“Nusach” or the special liturgical tunes which are used for the tefillos of various holiday seasons, most notably the “Yomim Noraiim” the Days of Awe. Formalized nusach dates back at least 600 years to Rav Yaakov Malin, (author of “Minhagei MaHariL”) and one of the foremost rabbinic authorities of Poland and Bohemia.
He was a famed “shalich tzibur” he who gathered the sacred tunes of the festivals which are now known as “Scarbova.” With minor variations the Scarbova tunes have been used in synagogues throughout the Ashkemazi world for many centuries.
Today, was some variations, nusach tunes are the foundation of our Tefillos, whether we daven nusach Ari z”l, S’farad or Ashkenaz. The chanting of the various Kadeishim, the Aleinu, V’haKohanim and many other pieces are said to be based on tunes dating back to the Beis HaMikdash. Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, who was “zocheh” to be a “shaliach tzibur” during the Rebbe ZI”A’s last years has recorded the “Nusach” of the “Yamin Noraiim” recently, at the request of his children, and is making the recording available to the public.
We asked Rabbi Kaplan, why he decided to do these recordings now, here is the gist of our interview with him:
Rabbi Kaplan, I know you are very busy as director of the Merkos Chinuch Office, why take the time to do this?
RNK: I learned “nusach” as well as many Chabad nigunim from a number of authentic sources, starting with my father A”H; my grandchildren asked me to make the recording so they can learn nusach. I’m sharing the recordings with the public because too many young people who assume the role of shaliach tzibur are not fully versed in the various tunes. I certainly did not want to put it off to the point where my voice would fail me.
You were actually a shliach tzibur on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur in the Rebbe’s presence, how did you manage that?
RNK: I still ask myself how I managed it. The Rebbe followed every word of the shalich tzibur sometimes he even pointed with his finger, how did I get a word out? I can tell you this, my physical being reacted to my extreme nervousness; headaches, stomach ailments were my steady companions from mid-Elul through Yom Kippur.
When did you first daven in front of the Rebbe?
Interestingly, it started many years earlier. The Rebbe one mentioned at a farbrengen that people who have “chush” a talent should not suddenly become shy when the gabai asks them the daven before the amud. The next Shabbos I was visiting from Philadelphia, where we resided, and my uncle Reb Yehosha Pinson, who was the gabai in 770, told me to daven before the amud; I emphatically said no. He didn’t take no for an answer and told me that he would not sent anyone else, so I had better be at the amud when the Rebbe came in to daven. I had no alternative.
When I reached the bracha “goal Yisroel” before the “sh’mona esrei” I lowered my voice, as I had seen countless others do, because one is not permitted to interrupt with “amein” Suddenly I saw the Rebbe gesturing to me quizzically, both hands extended in question. I did not know exactly what he meant, but I quickly repeated the words “goaal Yisroel”.
I was devastated. I resolved silently never again to stand at the omud in front of the Rebbe. Somehow I got through “chazaras hashatz.” After Shacharis Rabbi Moshe Pinchos Katz, the second gabai cam over to me and said. “Do you understand that you experience a special “kiruv” (demonstration of closeness) from the Rebbe? I looked at him incredulously. He explained; the authentic minhag in Chabad is not to lower one’s voice when saying the words “goaal Yisroel” (it is a blessing which hails HaShem as our redeemer) they should be said out loud. But, how many people have stood at the amud and lowered their voice, and the Rebbe did not react? His gesture to you was to teach you a lesson; that is the greatest “kiruv” possible. After that I was sent to the amud regularly.
But Rosh Hashanah?
After Reb Michoel Lipsker passed away, my uncle told me that I was davening Shacharis on Rosh Hashanah in his place. When I argued, he told me that he was writing to the Rebbe that I was to daven, if I decided not to do so it would be my problem. When my father left for Eretz Yisroel, I assumed his role as baal shachris on Yom Kippur as well.
Let’s talk about you recordings for a moment; clearly you believe that you are chanting the nuash properly.
RNK: When I was a young fellow I made it my business to listen to the teffilos of the older Baalei Tefilla and menagnim. I was not shy about asking people like Reb Shmuel Zalmanov, Reb Nochum Goldshmid and many others, about a nigun or “shtikel” nusach. I don’t think I’m the final authority on the subject, but I did have a “chush” and do have some understanding of the subject.
Listen, for my grandchildren it will be a legacy, others are welcome to dispute my interpretation.
To buy the new CD click here: http://www.judaica-world.com/nusach-hatefilla-of-the-yomim-noraiim-dbl-c-d.html