Rozo D'shabbos. It made Pinchik so famous and vice versa. Here is an interesting blog post about the man and this piece. Thank you Dr. David Prager for sending this my way!
August 25, 2005
In the JTS library, I heard an unfamiliar old man excitedly talking to a professor whom I knew. I overheard what the man was saying, and it sounded interesting. Afterwards, I asked the man what he had been talking about. Without introducing himself, he told a me a long schpiel, the tamtsis of which I shall try to reproduce here. Finally, at the end, he told me to give credit to him, and that his name was Rabbi Jay Miller:
•The paragraphs כגוונא דאינון מתאחדין and רזא דשבת, from the Zohar, were added to Friday night davening by the men in the Kloyz in Brod, in the 17th century.
•Now, what are these paragraphs, כגוונא and רזא דשבת? They are not like בריך שמיה, which is already intended by the Zohar to be a prayer. Rather, these paragraphs are an essay explaining mystically the practice of not saying והוא רחום before arvis on erev shabbos, a practice mentioned by the Geonim.
•In the 18th century, the Chasidim adopted the practice of saying these paragraphs before ברכו. The misnaggedim didn't like this because the chasidim, unlike the scholars of the kloyz in Brod, didn't know the meaning of what they were saying.•In fact, the Chasidim read the paragraph incorrectly. The first paragraph, which has nothing to do with the day of Shabbos, is about different Yŏmim Tovim, and how they relate to the sefira of Tif'eres, which is known as אחד. It is a comparison of how down below, the shekhina unites with Tif'eres, and up above, קודשא בריך הוא, which is Tif'eres, also unites. Therefore, the paragraph should be read אוף הכי איהי אתייחדת לתתא ברזא דאחד למהוי עמהון לעילא, חד לקבל חד, קודשא בריך הוא אחד לעילא. The word לעילא should go with קודשא בריך הוא אחד, because the comparison is saying that He unites above (לעילא) just as the shekhina unites below. However, all the chasidim pause after the words קודשא בריך הוא אחד, and then say: לעילא לא יתיב על כורסיה, "he is not sitting on his thrown above".•When I (Rabbi Miller) was twelve years old, my father told me, based on what Meyer Boxenbaum had told him: "Always pay attention to the way that Chazzan Pinchik sings, because from his musical interpretation, you can figure out what the words mean." Of course, you can't figure out exactly what each and every word means, but you can get a sense of how Pinchik understands the passage. Now, my father was friends with Pinchik, and he wanted to ask him what the exact meaning of the passage רזא דשבת was, but he never had the audacity to do so.•Now, when Pinchik would sing this passage, he would do five noteworthy things:
1) He would begin not with the words כגוונא, but with the words קודשא בריך הוא לאחד, later on in the first paragraph.
2) He would pause after the words קודשא בריך הוא אחד, and join לעילא to the following words. (i.e., he would read this phrase just as the chasidim do.)
3) He would run the two paragraphs together, saying והא אוקימנא דהוא אחד ושמו אחד רזא דשבת in one breath.
4) He would skip the phrase ואתעטרת בכמה עטרין לגבי מלכא in the second paragraph.
5) He would stop singing at the words ולית שולטנו אחרא בכולהו עלמין בר מינה, and not say the stuff at the end about how the Jews, with their נשמה יתירה, begin praying by saying ברכו.
Now, when I was younger, I never knew the significance of all this. But later in life, I lerned kabbolo, and found out the meaning of the passage. I figured out that if one begins with the words קודשא בריך הוא אחד, as Pinchik does it makes sense to pause before לעילא, because the passage is then no longer a comparison of לתתא and לעילא. Rather, it is merely stating קודשא בריך הוא אחד "Qudsha Brikh Hu is echod [i.e. Tif'eres]", and then going on to say that He doesn't sit on His throne until shekina becomes united with the sefira of echod [Tif'eres] just like him. Then, by running the paragraphs together Pinchik is saying that this, the fact that he ascends his throne only when she becomes united with Tif'eres, is itself the רזא דשבת, the mystery of the day Shabbos, איהי שבת, which is the sefira Shabbos (i.e. the Shekhina). Thus, this is relevant to the mystery of Shabbos, but the bit at the end, about Israel receiving נשמה יתירה and beginning to pray, is not relevant; therefore, he omitted the end. Additionally, the line ואתעטרת בכמה עטרין לגבי מלכא doesn't make sense in context; it should only come at the end, because She shouldn't be crowned until the forces of din flee. Because Pinchik was omitting the piece at the end, he skipped this line as well.
So, did Pinchik come to this interpretation of the passage using his own genious, or did have a מסורה to read it thus?
I (Rabbi Miller) did some research into Pinchik's background, and found that he had never studied under a great chazzan. Rather, he lerned at the Skverer Yeshivah, and he was one of the students who was allowed to davven for dem ammud. Guest chazzonim and choirs would come to this Yeshivah, and he learned things from them. After Yeshivah, he went to the Musical Academy of Minsk (or was it Pinsk?), and learned goyish music.
So, if this was a masora, it must have been the way that the Skverer Chassidim read the passage. Now, Skver in America does not read the passage this way, but Skver in America isn't really Skver. There are no Skvere chasidim left. You see, the father of the current Skverer Rebbe was from the Skverer dynasty, but because of the First World War, he the father of the current Skverer Rebbe didn't study with his [own] father. Rather, he studied with other chasidic rebbeim, and his minhogim are from them. He was never the Skverer Rebbe in Europe. After the Second World War, he the father of the current Skverer Rebbe came to America, and oberlander Jews from Williamsburg became attracted to his charismatic personality, and he turned them into a chasidic sect, which he called "Skver". But it's not the original Skverer chasidim.•When you saw me talking to the professor, I asked him whether he knew whether the pre-war Skverer chasidim had recited רזא דשבת in the way that Pinchik had. He said that this was too specific a question for him to be able to answer. You see, there are almost no records from that period, because of WWI. And certainly, no other chasidim recite the passage this way.•I asked a fellow who is connected to Radzhyn, and who should have become the Boyariner Rebbe, but didn't (it's a long story), about this question, because he had some connection to pre-war Skver. He had no idea what I was talking about.•This is a question that only I could have come up with, because I'm the only person in the world who both (a) was trained to take everything that Pinchik sang so seriously, and (b) knew enough kabbolo to ask the question.
Posted by Mar Gavriel