Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Leman Achai V'Ray-ai...

One of the great things about being in the grey/undefined area of hashkafa is the ability to sort of blend in and enjoy socializing/learning from most every group out there.

Take tonight for example, when I attended the annual R' Shlomo Carlebach Hillulah sponsored by the "Netzach Yisrael" club and presided over by Rav Reichman (the go-to Rabbi for anything Carlebach on campus at YU). True, there were a lot of jokes going around before the event about the guys who would be in attendance - people used terms like hippies or druggies - which I think is rather offensive in general. But the jokers have it all wrong.

The actual guys in attendance were some of the most spiritually in-tuned people I know. They range from the very Tzioni to the more Charedi/yeshivish, although the Tzioni/sruga type definitely composed the majority of the crowd gathered in the Rubin shul tonight. These guys might not be the ones sitting in the new beis medrish until 1 AM every night, but they really lead a life of spirituality that (I think) can't compare to those who simply bury themselves in seforim and neglect to develop their more spiritual side.

I have found that Carlebach music has far-reaching appeal. It seems that nearly everyone on campus, across the gamut of the hashkafic prism, enjoy the soul-stirring niggunim R' Shlomo composed - as well as those of the more recent neo-Carlebach style compositions, such as Eitan and Shlomo Katz.

A very beautiful example of this phenomenon is the weekly Carlebach Minyan that some friends organize here at YU. The Minyan was founded three years ago in response to the lack of Friday night davening similar to what many of us had experienced during our time in Israel. What started off with a meager 30-40 people has exploded to upwards of 100 men per week (and around 20-ish women as well - they just enlarged the women's section for a fourth time!).

The composition of the minyan would shock just about anybody, I would think. Every hashkafa found on campus is represented - even groups that might not otherwise get along or find themselves in one another's company during the week. Hashkafic differences are put aside for an hour-plus of amazing achdus and singing that has to be heard to be believed. The number of black hatters often comes close to, or does in fact, out number the presumed stereotypical Carlebachian guys. It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of such an uplifting weekly event, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who spends Shabbos the YU area (especially students who might not otherwise stay in YU for Shabbos).

Anyway, while it is true that the more yeshivish spectrum wasn't as well represented tonight at the hillulah (most were at night seder or otherwise occupied, presumably), I was quite glad that my lab was cancelled early enough for me to stop by for half an hour to take in the beauty of the music.

There was a fellow playing the violin along with the singing, and I must say that his accompaniment was gorgeous! The versatility of the violin always amazes me; it has a range that goes from heart-wrenching ballad to upbeat, get out of your seat sing and dance along. From what I understand, it takes an enormous amount of effort and talent to excel at playing the violin (due to the intricate method of playing it), and this man really added a whole different level to the celebration that wasn't there last year when we just had guitars and hand-drums.

So while I may not be a typical Carlebach guy by any stretch of the imagination (although some have thought I was, on occasion), it was quite fun and inspirational to take a moment to escape from the grind of the work week and enter a realm of elevated musical inspiration.


  1. "Hashkafic differences are put aside for an hour-plus of amazing achdus and singing that has to be heard to be believed."

    That's what I like about music and concerts in general; it's a universal language.

    Last week at the Carlebach Yartzeit concert in WSIS there were all types-Chasidim, Upper West Side Crowd, Yeshivish.

    See this page in Yitta Halbershtam's book about the variety he attracted when he was alive.


    There will be a Carelbach Kumsitz in Gal Paz in Boro Park this M Shabbos--I might stop by(see link).


    I like your blog--I saw a link on either R. Slifkin's blog in the comments or on Curious Jew.

    --Shades of Gray(with an "A")

  2. Thanks for the comment (my second, I think). I have never been a real Carlebach-guy per se, but I've always felt connected to the music (and music in general).

    It was probably a link on Curious Jew, who's a friend of mine. I do enjoy R' Slifkin's blog (moreso the books, of which I even own the banned 3).

    I always felt spelling the color with "e" looked better, and made it distinct compared to how the majority of Americans spell it (I think the "e" convention is British/European or whatever). Just out of curiosity, are you "Shades of..." that I've seen around on various blogs?

    and after checking the preview of this comment, it seems that timer is off on post-record. It's currently 6:43 PM Motzei Shabbos (just to cover my bases).

  3. "Just out of curiosity, are you "Shades of..." that I've seen around on various blogs?"

    That's me; hope you like my comments :)


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