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!


Myrtle Rising said...

What a beautiful and valuable message!
I also want my Moroccan husband to listen to this melody.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this wonderful video.
I made Aliyah from Brazil 1-1/2 year ago and settled in Petach Tikva.
I use to go to a beautiful sephardic synagogue called Beit Avraham, founded by Moroccan immigrants.
They have an amazing Chazan by the name of Rav Moshe Eliyahu Doron Shlit"a, who has one of the best voices in the world (not exaggerating at all!). Sometimes he uses this tune for the Shemah and also for the Torah reading. It's so sweet and at the same time melancholic...
Every Shabbat I get so emotional during the prayers that I use to cry like a baby (I'm 56...).
Apart from being the only true faith in the world, our tradition is so vast and colourful that you'll never be able to know every custom and tune!
R. Halevy

HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

Thank you, Myrtle, for your kind words.

It may be that your husband is familiar with the melody; but, if not, he'll certainly love it!

Thank you, R. Halevy, for your kind words as well. Although, R' Toledano also had a great voice! I still remember his younger daughter's bat mitzvah party when he sang for us: Even though he was our hazzan as well as our rabbi, on this occasion his singing had a completely star-like quality to it. I don't know whether anyone recorded him or not, but it didn't show up on the search.

And you are so right, we will never know every custom and tune. Quite amazing.

Shabbat shalom umevorakh l'khulam!

David Kadoch said...

Thanks so much for the shoutout. One of my good friends saw this blog and sent it to me. I'm glad you appreciate the music.
I've also begun a blog recently posting my recordings. It's still young but it is growing quickly BH. Check it out at www.sephardicsongs.com
Kol tuv.

HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

You are most certainly welcome, R' Kadoch! I am making the site more accessible here with a hot link below.


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