Song has a profound role in Judaism. In Heaven, the very angels have no better medium to express their yearning for connection with God than the celestial music they produce. Down here on earth too, the Leviim in the Holy Temple would play incredibly lofty music to accompany the sacred service there. More recently, the great Chassidic masters would use soul-stirring melody to awaken the hearts of their followers. Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz of blessed memory, founder of Mesivta Torah V’daas and architect of Torah Judaism in America, would sing with his students for long hours with concentration and feeling.
There is a place deep in the human soul, beyond words, that is touched through music alone. A holy song can evoke and express certain feelings which no lecture or insight ever will.
Now, just as people, times, and circumstances differ, so too, the music which inspires us can take on different forms. However, the one thing all true Jewish music has in common is that it will always be a vehicle to lift us up, a window through which we glimpse greatness, and a taste of Heaven.
In modern times, utilizing the technological advances available, Jewish singers have added a distinctly contemporary flavor to the timeless beauty of Jewish music.
One very popular contemporary Jewish music group is the Yeshiva Boys Choir, or YBC. They have performed at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, Carnegie Hall, and more. In 2011, YBC appeared on FOX and CBS, when they signed with Universal.
YBC music videos are viral on YouTube, accumulating millions of views apiece, with thousands of approving comments. In fact, one commenter from Africa says they named their son “Yeshiva” after the choir!
The delightful “Tov” is a real charmer, clocking in with over two and a half million views so far, and hundreds of admiring comments, from all over the world.
But it is far from their highest viewer count.
The heartstring-plucking “Daddy Come Home”, with close to 11 million views (!) so far, has stirred powerful emotion around the globe, across all spectrums. It evokes comments from Jews, Christians,
Muslims and more, many of whom identify deeply with its message. It was also performed by various music groups the world over, including a non-Jewish choir in Poland, and made into parody YouTube videos.
“Those Were the nights of Chanuka” is another treat, masterfully weaving nostalgia, boyish charm, superb music with a delightful cadence, and a touch of refreshing humor.
But the prize goes to “Adir”, which by now has clocked over 17 million views!
There is even a “Corona” video, “Ess Ponecha”, featuring a performance while in lockdown. Check it out!
And last but not least, A Capella ‘Jewish Rock’ with Eli Gerstner “drumming” with his mouth (!): “Amein”.
YBC was founded in 2003, by Brooklynites Eli Gerstner and his partner Yossi Newman. Over the years, the choir has moved around, from Cleveland to Five Towns to Brooklyn. Their past and present members total around 500, with the first group now approximately in their thirties.
Eli shares that the most powerful YBC moments include not only grand performances before a packed audience in “The Garden” or Lincoln Center, but also, and perhaps even more so, the much lower-key performances at Sloan Kettering hospital, for sick children, and at nursing homes for elderly infirm and lonely people.
What is Jewish Song? | By Rabbi Pinchos Fried