We Need to Rein in The Yud Aleph Nissan Niggunim

From the Anash.org Inbox: Gone are the days when one Niggun was rejected because it sounded poilish, and another because it sounded like “Tzlil Vezemer.” Today, if a niggun like that can be found it’s a plus, at least we have something that carries a tune.

By Zushi Weinberg

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, Hey Teves, Yud Shvat, Yud Alef Nissan, Chof Ches Sivan. These days hold immense significance in the Lubavitch calendar, shaping the essence of Dor Hashvii. Already when we turn the page of the calendar and we see the approaching date, anticipation fills the air. We prepare for these days with the proper Hachonos, learning Sichos and Maamorim, and taking upon ourselves Hachlotos Tovos.

Yud Alef Nissan in particular, we prepare for the Rebbe a gift of which he will have nachas from us Chassidim. We make Chalukos in the Rebbe’s Torah, groups will learn a set number of Maamorim, Sichos, Letters, Farbrengens, and of course the preparations for the Mitzvah Tank Parade!

Niggunim for the Rebbe’s Kapitel 

In 5730 a new initiative began, matching words from the Rebbe’s Kapitel to a Niggun, and in 5742 this initiative took another step – composing an entirely new Niggun for the Rebbe’s Kapitel. Baalei Menagnim publicized their compositions, and usually one was accepted by the Chassidim to be sung by the Rebbe that year.

As time passed, it was decided to establish a Vaad, to make a seder and decide on one Niggun to be the chosen one.

In the past decades, the possibility to self-produce music became more accessible, recording equipment more affordable, and devices with digital recordings at everyone’s fingertips. The ability to record a Niggun with accompanying music from a keyboard was available to everyone. 

The “Yud Alef Nissan Niggun Star

This started a new era. The preparations for 11 Nissan has a new meaning, as there is now a full-fledged Lubavitch-wide competition: Who will be the “Yud Alef Nissan Niggun Star”?

Everyone with a recording device and access to someone who knows how to play the keyboard can effortlessly send in their composition and they have a chance to win the trophy.

This is a bizayon and a joke!

No more is the objective of the Vaad is to choose the most suitable Niggun, the one with the most geshmak, the one most in the ruach of 11 Nissan, but rather to filter through a never-ending mess of keyboards and lyrics, to find one that can resemble a Niggun. 

Gone are the days when one Niggun was rejected because it sounded poilish, and another because it sounded like “Tzlil Vezemer.” Today, if a niggun like that can be found it’s a plus, at least we have something that carries a tune.

The hefkeirus only gets worse. Out of the 100+ niggunim submitted this year, how many of them were just sent in as a joke? The mere fact that bochurim even made this joke is one thing, but the fact that it was entered into the competition is the issue of the Me’argenim.

What used to be “the Niggun of the year” is now just a niche song that holds no significance. As bochurim, we would follow the Niggunim as others follow sports stats. Now it’s just a laugh when someone posts the new song on WhatsApp.

How many Niggunim from the past 30 or so years are still sung on a regular basis? The Niggunim of old are still sung. Why should the Niggunim of today be any different?

Setting Standards

To restore glory to the Rebbe’s Niggun there must be set grounds – what will and what will not be accepted into this “competition.” The Me’argenim must “screen“ every Niggun being sent in, and only the appropriate admissions will be publicized as being entered into the competition, and it will be made clear that from only these will the Vaad choose!

I therefore recommend the following.

To the Vaad: Establish clear rules for which Niggunim will be accepted into the competition. There should be a statement before the start of the season that only the Niggunim which meet the criteria will be admitted.

I suggest the following rules:

1) No Niggun from a child not yet in mesivta will be accepted into the competition.

2) A Niggun sent by a bocher in Yeshivah Shiur Alef Mesivta through Shiur Beis Zal will only be accepted with an endorsement of a Mashpia. Someone should be taking achrayus on the nigun.

3) Niggunim that aren’t in the spirit of a Lubavitcher Niggun will not be accepted. 

These rules are to establish the grounds of the expected standard for the Niggunim for 11 Nissan, and hopefully to discourage the hefkeirus in this field. The me’argenim should screen all admissions and enforce these rules.

