Bilvavi – 1971 (Ohr Chodosh)

August 14, 2020

For our next post, I thought we would take a quick trip down memory lane and pick a random record off the shelf to find our next highlight. What I grabbed immediately transported me back into a different world entirely. The record was from 1971 and was just one of the monumental records released in that year. There was Yigal Calek’s London School of Jewish Song and their incredible “Borchi Nafshi,” Neginah Orchestra’s “Ura/Awaken!” record, and the debut (and as far as I know the ONLY) “Rashi and the Rishonim” record, just to name a few. But there was one record that was in every household in the 70’s… and that was Ohr Chodosh – The New Light, Volume 1.

Organized by both Yossi Toiv (AKA Country Yossi) and R’ Shmuel Brazil, shlit”a, this legendary record was made with one purpose in mind – to spread the beauty of Jewish life through the ecstasy of נגינה. Both students of Sh’or Yashuv, R’ Brazil and Toiv knew they had something special and enlisted Josh Goldberg to arrange and produce their brainchild. The album was released and immediately became a smash hit. One song after the next, ranging from lively to contemplative, takes the listener through what it means to be a Jew; the expectations, the purpose, the responsibilities and the opportunities that we have to become closer to The One Above. I encourage everyone to listen to this classic record again – or for the first time – to reignite the spirit of all those striving to climb to new levels.

One of the most famous – if not THE most famous – songs from this record is Bilvavi. This powerful and haunting niggun, composed by R’ Shmuel Brazil, captured the hearts of a generation and continues to be heard throughout the world. It often accompanies brides and grooms to the chuppah and finds itself on the top of every legitimate kumzitz playlist, no matter the venue. The original recording is sung by the then 13 year old child prodigy Chayim Hillel Schertzer together with adult vocalist Nachum Deutsch, both of whom display deep, heartfelt emotion to convey the meaning which the song’s lyrics so eloquently express.

The words originate from a piyut in Sefer Chareidim (Perek 7, Shir Yedidos) which was written by R’ Elazar Azkari, the author of Yedid Nefesh. The poem was then taken and modified to become song-ready by R’ Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l and put to this R’ Brazil tune that we now all know and love.

In life, we are often faced with incredible challenges. We must decide how to act and how to react at an incredible pace. How to instruct our children or students, how to interact with our spouses, friends and co-workers – generally speaking, how to always do the right thing. But throughout the frenzy of our hectic schedules, there is one constant – a consistent compass that guides us to do what Hashem expects from us.

In the absence of a Mishkan, Hashem dwells inside our hearts, willing us to become our greatest selves, giving us the necessary strength, at just the right moments, to combat all those outside forces with which we do battle on a daily basis. From a young age, we busy ourselves in the building of our internal Mishkan – brick by brick, with every single experience, tragedy and triumph – so that Hashem will take permanent residence inside our hearts. Our hearts – our one true faithful guide. 

Lyrics:
בִּלְבָבִי מִשְׁכָּן אֶבְנֶה לַהֲדַר כְּבוֹדוֹ
וּלמִּשְׁכָּן מִזְבֵּֽחַ אָשִׂים לְקַרְנֵי הוֹדוֹ
וּלְנֵר תָּמִיד אֶקַּח לִי אֶת אֵשׁ הָעֲקֵידָה
וּלְקָרְבָּן אַקְרִיב לוֹ אֶת נַפְשִי
אֶת נַפְשִׁי הַיְחִידָה

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