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At the heart of the Jewish people is song. Starting back in the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple) the Levites would bring music to the Jewish people. Most Levites nowadays have bad voices. It's a shame. Nonetheless, it does not stop the Levi from singing. Nor does it stop all Jewish people from singing.
From the kumzits sit down sing along with the youth movement, to the Chassidic Tish around the rebbe's table, to Tefillah where we pray to songs that are not written to the prayer, to the post Shabbat Havdalah service, no matter what movement you're connected to, you're singing. You're singing songs of tradition. You're singing the lyrics of King David's Tehillim, the psalms of inspiration. Why rewrite the songs? We've had great lyrics for 3,000 years.
Here are many of the great songs of our tradition, that let us know we're singing as Jews. And some non-Tehillim Jewish greats, which remind us that people abandon tradition.
Shabbat Shalom Hey
Those are the lyrics. That's the song. The lyrics are great. No need to add to them. Though, somebody realized that adding a 'hey' to 'Shabbat' will make for an instant classic. They knew that adding another word, like an 'Oy,' would be too much. For the chorus, add in a few 'Shabbats,' make sure somebody high-pitches, and you've got a one of the greatest songs of all time.
After singing this song, you feel like you've celebrated eight Shabbats. This is why most people who sing this song stop keeping the laws of Shabbat after they sing this song, on Friday night, before getting home from shul.
Greatest Jewish song of all time, this is not sung at Tishes. Chassidim don't sing this or 'Shabbat Sha-a-ba-a-t Sha-a-lom.' 'Gutten Shabbat Hey' doesn't work. But I will suggest to the Chassidic community to take up, 'A Gutten Shabbat, Hey.' That has the right amount of syllables to bring it to the level of 'Shabbat Shalom, Hey.' I just clapped it out.
David Melech Yisrael
'David the King of Israel lives and lasts.' A Jewish song not found in Tehillim. A bit of a let down, as King David wrote so many lyrics. Why sing about him, when you can be singing him? At least it's connected to Tehillim.
Right after 'Shabbat Shalom Hey,' this song is at the foundation of Jewish youth. The first song learned with a dance, nothing says joy like placing your supinated hand under your opposite elbow, while twiddling the fingers. And then it tops off with leaving out some of the words. You can't 'emmm emmm Melech Yisrael' without a smile. Add in a 'Chay Chay Pizza Pie' and you've set yourself up for a full day of Jewish laughter and good times.
Again, what truly makes this song great? It's the non-changing of the lyrics. You sing it in the verse, you sing it in the chorus. Why waste all that time trying to teach new words, when they already know the words from the verse?! You sing the song a bit faster and twiddle faster and 'emmm emmm' some of the words, and you have a classic. And when you lose the kids and need to change it up, 'Chay, Chay, Pizza Pie' that thing, and the children are back there with you, twiddling the fingers in the air, with that other hand holding it up. Like a torch of Jewish pride.
Want to feel like you're in a movie? Play this song and walk in a circle.
I guess there is more than one song not found in Tehillim. There are more songs than I thought that are not connected to King David's lyrics. I blame the non-religious Jews for this. They know not of tradition.
This song is an American favorite, as not one American Jew understands what this song means. But who doesn't want to have a Negilah?
Non-Jews love this song. When you show up to a Jewish Simcha and celebrate with a huge nylon fluorescent Yarmulke on your head, you want to be circle dancing to this. No other song leads to the dance party with the DJ more than this Jewish great. You can only have true Nagilah when the Backstreet Boys are turned up.
If you're making a movie and you need to show Jews celebrating, what are you playing? You know it. Hava Nagilah. There is 'rejoice' and that is what Jews do. They dance in a circle with huge nylon fluorescent purple Yarmulkes. They rejoice in the glow of their Yarmulkes on the dancefloor.
Kookooreekoo Kookooreekoo Tarnigul Korah
'Kookooreekoo the rooster calls.' And people say that Israelis don't know how to write lyrics. My question is what does a rooster call?! Exactly. That's why we sing this and teach it to our children in Israel. Though there's no dance, this is still a classic.