I also request on behalf of Kahal Hachsidim in general, please be more conscientious of which Niggun is chosen. You’re responsibility is immense. Besides for being sung by Simchas Beis Hashieva and Adar dancing, it will also be sung at Chassidishe Farbrengens, and most importantly, in front of the Rebbe!

To the Mashpiim: Talk to the bochurim under your care. Let them know that there are better ways to prepare for Yud Alef Nissan. This Niggun contest is not a talent show, not everyone should reach for the stars, especially if it turns into a joke!

To the rest of Anash: If you are a composer in any genre that it may be, and you want to gift the Rebbe with a song in said genre, by all means. But not every composition is a Chassidishe Niggun. If it doesn’t sound like a Niggun, please don’t send it in! (Upload it to your YouTube channel or something, but not to the Vaad Hanigunim.)

And to the Baalei Menagnim: If you have a Chush, and you have the ability to compose a Chayusdike, Chassidishe Niggun, don’t be shy. Please send in your Minchas Ashir to the Rebbe!

רבת שבעה לה נפשינו הלעג השאננים הבוז לגאי יונים.

With hope that this year Yud Alef Nissan we will see the Rebbe being me’oded the Niggun, in 770, all chassidim together. Amen.

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  1. As a mother and grandmother, it is a great nachas to see that the bochrim are thinking about niggunim many months before Yud Aleph Nissan. I love that even the very young boys dream of composing THE niggun that many chassidim will sing. There are many things in our chinuch that could use a repair, but that our boys care to compose niggunim?? This is a reality we can be proud of. So the niggunim are not all that great?? Ok, at least they tried. So some kids make jokes?? That’s also part of the excitement. Let the creativity thrive and flourish; please don’t stifle it!
    On a practical note, the vaad could use an upgrade (more people involved, new ways to assess, etc.,) to accommodate the vast number of submissions for this annual contest.
    Let’s be proud of our boys and encourage them to keep this contest growing stronger with more submissions in quantity and in quality.

    1. So let them express their creativity (not at the expense of seder, mivtzoim, etc.). But does it need to be publicized? There’s a peculiar idea nowadays that something hasn’t happened unless you splash it all over; that’s an area of chinuch that needs to be worked on. At most, as the author wrote, “Upload it to your YouTube channel or something, but not to the Vaad Hanigunim.”

      1. The bochrim who get excited about creating niggunim bH typically don’t have youtube channels, but if they did, YouTube is a lot more public than the vaad haniggunim…
        But back to the main idea:
        Do we really have to “rein in” the niggunim?!? It feels like that agenda would belong to the yetzer horah, who gets worried when we get excited about kedusha.
        As for me, when I see the bochrim excited about the niggun, my heart dances with joy!

        So many of our kids (and adults) could not care less about the yud aleph Nissan niggun… Let’s rein in the kaltkeit. Let’s rein in the lack of appreciation for today’s chassidishe bochrim. And lets talk about how to get more people involved, and excited about creating more yud aleph Nissan niggunim.

        1. YouTube as a whole has greater reach, of course, but someone’s channel much less so.

          Yes, excitement should be reserved for kedusha. You’re taking it for granted that the composition of these niggunim is just that, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. Get them excited about things that are unequivocally kedusha, in Torah, avodah or gemilus chassadim, in following in the Rebbe’s ways, etc.!

  2. Dear Chassidim,

    With all due respect, I must disagree with the sentiments expressed in the previous article. The Niggun contest for Yud Alef Nissan is a beautiful opportunity for every Chossid to express their love and devotion to the Rebbe in their own unique way.

    The Rebbe always encouraged us to use our individual talents to serve Hashem and spread Chassidus. Whether you are a seasoned composer or a bochur with a passion for music, your contribution is valuable and meaningful. The Rebbe sees the heart and intention behind every niggun, regardless of its genre or style.

    Let us not limit the ways in which we can connect to the Rebbe and express our hergesh for his holy inyonim. A niggun that comes from the depths of a Chossid’s heart, no matter how unconventional it may seem, can still be a powerful tool to inspire and uplift.

