Rabbi's weekly Blog

“Anim Zemirot”


Dear Friends,


There are 347 Niggunim (tunes) printed in the Chabad book of Niggunim. These are not merely songs ordered from lyricists and composers; they carry with them deep emotional and spiritual messages.

Some of them are Niggunim of joy; some of them speak of cleaving to Hashem. There are dance Niggunim and a Niggunim to be sung at a Hitva’adut. That is also the reason why the vast majority of the Niggunim are without words – just music. Because they speak of movements and feelings that words cannot express.

One of the most special of them all is “Anim Zemirot”, to the words of the Shir Hakavod (which some congregations sing every Shabbat, as part of the morning prayers). The power of this Niggun is in keeping with the meaning of the words: “For to you my soul yearns”, and “My soul wishes to rest in the shade of your hands”.

Like other Niggunim, this Niggun too has a wonderful story behind it. The Lubavitcher Rebbe himself taught this Niggun on Simchat Torah of 1961 (5722). He told about Chassidim who came to Shul the day after Yom Kippur and found a Chassid still dressed in a white kittel, wrapped in his Tallit, walking around and around the stand of the cantor, his eyes closed. He was completely immersed in “cleaving and yearning”, and he was singing, from the depths of his heart, “My soul wishes to rest in the shade of your hands, to know all the secrets of all you enigmas”. 

He had not yet broken his fast, nor had he opened his eyes.


Three points come up to mind every time I think about this Niggun, points that touch the overall message of Tishrei, the month of the holidays:

  • The Chassid, dancing to the Niggun, immersed in the atmosphere of Yom Kippur;
  • Those people who came for the morning prayers, who had already continued on, and most probably had begun to build a Succah while he was dancing with Hashem in the Shul;
  • And the Rebbe, who taught the Niggun on Simchat Torah, the holiday that completes and sums up this busy month.

For what one can accomplish on Rosh Hashana with the Shofar, and on Yom Kippur with the fasting and beseeching, one can accomplish on Succot with the Arba Minim (Four Species) and the Succah, and everything together can be acquired and experienced during the dancing on Simchat Torah, the holiday that sums up the entire month.


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

“A joyous and wide Good Yom Tov.”


Dear Friends,


My grandmother’s great-grandfather was named Zalman Szerbinner. He was a Chabad Chasid who lived in the town of Szerbin, which was close to the town of Lubavitch.

There was a Minyan in his town, but from the beginning of Selichot until after Yom Kippur, Reb Zalman could be found in neighboring Lubavitch. He would go to the Rebbe.

Once, on the morning before Yom Kippur, Reb Zalman came into the room of the Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn, the fifth Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty, and said “Gut Yom Tov” with great fervor, or, as his greeting is quoted in a book: “A joyous and wide Good Yom Tov.”

The Rebbe, who was then in a very serious mood, completely absorbed in the book he was learning from, responded:

“True, it is a holiday today, and a holiday is a time of happiness. But it is the day before Yom Kippur, and one should be awakening Teshuva (repentance) in oneself. Teshuva is expressing regret for the past and making resolutions for the future.”

In other words, the Rebbe was telling him that this was not the time for “a joyous and wide Good Yom Tov”, and that he should “cool it,” as one would say today.

Reb Zalman, who was a veteran Chassid, plucked up the courage to answer:

“Rebbe, we are soldiers. Hashem Yitbarach (may He be blessed) said that the morning before Yom Kippur is a holiday, and he commanded us to be happy. In the afternoon we will have to Daven (pray) Mincha, and say ‘Al Chet’, and repent.” Then, he concluded his statement by saying, “Rebbe, give me some Lekach” – the custom was to ask for a piece of honey cake on the day before Yom Kippur.

The Rebbe was very pleased with Reb Zalman’s answer. He gave him a piece of cake and said, “I am giving you a piece of cake, and Hashem Yitbarach should give you a sweet year.”

“There is a time for everything,” said Kohelet. There is a time to be serious, and maybe even to feel bitter and pained, as one takes account of one’s life and repents during Aseret Yemei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur), and there are times when the bitterness and the seriousness move aside, leaving room for joy and a trusting feeling that we will be written for a good, long life. There is also a time for heart-to-heart wishes, and I wish everyone a “joyous and wide” wish, from the depths of my heart: Gmar Chatima Tova, and a good, sweet year!



Zalmen Wishedski

far or close?


Dear Friends,


The Prime Minister of the State of Israel once sat in the Oval Room in the White House, in a meeting with the President of the United States of America.

On the table, he saw an ancient-looking red telephone and asked, “What is this telephone?”

The President answered: “With this telephone, I can make a direct phone-call to G-d. If you want, I can let you use it, but take into account that it’s an international phone call; every minute costs $100,000, so please keep it short.”

After a while, the President returned the visit and came to Jerusalem, and he sees in the Prime Minister’s office a telephone very similar to the one he had on his desk in the Oval Room.

To his question about it, the Prime Minister answered: “Yes, I have such a telephone too, but here calling is cheaper, because from here in Jerusalem it’s a local call.”


Many Jews came every year to the Rebbe to ask for a blessing or advice, especially as the High Holy Days were approaching. People of all types and backgrounds would go by the Rebbe, even for a few seconds, to receive a blessing for the New Year.

I read once about one Jew who brought a relative who had come from very far away, and said to the Rebbe: “Rebbe, this Jew came here from very far away especially to receive the Rebbe’s Beracha (blessing).”

The Rebbe looked at him, smiling lovingly and then uttered a sentence that is the foundation of the Rebbe’s work and of the activities of the Chabad Movement from Alaska to Katmandu, every day, every hour: “A Jew is never coming from afar; a Jew is always close.”

If anywhere and all year round a Jew is always close and not far away, so certainly this is so on Rosh Hashana, and especially when he or she is in Shul. When we come to pray, we must come with the knowledge that we are not far away. The soul that is within us always retains its holiness; it’s always close. If only we take away the walls and the peels that we have encased it in, we will discover this pure truth – that we are indeed close, very close.

And if we have a fleeting thought that this is not so, we must remember that the Lubavitcher Rebbe thinks otherwise. He sees how close we all are, because “A Jew is never coming from afar; a Jew is always close.”


Ktiva Vechatima Tova, for a good, sweet year,


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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