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Each note  in a melody counts! 

07/09/2023 11:56:04 AM


“In a Hassidic niggun, each note turns to the one behind him and says: ‘thank you for being my Rebbe.’ Then he turns to the note in front of him and says: ‘I bless you, and give you permission for being even more beautiful than I.”   Rabbi Nehemia Polen 

I first learned this beautiful teaching many years ago when I participated in a cohort of  The Institute for Jewish Spirituality. It came across my computer again in a recent discussion by alumni of the program. 

As my colleague Cantor Ellen Dreskin wrote, the quote speaks not only of the relationships between each note of a melody, but to the fact that "a single musical note is nothing by itself, and receives its strength and beauty and significance entirely from the notes and rests that surround it. And then of course it must be played/sung/expressed in order to actually exist." 

It speaks to the holiness of each and every note in a melody and how each note is born from the previous one and then leads to its successor. In a practical sense, I have occasionally had the experience of performing a melody that I recently learned and in a moment of uncertainty I "lose" a single pivotal note - I sing the wrong note... and when that happens I am in a position where I cannot regain my footing in the melody and I have to kind of improvise the rest of the melody because I have fallen astray from the composed music. 

On a more metaphorical level, however, the quote reminds us of the value of each of us in a community and how we are inspired and then inspire others. It is the magic that happens when we all sing together in the sanctuary or when one person generates a new  community initiative and others are inspired to participate. 


Thu, February 22 2024 13 Adar I 5784