Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven.
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?"
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!"
(from a letter
written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents)
A dance nigun for "V'hi She'amdah". This nigun sounds like a celebration of the promise (see words to the right), quite unlike the tune most people know.
This nigun has a story. I first heard it during the same Pesach in Brooklyn where I learned the Stolner nigun for counting the omer, some five years ago. I wandered into a small narrow shtibl at the end of second day Pesach to find about a hundred chasidim dancing in a line, hands to shoulders, singing this nigun. In the Chasidishe havorah the words come out: v'hi she'omdo lavoisenee v'lonee. Back then it took me a good while to figure out Eastern European accents. Most of us know these words from the Haggadah: v'hi she'amdah lavoteinu v'lanu...
Since then I dreamed of going back to Borough Park to find the nigun, but I never wrote down the name or address of the shul - this was years before I had thought of creating Neohasid.org. Finally, last week, I devoted a Wednesday morning to retracing my steps years ago. I asked Isaac Schonfeld (of Chulent fame) to meet me and help out with any Yiddish barriers I might face.
Stepping off the train at Fort Hamilton, I had no trouble finding my seder host's house, now empty and boarded up. But no direction seemed familiar. Then I walked up 45th St. towards the grand Stolner shul. In no time I passed the Sefardi (actually Temani) Beit Knesset I had been to for duchening that afternoon years ago. I knew the shul I'd been to was around the corner, but when I walked up and down the block, there was no shul anywhere to be found.
Just then Isaac caught up with me. "My mind must be playing tricks on me," I said. "Maybe so," said Isaac, "but there used to be a shul right here, a break off from Skver. But I don't know where they moved to." A young hasid popped out of the apartment building Isaac was pointing to at that moment. We asked him for help and he took us right to the new location, less than a block away.
The new shul and yeshiva were in a grand, beautiful building, with marble columns. A knot of Chasidim in the vestibule discussed whether or not I could see the rebbe then and there - was he in or no? After a runner went up the steps to find out and came back down, the rebbe's son (a distinguished older man with a grey beard) offered to take down my name so the rebbe could give me a brokha, and I dutifully recited it. "But," I blurted out, "I need someone to teach me the nign they sing here for 'v'hi she'amdah!'"
One hasid started singing the old standard (the one that sounds like the Volga boatmen's song). But when I said, "Don't you sing something different, something that everyone dances to at the end of Pesach?", he switched to the nigun, the one I'd wanted to record for years, the one I thought I might never find again.
We were standing in the middle of all the foot traffic; I asked if there were a quiet space we could go to to record. Down we went, to the basement, to the Yeshiva, the utility closet, a classroom, everyplace too noisy. Finally we found a second utility closet near the elevator, and got started. I asked him to say his name for the tape. "I'm no singer," he said. "How about I say the name of the kehillo (community)?"
Afterwards Isaac turned to me and said, "Everyone knows that nigun." "You mean you could have sung it to me?" "Yup, but now you have a story. And did you see how he was excited and his arms were dancing when he sang it, even though he was trying to stand still? That you couldn't get from me." And Isaac was right. This was the community where the nigun was sung for over an hour on Pesach afternoon.
So here it is, the Rachmastrivka version of the well-known Chasidic tune for "v'hi she'amdah".
V'hi she'amdah la'avoteinu v'lanu, shelo echad bilvad amad aleinu l'khaloteinu. Ele sheb'khol dor vador omdim aleinu l'khaloteinu, v'hakadosh barukh hu matsileinu miyadam.
And this is what has stood by our ancestors and us, for there is not only one who has stood up to destroy us, but in every generation they stand up to destroy us. And the Holy One, blessed be, rescues us from their hand.