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Endnote: Come Join My Seudah!

Riki Goldstein

If you could invite a singer or musician to your Purim seudah, who would you choose? Which song would you ask him to sing?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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I t’s a room full of spirit and spirits. It’s your family and friends, maybe your students or neighbors, gathered around the table for a Purim feast. The wine is flowing, the rhythm is pulsing, and— hey! Who’s that singer at the head of the table?

If you could invite a singer or musician to your Purim seudah, who would you choose? Which song would you ask him to sing? And why would that enhance the energy of your Purim?

Mishpacha readers share their picks

I would invite Yossele Rosenblatt 

I would ask him to sing “Aheim Aheim”

My ideal Purim seudah guest would be the king of chazzanim, Cantor Yosef Rosenblatt, whose golden voice was matched only by his golden soul. He stayed Torah-true in a generation when compromise was rampant. When he was asked to sing for the Chicago Opera and was offered the tremendous sum (in those days) of $1,000, his response was the same as his namesake, the Biblical Yosef — he heard a voice that said, “Yossele — don’t do it.”

I would ask him to sing the song “Aheim, Aheim,” which he sang in 1933, his plea to his Jewish brothers, asking them to come home to Eretz Yisrael and not remain in a foreign country. This song relates directly to Purim, when the Jews of Persia were also under foreign domination, far from Home.

Rivka Epstein

Yad Binyamin, Israel 

I would invite Yehuda Green

I would ask him to sing “The Candle Still Burns”

As the music pulses and the singing has mellowed into a drunken cacophony of soulful voices slightly off tune, passion has somehow been ignited. The layers have been peeled off, and the room is full of yearning. The pitch may not be perfect, yet the atmosphere is poignant. At that moment, Yehuda Green slips in, guitar slung over his shoulder. The strumming starts soft at first, then louder as the room vibrates in unison, brothers swaying together. “As long as the candle is burning… it’s never too late, we all make mistakes, it’s never too far wherever you are, it’s never too late…”

Purim is a time when the barriers between us fall away and the differences are blurred. In his Purim costume, every Jew reveals his soul. Yehuda Green signifies yearning, bringing out the inner spark of a Jew. Perfect for the climactic point of a Purim well spent.


New Jersey 


The guest knows best

“Purim really is that powerful eis ratzon, when you can reach out and open all the gates with songs of holiness and simchah. You picked a very beautiful song — Rav Yisrael Salanter’s lesson from the shoemaker. My own top choice for the Purim seudah is the Purim song ‘Teshuasam Hayisah Lanetzach’ from my CD Barcheini. Such a poignant song is in place the whole year, but what better time for it than Purim?”

—Yehuda Green 

I would invite Mordechai Ben David

I would ask him to sing “P’sach Lanu Shaar”

I would ask MBD to join us and give a rendition of “P’sach Lanu Shaar, B’eis Ne’ilas Shaar” (from his new album Tzeakah) because the real avodah of drinking, singing, dancing, tripping over yourself, and merrymaking is to use all that simchah to “tu oif.” In our out-of-focused state, we actually focus on the main point of the day and reach new heights. And who has the hartz to do that more than Mordche? Imagine the garbled but holy words of “P’sach Lanu Shaar” gracing our Purim seudah. That, together with a few rounds of gefilte kraut, is Purim at its finest.

Tzvi Hamel

Music-Liker Extraordinaire 

I would invite Mordechai Ben David

I would ask him to sing “Mitzvah 
Gedolah Liheyos B'simchah” 

The levayah of my grandmother Adela Haber a”h took place on Purim, and it was no coincidence. She was a widow for 60 years, raising and marrying off two young children on her own. Eventually, she lost both children to cancer. She lost everyone in her life and was poor as well. Yet she was the happiest person I knew, and it was her deep emunah that brought her to this level of simchah. If I could have a singer at my Purim seudah — my grandmother’s yahrtzeit — it would be MBD, singing “Mitzvah Gedolah.” And if we could squeeze in his classic “Shema Yisrael” as well (most people don’t even know he was the one who originally sang it back in the 1970s), it would be great, because those two songs represent who my grandmother was.

Susan Hirschey,

Passaic, New Jersey 

I would invite Nissim Black 

I would ask him to sing “Fly Away”

By far the most difficult line to walk is between this intense wild happiness and spirituality that should rush through your blood and enter your heart and soul. He sings of wanting to fly away, away from society, away from the physical conflict of this world that pulls him down, “I wanna fly, fly away… where nobody can bring me down… I need freedom from me to be all I can be.” He knows that if he doesn’t run away he’ll be intoxicated with society’s poison, not only lured but stuck at their sinful partying. So he wants to fly away. And that’s exactly what we do on Purim, that very wine we drank at Achashveirosh’s party, we drink to reverse it. This time we fly away with our soul in an inebriated state — our essence pouring out without discretion, and at the same time rediscovering what we had inside all this time — as Nissim sings at the end, “The place I was looking to be was here inside of me!”

