Monday, July 08, 2013

R' Soloveitchik: "bnei beischa k'vatchila" on shalosh regalim = the tune of "Ali Tzion"

I found something I never heard before in the name of the Rav quoted by R’ Ya’akov Shapira in one of his ma’amarim on the parsha (link). 

הרב סולווצ'יק אמר פעם, תמיד בג' רגלים שמגיעים לבקשה על המקדש, בנה ביתך כבתחילה מי שהוא זוכר את המנגינה, של זה? אני לא שומע? זה בדיוק אותה מנגיה של עלי ציון ועליה, אין מציאות להזכיר את המקדש לבי לשתף את הצער על חרבן הבית אמת לאמיתה

The melody we use in musaf for shalosh regalim for the words "bnei beischa k'vatchila" matches the melody we use at the end of kinos for "Ali tzion."  (I'll leave it to your ear to make up its own mind.)  RYBS explained that it is impossible to mention the Mikdash without also giving expression to the sorrow and pain caused by its destruction. 

I have heard "lomdus" in RYBS's name on various points in the nusach hatefilah, but here he is saying "lomdus" even on the tune!

Parenthetically, if you have never read R' Ya'akov Shapira's stuff (the ma'amarim on the parshiyos go back about 3 years on the Merkaz haRav site), you are missing out on absolutely wonderful Torah that I don't think you can find the equal of in many other places. 

Update: I don't know if he also got it from the Rav, but Cantor Bernard Beer makes the same point here (at about the 2:20 mark).


  1. This Shabbos, Shabbas Chazon, some have the minhag to sing Lecha Dodi to the tune of Eli Tzion. Others feel that it is not a good minhag; that on Shabbos, one does not mourn. After all, we do wear bigdei Shabbos. Now that you showed us the match between tunes, one can be yotzei both minhagim: you can have kavana for Eli Tzion, or for Bnei Beischa. True, according to RYBS the tune is meant to be mournful no matter where it is used, but if in fact we use it when we pray for the restoration, it comprises a duality of kavana that is not necessarily out of place on Shabbos.

  2. Cantor Sherwood Goffin defines the limit of stretching the melody for tefillah as "Mode, Mood, and Min haQodesh". The latter two are easier to explain: R/CSG would advise against using a sad song for words that convey a thought that isn't sad (an idea often violated by ad hoc tune choices for Keil Adon) or using a tune that for the listener has non-qodesh associations (so much for Qedushah TTTO Sound of Silence, source: Rama OC 53:25).

    Mode is which scale it's in (major vs minor are two modes). Most Ashk chazanus is in one of the four following Magein Avos [minor], Hashem Malakh (mixolydian -- part minor part minor], Ahava Rabba [fregish / modified phrygian / in Sepharadi Arabic: "Hejaz"], and in the late 19th and 20th cent, tunes were added in major.

    But a shteyger, as this concept is refered to in Yiddish, goes beyond mode to certain tendencies in melody progression. Which is how we can sort of expect what's coming in many tunes.

    Anyway, "benei veisekha" is in the same mode of "Eili Tzion", even if it's not exactly the same melody. And it leaves the mode the rest of Yom Tov chazaras hashatz to do so.

    My instinct is that this is what RYBS intended to refer to. I wonder if "menagiah" is a typo for "manginah" -- tune, or a different term. You assumed the former, RYS could have meant the former, RYBS could have even said "tune", but that doesn't mean it's exactly the concept he meant. Who in RYBS's audience would have heard "mode" and understood his intent?

    (BTW, why the "K" in transliterating "עלי"?)

  3. REE: There is more of a reason to permit Lekha Dodi to the tune of Eili Tzion than part of Mussaf. After Lekha Dodi any aveilim join the minyan and are greeted with "HaMaqom". So it would seem that WRT aveilus, we already assume it is practiced until after Lekha Dodi, at the start of "Mizmor Shir".

  4. Just added an update -- Cantor Beer confirms it's the same tune. I don't think there is any duality here; it's just meant to evoke sadness.
    Micha, I think it's a typo. I can tell you from having read other ma'amarim on the site that there usually are a few typos in each one.
    I changed it to Ali Tzion -- wasn't thinking.

    1. "Eli" by the way means cry or wail, and I am pretty sure it is spelled with an aleph (but not related to God's name).

      I hope the following isn't going too far down into the music, but I will try to keep it light. I am not quite buying the musical tzu-shtel between bnei beischa and eli tzion. Tom Tov musaf is one of my all-time favorite parts of davening to sing in Shul. At most, the opening few notes for the two words "bnei beischa" more or less match the opening notes for eli tzion. But from there on, the melodies clearly diverge and feel very different to me in mood.

      For example, try it yourself on a virtual keyboard

      One can play Eli Tzion using all white keys, for example in A-minor:

      That is pure A-minor, all white keys.

      Whereas bnei beischa definitely needs a G-sharp = black key:
      A-D1-C1-B-A-G#-F-E ...

      Not only do the melodies quickly diverge, but you can also sense the different feeling provided by (among other things) the sharp note, which I *think* means they are not strictly in the same scale (or mode?).

      Note also that the next paragraph in musaf, v'hasieinu, is beautifully up-beat in content, not mourning, but yet we use the exact same melody for that as bnei beischa k'vatchila -- as everybody knows -- just fitted to a smaller number of syllables.

  5. >>>So it would seem that WRT aveilus, we already assume it is practiced until after Lekha Dodi, at the start of "Mizmor Shir".

    The problem is that in most shuls by this point it is after shekiya -- Shabbos has started irrespective of your kabbalah.
    Yes, the greeting of mourners at this point is problematic as well. I think R' Shlomo Zalman raises the issue -- don't have seforim with me to check.

  6. RCB: I think we could agree that in most shuls Lekha Dodi the Shabbos before Tish'ah beAv (or is the minhag on both Shabbasos when 9 beAv is Sunday?) is NOT said after sheqiah. It's a summer Shabbos, after all.

    But my point was more that however we wiggle out of one, we can equally wiggle out of both. (Eg justifying making the cut-off to be tzeis rather than sheqia.) And few shuls overturn minhag about when aveilim join the minyan, so I would assuming "wiggling out" is what "we" hold.

  7. IIRC, R Shachter brings this down in nefesh harav. I thought he mentioned there that this is the way it once was, but the tunes have somewhat diverged over time. Not sure.

  8. The link to mode mood and min hakodesh didn't work for me. I got it at

  9. I recall reading a claim that the "Eli Tziyon" tune actually originated in Ashkenaz as the Lecha Dodi tune leading into Shabbat Chazon, and was later used for Eli Tziyon. Comments??

  10. No idea. I know very little about nusach.

  11. You can hear the audio of the Rav saying this in his 1978 Kinnos drasha here:'Av_Kinos_-_Part_1

    He discusses it around the 12:18 mark. If you listen for a minute you can even hear the Rav sing to compare both tunes...