Reb Shaul Yedidya Elazer Taub zt'l, the second Modzitzer Rebbe. Was born in the city of Osherov, Located in the Radom district of Poland. When he was born everyone knew he would have a great talent for music. After all, he was born on Hoshana Rabba. The day before that happiest of holidays, Simchat Torah. And this was the year Zmirot. 5647. which means Song. or Oct. 20, 1886.
He assumed the leadership of Modzitz upon the passing of his father Reb Yisrael zt'l in 1920. At the outbreak of the War he made his way through Lithuania, Russia, China and Japan This is a story in itself. And eventually with the help of some Modzitzer Chassidim reached the shores of San Francisco from there to New York with a number of family members (myself included, I was about 3 years old at the time). From 1940 until 1947 the Rebbe resided in Brooklyn New York, He traveled extensively bringing Torah and niggunim to many communities. Reb Shaul was probably the most prolific Hasidic composer of all time with the total output numbering close to 1000 compositions. Because of his prodigious creation it was not uncommon for many to assume that he had bean trained musically. But this is an error, as No Modzitzer Rebbe had any musical training whatsoever. Reb Shaul's melodies which appear in several publications were initially transcribed by Cantor Joshua Weisser and later on by Ben Zion Shenker, a Modzitzer Chasid, who became the musical secretary for Reb Shaul.
Reb Shaul was, in a true sense, a composer. His niggunim were not merely the simplistic folk type melodies of many of his predecessors. A number of them were intricate, musically structured and quite lengthy. He thought in terms of instrumental colorations and often suggested that accompaniment of strings, winds and horns would enhance his niggunim. In rather naive fashion, both he and his father referred to some of their lengthier compositions as operas. To this day Hasidim sing these niggunim as the ershte opera (the first opera), the tzveite opera (second opera) and so on. If you would like to hear some of them, then just click here Music of Modzitz and you will get to the Music page.
In keeping with a tradition established by his father, Reb Shaul created new melodies for the Halel text so that the rikkud, march or waltz form would be employed. The Rebbe was especially fond of march tempi although as a practical matter the Jews of the ghetto had little use for militaristic sounding melodies. When Hasidim questioned both the composition and singing of such march tunes by a people without country, flag or military, the Rebbe's prophetic response was that a Jewish State would soon come into being and marches would also be needed.
Reb Shaul was also renowned for his learning and Torah, as well as his love for Am Yisrael his people. He was especially known for his extraordinary love for Eretz Yisrael. All his life his soul was drawn to Eretz Yisrael and he so much wanted to settle and live there. He visited Eretz Yisrael three times from Poland and always planned to settle there. His fourth and last trip to Eretz Yisrael was from the United States in 1947, He went fully intending to settle there this time. But Hashem had other plans. He became very ill and finally gave up his soul to Hashem on Shabbat the 16th day of Kislev 5708 (November 29,1947) the very day that the U.N. passed its partition plan for "Palestine".
He was the last person buried on the Har Hazeisim (Mount of Olives) until after the 6 Day War. We weren't able to put a monument on his grave until 1967, 20 years later. His great love for Eretz Yisrael can be seen in his Mamarim (Torah essays), such as.
"We say that Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael (Settling in Israel) is not in any way less than the rest of the Mitzvos that are performed, such as putting on Tfillin (Phylactories) and such. So could it possibly occur to someone that he can perform the Mitzvah of putting on Tfillin by just thinking about it or intending to do it or wanting to? Even with greatest of intentions, without actually tying the Tfillin onto his arm and head. The same with Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael. We are obliged one and all to do and to carry out the settlement of Eretz Yisrael in any and every way we can. And then hope and pray for the help, deliverance, and salvation of Heaven Hashem willing. (Kuntres Tiferet Yisrael Number 6 5706-1945)"