The Friday night Tehillim special. This song extends Friday Night Davening with a dance. To extend the prayers even longer, you can add Nay Nay Nays here, and dance all the way to Shabbat dinner. And realize that you have to finish Davening.
King David wrote it. Those are our lyrics. 'Mizmor LDavid.' The great thing about the Nay Nays is that you can add them to any song. It's the perfect addition. Nay Naying gets you more life out of King David's words. Feeling inspired? You can Nay Nay all night, or till the congregants start leaving.
Jerusalem of Gold
What makes for a great Jewish song is a silence that leads up to an immediate crescendo by all. Everybody knows the chorus. Nobody knows the verses. The silence builds up the meaning.
'Jerusalem of Gold' is the only perfect Jewish song that is not based on Bible. A bit of a letdown. Yet, Jerusalem of Gold is old enough to be grandfathered into the Biblical lexicon. Something else making it Biblical is that thousands of songs have been written, based on it.
Every tourist to Jerusalem, writes a song about Jerusalem and the whitish-reddish limestones looking like gold. Maybe they're thinking of 3 karat gold. Nonetheless, Jerusalem's stone is 24 karat gold of the soul. Even greater.That's me bringing you some spirituality, and inspiring another song to be written with the words 'Jerusalem of gold.' I can feel an inspired reader changing it up and writing 'Jerusalem with gold.' I don't know. I do know there's a lot of inspiration right now.
The fact that it's song by a woman and most religious Jews will never listen to the song may tinge its Shabbat table appearance. Nonetheless, it's a great topper to 'Shabbat Shalom, Hey.'
Leshana Haba BeYerushalayim
If it's in the Haggadah, it's a classic. And these words of saying that we want to be in Jerusalem next year are right there. The eighty versions of this song shows that it is not the tune, but the lyrics that make the song. As all the great Jewish classics, you stick to three words; and then you repeat those words in the chorus.
The song is shaken up a bit when we say 'ha-ba-ah-ah,' but you have to take chances when you're a lyricist. Note: Never take too many chances with adding more than three words to a song. I'm not saying that 'Jerusalem of Gold' has poor writing; I don't know the words.
Nobody is going to Jerusalem next year. That would kill the song. It's such a good song.
If Jerusalem were to have more Pesach hotels, things might change. Until then, we get to sing this song.
Kol HaOlam Koolo
Short enough that people don't need to Nay Nay Nay, 'All the world is a very narrow bridge' is a Jewish great and song in joy. There is no greater joy to the Jewish people than singing metaphors of death. That's why we sing this on Shabbat when we're with a group.
If you want to do Kiruv, inspire other Jews to be religious, this is the song. To encourage people to be religious, there is nothing more inspirational than singing about death. And as the song says, 'the key is to not fear.' As long as you are religious, there is nothing to fear. Only death. And that is why this song is sung at every youth group's Kumzits. Ensuring that Jews marry Jewish.
Jewish inspiration, Dveykus used this tune for six CDs.
I Was A Child and Now I am Old
Amazing lyrics. Almost as good as 'Kookooreekoo the rooster calls.'
How can you not love this song of King David's words, ending the Birkat Hamazon (post meal blessing over food). Bringing the Kumzits and Shabbat ebbing feel to the meal of your choosing, this tune that continues the tune and message of 'Kol HaOlam Koolo,' brings that Jewish tear to your eye. The tear that can only make a Jew feel good about crying.
Stack the 'Now I am Old' on the 'Kol HaOlam Koolo' at the end of the meal, and that Shabbat guest is religious. That's what the classic Jewish songs do. They turn you religious and inspired to sing Nay Nay Nay.
Jewish song makes you want to walk in a circle, twiddle and think about your numbered days on earth. Where else can you twiddle and feel like you're connecting with Gd, while singing about death and celebrating? How can you not love these classics?
***Upcoming: We'll be dealing in further depth with Nay Nay Nays, Simcha songs and how Lenny Solomon mastered the art of turning classics into classics.
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The Falafel of Etan
Israelis are very possessive of their falafel. Even when they have a shop, they don't like to share it… That's Etan. Standing over them while they eat. Making sure they don't run away with his falafel.