Reb Yisrael, the First Modzitzer Rebbe zt'l

Reb Yisrael of Modzitz zt"l

Modzitz Chasidism was founded by Rabbi Israel Taub zt'l, b. 1849, Ratcoinz, Poland. In 1888 upon the death of his father, Rabbi Samuel Eliahu of Zvolin, he assumed the leadership of Kuzmir-zvolin Hasidim.

In 1891 he settled in Modzitz and resided there until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, at which time he fled to Warsaw. He remained there until his death, on the 13th of Kislev 5681 or Nov. 24,1920. Rabbi Israel was also known for his very famous sefer Divrei Yisrael, of Torah commentaries which he wrote. Rabbi Israel's output of niggunim came to more than two hundred. Many of his melodies are still sung today by all Hasidic groups the world over. One of his most famous, the. Heimlozer Niggun the Song of the Homeless, also sung to the text of Mizmor L'david (You can hear a sound bite of Ben-Zion Shenkers rendition if you click on the link, Please wait till the file loads) has become a classic. In it, the Rebbe expresses musically the feelings of a Jew torn from his home due to war.

His most famous niggun is the Ezkera Hagadol, (the Great Ezkera. It was composed In 1913, and this is the well known story of the Niggun, the Rebbe traveled to Berlin for medical treatment. His doctor Professor Israel, felt that his life could be saved only through the amputation of a leg. The Rebbe agreed to the operation but with the proviso that no form of anesthesia be used. It is told that during the operation, the Rebbe could see the surrounding Berlin area through the window next to his bed The architecture and color of the buildings was reminiscent of certain parts of Jerusalem and the poem Ezkera Elohim written about the holy city and recited during the (Nila) closing service on Yom Kippur came to his mind. During the removal of his leg he composed this majestic and lengthy niggun comprised of 36 sections each contrasting in nature. This niggun is sung by Hasidim each year on the Rebbe's, yahrzeit (anniversary of death) both in Israel and the United States. The complete notation of the niggun, which takes approximately a half hour to sing, may be found in Bais Kuzmir,by M.S. Geshuri, Jerusalem Israel.

Rabbi Israel's love for music also found expression in a number of his published mamorim (sayings). One especially is rather remarkable for a Hasidic Rebbe. In Divrei Yisrael he compares man's ascent on the ladder of life to a musical scale. Just as the eighth tone is a repetition of the root tone one octave higher, so too, he says, is man's climb throughout life. Although he progresses ever higher, becoming complacent in his achievement, he must be aware that ultimately he must return to the root.

Copyright ©1998,1999, Hersh Taub
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