For Michoel Pruzansky, One Return Brings Another
“Show me the way…. Here I am, stumbling in the black” — the cry of the outwardly rebellious but inwardly crumbling teenager from Michoel Pruzansky’s song
“Show me the Way” — is tragically echoed by so many vulnerable teens. The song is based on a true story heard by the singer’s brother, Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky, author of the Stories that Warm the Jewish Heart series (Yossie Beren collaborated on the lyrics). It’s the story of a Jewish teen who goes off the derech and moves out, but when a fatal accident takes the life of his buddies, he begins to reconsider his choices and decides to return to his family, who welcome him with open arms.
Not long after the song’s release on the album MP3, Pruzansky got a phone call from a youth worker in England. The caller said that he worked with a boy who had not spoken to his parents in two years. He, too, had witnessed a traumatic accident that had shaken him, and he had begun to return to Torah observance. But he felt he didn’t have the courage to face his family. The counselor sat together with him as he played “Show Me the Way.” He said that they listened to the song eight times, and eventually, the boy said, “Okay, I’ll do it. You can arrange a meeting for me. I’m ready now.”
Epilogue: “The boy slowly started returning to Yiddishkeit, eventually going back to yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael,” says Pruzansky. “Baruch Hashem, he’s now married and building a Torah home.”
The Sound I Like Best
The Keys to Great Music
“The piano keyboard represents every note available on other instruments,” says Shraga Gold of Shira Choir, explaining why it’s such a popular choice of instrument, from beginner student to professional.
“There is no instrument that has a note that the piano does not have. And since the piano allows you to play multiple notes at a time — unlike a saxophone or bassoon — it’s by far the best instrument for learning music theory. Theory teachers frequently use the piano to play chords and explain other concepts.”
Second, he says, what you hit is what you get. “The piano produces the most immediate results of any instrument.
You simply touch a key and the note sounds — no tone training required. With most other instruments, you have to spend weeks just trying to make a sound and many more years striving to perfect it.”
The Story Behind the Song
The World’s Biggest Kiddush
The currently popular song “Kiddush,” recorded by Sruli Lipshitz
this past summer, has that slow, reflective tune and classic words that make it seem like a niggun from decades ago. The words “Lomir machen Kiddush oif der gantzer velt” are a pronouncement of our intent to sanctify the entire world on Shabbos — almost like Kiddush itself.
Composer Avrohom Mordche Schwarz
says that he and Lipshitz originally came up with the first part of the song, which uses the Aramaic words of the introduction (in nusach Sfard) some people say before Kiddush on Friday night (“Veyaisai lanu ulechal nafshasana china vechisda verachamei…”). “Then, I recalled that one year in Uman, someone proclaimed, ‘Mir geit machen Kiddush oif der gantzer velt [We’re about to make Kiddush for the whole world].’ Apparently the Ribnitzer Rebbe used to say this before making Kiddush on Friday night. This picture came into my mind, together with the words ‘Ki vo shavas Keil.’ The tune followed naturally, and Sruli recorded it right away.”
Schwarz says that “It’s a zechus to be part of the moiradig preparations for Shabbos, and to help bring people to an elevated Shabbos feeling.” He also recounts that one chassidishe bochur who had left mitzvah observance said that when he heard the song, it stirred the beginning of his return to keeping Shabbos after an extended fall.
LAST MINUTE DECISIONS
Every artist wants his album to be as perfect as can be, but sometimes he has to take a gamble. Is the song he’s deliberating over going to soar or flop? Is that last-minute replacement going to be dynamic or a sleeper? How do these entertainers know they made the right choice? Isaac Honig “I sat down and sang my heart out”
When Isaac Honig was in the final stages of putting together his Behar Hamoriah album in 2004, one of the composers suddenly pulled out, withdrawing his permission for Honig to record his song — and leaving an empty space in the soon-to-be-released album.
What to do? “On that day,” Honig recalls, “I just sat down at the piano and started to sing my heart out. Soon, I realized I had actually played something potent and original, and I recorded it. We realized that with some refinements, we had a powerful song.”
“A Yiddele,” a serious and thought-provoking Yiddish ballad about the innate holiness of every Jew, with the refrain, “A Yiddele, A Yiddele, shtark zich, shtark zich [be strong, be strong], Yiddele,” — sung with Honig’s own rich voice accompanied by a child soloist — took the final spot on that album. It’s become one of the most popular songs of the decade in Yiddish-speaking chassidish circles.
“I know the song has given chizuk to a lot of people who had fallen low and worked hard to climb out. I even had a call from a former drug addict who said it helped him to come clean,” Honig says. Doni Gross “Within a few hours, the arrangements were ready”
When you listen to a great new music album, you have no idea which song has been waiting around for years for the right moment to go public, which intro was changed back and forth dozens of times, and which composition was a last-minute addition.
Doni Gross, producer of the new Shalsheles release We’re Coming Home, says that the song “Yiboneh” was born at the eleventh hour. “We were getting close to the end of the production process but we still needed another song. Yitzchok Rosenthal sat down at his piano and wrote this song within a few minutes. He sent me the piano version and a few hours later, I had the basic arrangements ready. By the time Simcha Sussman woke up in Eretz Yisrael [he made aliyah in 2009 and they collaborate overseas], we were ready for him to go into the studio.”
“Yiboneh” has a fresh, upbeat feel, with classic Shalsheles harmonies and a fast beat. Doni says that he’s been getting requests for the soundtrack for school productions. Shloimy Gertner “I wanted it perfected, not published”
When Shloimy Gertner was working on his first album, there was one song he was determined not to include: “Shabbos Hamalkah.” The composition, which was written in honor of his own little special needs daughter, was so close to his heart that he wanted to keep it there — a personal song for his family. “I wanted to perfect the song, but not publish it,” he says. “It was too special to me.”
But friends and musical collaborators who were cheering Shloimy on in his first major project encouraged him to share this gem, and it was Yossi Green who finally persuaded him to let others enjoy his “Malka’leh.” The song, titled “Kodesh Hi Lachem (Shabbos Hamalkah)” was recorded on his debut album, Nissim, and tugged at the heartstrings of hundreds of thousands of listeners.
“After all my reluctance and hesitation, it was that song that had the most amazing impact,” Shloimy says now. “But it was a neis that it got onto the album in the first place — for that alone, the project deserved the title Nissim.