Me’eyn Olam Haboh (Schechter)

November 20, 2020

לז”נ הרב נפתלי הערץ חיים בן ר’ בן ציון זצ״ל

Ah gutten Erev Shabbos everyone! This will be the second of the two compositions that we will re-feature here in memory of the Talmid Chacham, veteran mechanech, and master composer, HaRav Hertzel Schechter, zt’l, upon the sad news of his recent passing. If you missed the first tribute from Tuesday, please let me know and I’ll send it to you. Today’s choice is, of course, his otherworldly Friday night niggun, Me’eyn Olam Haboh.

It was originally recorded on the 1972 classic Pirchei SingsAl Chomosayich Yerushalayim – the fourth in the famous “Pirchei Sings” collection from back in the 60’s and 70’s. The words come from the end of the Shabbos zemer “Ma Yedidus” which was composed by Menachem ben Makhir of Ratisbon (Regensburg, Germany) in the 11th century. The entire piyut is filled with the praises of Shabbos while describing the Divine benefits for those who delight in its splendor.

This particular tune was also recorded for R’ Schechter’s 1985 record called “Achdus,” which, if you recall, we highlighted here back in April. The Pirchei version features solos by a budding young Avraham Friedman – a.k.a. Avraham Fried – as well as Meyer Sherman and Mair Kaufman (father of Miami Boys Choir alumnus and present-day singer, Zevi Kaufman). Coming full circle, the song would meet up with Fried again in 1996 when he would be chosen to sing Ma Yedidus as part of Suki & Ding’s phenomenal first volume of their “Zemiros: All Star Cast” series. Both are worth the listen and I will happily send either version upon request.

As do all of R’ Schechter’s compositions, the melody accompanies its lyrics’ lofty message with perfect unity. While it was initially composed to the words of “Chasal Sidur Pesach,” those close to Schechter felt that this tune was just too good to be heard only once a year. At that point, he expertly applied this now famous song to its current lyrics, and it has been sung this way all over the world ever since. It is, therefore, worth noting the profound significance of these particular stanzas as they relate to R’ Hertzel’s life as a whole.

As someone who genuinely derived pleasure from every aspect of Yiddishkeit, when Shabbos arrived, “Zaidy Schechter” – as he was known around these parts – would transform his humble home into an atmosphere that was undeniably “Me’eyn Olam Haboh.” The warmth, the kedushah, the stories, the niggunim – it was impossible not to walk away from the whole experience a more proud and elevated Jew.

It should also not be lost on us, especially as we sing these words whilst in the throes of the חבלי משיח, that the composer of this special tune was a man who never stopped waiting for, anticipating… EXPECTING Moshiach to walk in through the door at any moment of his life. A man who, when faced with trials, tribulations and tragedy, chose to sing; not sigh. To praise, not complain. To turn his afflictions into his triumphs, to transform his נֶגַע into his עֹנֶג.

He was a Tzaddik who knew that those who sincerely savor the Shabbos are guaranteed to be spared from the birth pangs of Moshiach, and are ensured an exalted place in the World to Come. Who better to lead us in a song containing such a powerful promise than R’ Hertzel Schechter, a’h?

So, when we sing this tonight and think about the words and their meaning, let us take a moment to think about the tune’s holy composer, who is no doubt singing along with us from his rightful seat at the head of his Heavenly Shabbos table.

הרב נפתלי הערץ חיים בן ר’ בן ציון זצ״ל – Yehi Zichro Baruch.

Wishing everyone a Shabbos that is truly Me’eyn Olam Haboh!

Lyrics:
מֵעֵין עוֹלָם הַבָּא יוֹם שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה
כָּל הַמִּתְעַנְּגִים בָּהּ יִזְכּוּ לְרוֹב שִׂמְחָה
מֵחֶבְלֵי מָשִׁיחַ יֻצָּלוּ לִרְוָחָה
פְּדוּתֵנוּ תַצְמִיחַ וְנָס יָגוֹן וַאֲנָחָה

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