    To the bochurim: Don’t be discouraged by those who may not understand your musical expression. The Rebbe appreciates every effort you make to strengthen your connection to him and Chassidus. Continue to grow and explore your talents, always keeping in mind the true purpose behind your endeavors.

    To the composers: Your unique voice and style are a gift from Hashem. Don’t be afraid to share your compositions, even if they don’t fit the traditional mold of a “Chassidishe Niggun.” The Rebbe’s message is universal, and your music can help spread that message to new audiences.

    And to all of Anash: Let us embrace the diversity of our community and the various ways in which we express our love for the Rebbe. A niggun that may not resonate with one person may touch the soul of another. We are all striving to be me’oded to the Rebbe in our own way.

    As we approach Yud Alef Nissan, let us unite in our shared love for the Rebbe and our desire to see him once again. May our niggunim, in all their beautiful forms, pierce the heavens and hasten the coming of Moshiach. Amen.

    1. The commenter writes that “every Chossid to express their love and devotion to the Rebbe in their own unique way.” This smacks of reform Chassidus.

      The path for Hiskashrus was laid out by the Rebbeim as learning the Rebbe’s Torah and following his horaos. Regarding gifts for Yud Alef Nissan, the Rebbe specified gifts of Torah and tzedaka. Making nigunim was never mentioned as a way to hiskashrus.

      While it is certainly an expression of love of chassidim for their Rebbe, it is a far cry from the hachonos that the chassidim would make and the gifts of Torah they would give.

      The commenter tells us to “embrace the diversity of our community and the various ways in which we express our love for the Rebbe.” Diversity is the liberal method for doing away with Torah values. We are chassidim of the Rebbe and we follow the path that he set out for us.

  3. I am not the one to judge nor am I anywhere close to being a Mashpia etc etc. however in a very simple down to earth mindset I would like to share the following….

    As we have seen through the eyes of our holy Rebbe our Nosi our Father… how every single good deed one can do. Each on their own level each to their own abilities…. If it came from a good source, from within the Rebbe embraced us all, accepted us all…whereas at the same time encouraged us all to do more & more & more. Uplifting us to our greatest & highest potentials and then some more. The Rebbe NEVER EVER in 92 years ever pushed anyone away after a good meaningful positive act that one has done. No matter how insignificant the act was. Or how low of a level a person was.

    Of course we have standards we have our paths that has been set forth by our Holy Rabbaim. But never ever push anyone down after a good meaningful act that anyone has done. It can R”L destroy a Helige Taire Neshomo forever”. C”V to even consider it. Let’s emulate how the Rebbe would have responded to this.

    Lastly & respectfully, as a general comment…. I am fully aware of the Baaley Minagnim who chose a yearly Nigun for י״א ניסן
    But they weren’t the final say of which Nigun was actually accepted. It was the Rebbe himself. Either by an enthusiastic respond while singing or a Sicha with the words to the Nigun.

    Hatzlacha Raba Chag HaPesach Kosher Vesameiach. Your intentions are well received, let’s mend it the way the Rebbe would have. That being within itself a gift for the Rebbe lekovod 123.

  4. “NEVER EVER in 92 years ever pushed anyone away after a good meaningful positive act that one has done”.

    If I recall correctly Carlbach and his free expression wasn’t praised

    1. Carlbach was never outright pushed away by the Rebbe. When he wanted to start his style of kiruv the Rebbe told him “צו מיר א שייכות ניט”, not get out of here. Furthermore when later asked by Lubavitcher bochurim why he left/thrown out he responded:”I still am a Lubavitcher”.

      1. What more do you expect the Rebbe to do? Throw him out the door?! The Rebbe clearly stated his position.

        This whole notion that the Rebbe accepted everyone and everything since he didn’t aggressively attack them is absurd. The Rebbe loves every Yid and welcomes everyone, but we need to be clear what is acceptable and what isn’t.

        The Rebbe famously differentiated between speaking negatively when it’s not relevant and when it is. When it’s relevant, it’s critical to say it clearly and not mince words. That is the Rebbe’s horaa!

      2. He once arrived in 770 when the Rebbe gave him a stern look. The Rebbe never explicitly said “please leave”, but he immediately left. I heard this from a reliable source.

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