israel: Our G-d is ONE!

As we say in Israel, have a healthy winter - Horef bar'i. May we see Mashiah speedily and in our days, amen!