M. Lazar

I would invite Yoeli Klein

I would ask him to sing The Peshis’cha Niggun

When my teenage brother swept in to join the family Purim seudah last year, he nearly did an about-face. He’d been out collecting, with nearly every house blasting the newly released “Peshis’cha Niggun,” and arrived home to hear our tipsy brother-in-law demanding only that. The dancing of our menfolk to that song was a scene of achingly real connection, a mix of exuberance and yearning that made our eyes tear. Shaya Gross’s refrain, “laiz inz oiss, laiz inz oiss, Tatte, laiz inz oiss” (Tatte, free us from galus), and the song’s uplifting dveykus has haunted me ever since. I’d love nothing more than to have Yoeli Klein himself perform this masterpiece for us on Purim (with “Ve’afilu Behastara” cutting a close second).

Chana Gluck


The guest knows best

“People who understand know that Purim is not about a DJ and wild drunkenness. It’s a time to get free and speak to Hashem about anything. Some people speak to Hashem through tears, and some people connect when they are b’simchah. On Purim we actually do both — many people cry when they’re drunk. Reb Bunim of Peschis’cha wrote a famous maamar where he speaks to Hashem and says, ‘Tatte, take us out of here and redeem us now, while we are still Yidden [in other words, don’t wait until we are completely lost].’ Really, these words should be a tearful niggun, but Shaya Gross and Hershy Weinberger, who wrote the song, made it fast and upbeat, for those who want to dance and achieve their plea through simchah — a very fitting approach on Purim!”

—Yoeli Klein

I would invite Eitan Katz

I would ask him to sing “Lemaancha”

With Eitan Katz, I would have the pleasure of having both a singer and musician in one. Reb Eitan has this unique ability to capture and express the heart and soul of today’s generation. His music reflects all of our yearnings and joy. I’d ask him to start with his slow “Lemaancha,” and as the inspiration turns to joy he would guide us from niggun to niggun, higher and higher, dancing and singing to bring out those thoughts and feelings — and inspiring my seudah in his special way. We’d have a full house too — because when my brothers and brothers-in-law find out who I’m having, they’ll all come running to join.

Dov Elefant

Staten Island

The guest knows best

“Wow! Your seudah sounds like a place I’d like to be. What I try to do with music is to focus my kochos in the right direction. If the niggunim are done right, especially the fast ones and especially on Purim, where we have the potential to connect to an extremely deep place in our neshamah, it doesn’t have to be only slow, moving niggunim. The dancing too can totally be felt in the nefesh. Wishing you and our entire mishpachah of Klal Yisrael a gut Purim!”

—Eitan Katz

I would invite Motty Steinmetz

I would ask him to sing “Ahalela”

“Ahalela” is such a pumping song. I’m a drummer myself and it’s one of my all-time favorites — totally encapsulates the moving and exciting ruach of Purim. It’s not known as Motty Steinmetz’s song — it was written by Reb Yaakov Yosef Buksbaum of Skver and Areleh Samet made it popular — but if I could have him sing it at my Purim seudah, I’d be in high heaven.

Yoel Schneierson

Passaic, NJ

I would invite Hershy Rottenberg

I would ask him to sing “Tniyele”

I would love to have the new Belgian composer Hershy Rottenberg at our Purim seudah. I’d ask him to sing “Tniyeleh,” “Tov Li,” and some of his other heartfelt compositions. I love his originality and unique style!

S. Blum,

Boro Park

The guest knows best

"Thank you for the invitation! I’ll be spending the Purim seudah with my family. At this stage, our family seudah tends to be accompanied by the songs my children know and like to sing — energetic, leibedig niggunim. We especially enjoy the Yiddish songs from the L’Chaim Kindergarten and Mame Loshon albums."

—Hershy Rottenberg

I would invite Rebbe Alter

I would ask him to sing “Layehudim Haysah Orah”

From my earliest childhood memories, his exuberant voice heralded in this holiday. It woke us up on Purim morning, welcomed us home from hearing Megillah, greeted every shalach manos delivery, and was the background music during the seudah. As we grew older, Rebbe Alter’s classic songs remained intertwined with the very essence of the day — from the classic “Chayav Inish Levesumei” to the magnetic “Mishe mishe mishe mishe mishe mishe mishe mishe mishenichnas Adar.”

