לז”נ הרב נפתלי הערץ חיים בן ר’ בן ציון זצ״ל
I come before you today with sadness and a heavy heart, still trying to process a great loss. HaRav Hertzel Schechter, zt’l, the sweet singer of Klal Yisroel, was niftar early this morning, leaving all of us with a tremendous void. He was a pillar of emunah and bitachon, chessed and middos tovos, tefillah and tehilah, shiros, zemiros and sishbachos.
He taught us with his words, with his actions, and with his songs – always with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. His inability to give up demonstrated for us all, that the way to overcome any obstacle is to hold on tight to the Hand of Hashem and to never, ever let go. It is a lesson that we will now have to put into practice ourselves in order to recover from this most recent blow…
What gives me some solace is the fact that the lessons that he taught will never really diminish or be forgotten. Each time we listen to and sing his music, we refresh and renew the essence of the composer. His niggunim, all of them, the world famous ones and those lesser-known, enable us to properly acknowledge and attach ourselves to the Ribono Shel Olam – to live a more meaningful existence.
Now, please forgive me, but instead of writing more, I want to re-post what we wrote earlier this year on two of his most well-known tunes. Even though this is unconventional, I will use today’s post for the first one and the erev Shabbos post for the second. I think you will find that the benefits gained will far outweigh any disappointment one may have in seeing something for a second time, for those of you doing so.
Today’s song choice is Odcha from the 1971 record called Camp Kol-Ree-Nah Sings and was composed by our dearly missed Rav Hertzel Schechter, zt’l. Allow me to offer a bit of background:
To be a Jew, the primary prerequisite is having an attitude of gratitude. Recognizing the good and thanking Hashem for what we have is an integral part of our identity as Yidden. A “Yehudi” is named for his attribute of appreciation. Dovid Hamelech understood this and was given the supernatural ability to express this throughout his life, despite being met with hardships at every turn. Much like the author of its holy lyrics, this song, among the countless others composed in the same vein, defines who Rav Schechter was to his very core.
Following the tragic loss of an infant, the Schechters were overjoyed to discover that they were expecting…twins! The risks were great and the local doctors were skeptical. Not one to take chances, R’ Hertzel decided he’d better get a second opinion. He jumped on a plane and flew to speak to the best Doctor in the world. Where no appointments are necessary, no waiting rooms are to be found and where walk-ins are welcome – he poured his heart out at the Kosel Hamaaravi, to the Master Of The Universe, Hashem.
A few months later, an elated father, the recipient of two new gifts, was overwhelmed with immense appreciation to the One Above. Following his (Nusach Sefard) Shacharis, when he read Perek פ”ו (86), he came to the words that perfectly described his frame of mind. A tune took form and it was in these moments that “Odcha” was born.
While it is impossible to sum a person up – not in a thousand sentences, much less one or two – I will hesitantly attempt to offer my insignificant opinion. I believe that Rav Hertzel Schechter, zt’l personified this vital lesson. He taught us all through his songs that nothing is “owed,” but rather, everything is “עוד.” And, if everything is extra, then HOW CAN WE NOT CONSTANTLY EXPRESS OUR הודאה?
Within the harmony and purity of this beautiful song, beats the overflowing heart of a thankful man – a venerable giant in the middah of הכרת הטוב. And so while the pesukim of kapittal פ”ו certainly encapsulate the essence of Dovid Hamelech, it is no surprise that Rav Schechter found within its verses, the means with which he would articulate his own.
Yehi Zichro Baruch.