Although the passing years have brought new singers with new melodies, somehow Purim is not quite the same without Rebbe Alter’s Purim medley. If I could have Rebbe Alter himself at my Purim seudah, I would ask him to sing the upbeat “Layehudim haysah ORAH” with his special inflection so that all the guests, young and old, could reach into the child within them and connect with the simchah that Rebbe Alter’s timeless songs bring.

Galiah Lotwin

Queens, NY

I would invite Motty Ilowitz

I would ask him to sing “Last Day”

Why so serious on Purim? Because Hashem gives us special inspiration on such an elevated day, and this song is one of the most inspirational yet leibedig ones I know. “The Last Day,” from Ilowitz’s album Machshavos, strikes a chord deep within, because it is the truth — a call to “chap arein” the things that really count, as if today is the last day of your life. Wouldn’t you act different then? When I listen to it from time to time, it brings out new strengths, new kochos to go on and become who we need to be without getting lost. Kudos to a singer and composer who can bring this out in such a gorgeous way.




The guest knows best

"Thank you for the invitation. I’d suggest we sing some great Purim hits from MBD, Fried, and Yaakov Shwekey, too. Plus some Carlebach niggunim to get everyone singing along. And don’t forget 'A Ganz Yahr Freilich' and most importantly, 'Paraoh in Pajamas.' A happy Purim to all!"

—Rebbe Alter 


Veteran producer Dovid Nachman Golding hosts a walk down musical memory lane

There are a lot of “venahafoch hu”s in the music industry, and I’d like to share one of them with you — it’s the story of one of the most special musicians I’ve ever met.

In 1985, I was in Detroit for a concert and stayed at the home of my friend Reb Dovid Simcha. Over the weekend, he introduced me to his chavrusa, who had recently become religious. I asked him what he did for a living, and he replied that he was retired. I told him what I did for a living and he was intrigued. He told me that he doesn’t usually tell people about his past, but since I was in the industry, he revealed that he used to be a professional musician. I pushed him to tell me who he had played for, and he admitted that he was Frank Sinatra’s guitar player for 22 years. Now, that was intriguing. I was more than curious to know about his connection to one of the most popular and best-selling musical artists of the 20th century, but he brushed me off. “To be honest,” he said, “that whole part of my life is something I don’t want to talk about.”

When Sinatra retired, he decided to hang up his guitar as well — and then he began to learn Torah. Eventually he divulged that he played both electric and acoustic guitar, and that all together, he played over 20 different instruments. One question I couldn’t resist asking: “How did you get to work with Frank Sinatra for so many years?” He told me that once, Frank Sinatra’s regular guitar player had the flu and they needed a replacement. The bigger problem was that the luggage from the previous concert had gotten sent somewhere else accidentally, and they wouldn’t have the music notes in time for the concert. He asked Sinatra’s musical director if there would be a rehearsal and they said yes. He said that that was all he needed — he’d learn it all by heart at the rehearsal. After the show, Mr. Sinatra himself approached him and told him, “You’re my new and only guitar player.”

That night, I gathered enough courage to ask him if he would give me the great honor of playing on one of my albums. I was in the middle of recording Avraham Fried’s Around the Year and told him I would love to feature him on it. He said he never plays anymore, but that he loved Avremel’s vocals and music, and since he knew that Avraham Fried was a kohein and so was he, he would do it, so long as he could record it in Detroit. I asked him, if we stayed a day longer in Detroit, could we record the next day? He agreed, and gave me the name of a local studio.

“So, should I book an hour? Two hours?” I asked him. He asked how long the song was. I told him the song was five minutes long. He replied, “Five minutes should be enough then…”

When we arrived at the studio, he plugged in, I handed him the music, and in one take, I witnessed the most amazing guitar solo I had ever heard. I asked him what name I should put on the album as credit for his performance. He told me that he doesn’t use his stage name anymore but that if it was okay with me, to write his name down as “Bunny Freedman.” “Is that your name?” I asked him. He said his grandfather was Elchanan Bunim Freedman, and that’s the name he wished to use.

Since then, Bunny has played on almost all my recordings. Mostly just a small part here and there, but he played some instruments I never even heard of. Recently I asked him if it would be okay to repeat his story. At first he declined, but then reconsidered. “Well, if it’s for the Purim magazine, I guess that would be okay.”

I asked him why, since he retired, he doesn’t let people know about his amazing talents. He said, “I’m not so proud of my past, although I do enjoy playing Jewish music.”

He said that he never plays in public, though, although one time he came close. It was at a wedding of one of the kollel families and the one-man keyboardist didn’t show up. He realized that it would be a tremendous mitzvah, and even though keyboards were not his number-one instrument, he would have to let them know he was able to play.

“So what happened?” I asked him.

“Just as I was about to begin playing, the keyboard player showed up for the gig.”

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 699. Ding will be joining Endnote every third week

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