Judaism Your Way


A Passover Niggun

A Passover Niggun
By Dan Yolles

My name is Dan Yolles and I am one of the Be Mitzvah educators here at Judaism Your Way as well as a Rabbinical Student in the ALEPH Ordination Program.

As we are approaching Passover, one of Judaism’s major holidays that recounts the Israelite’s Exodus from Egypt or in Hebrew, Mitzrayim, which literally translates to “A Narrow Place,” where our tradition says that we were slaves under the rule of Phaoroh and underwent hardships, pain and suffering, only to be lead out, by Miriam, Moses, and the Divine to a place or state of freedom.

As we gather with family and friends and re-tell this story, we can take this time to reflect on what  freedom means to us today, both personally in our own lives and familial circles, as well as globally, taking account of where we are, as humankind.

We know that there are groups of people across the world who are not free, who do not have the liberty to think and feel and do as they please due to oppression, war, discrimination and hatred, and we may notice similar feelings in our own lives, of feeling bound to struggles we face, hardships we encounter and are challenged to cope with.

I would like to offer 2 musical selections with the intention to help us find that spark within to both feel a sense of freedom within ourselves, and to give us the strength and courage to speak up and take action when we notice other peoples are experiencing oppression and bondage.

The first is a niggun I wrote when I was working at the JCC Ranch Camp as their Music Director several years ago called Niggun Tzipur, or “Bird Melody.” When I think of freedom, I think of birds. They spread their wings, they take to the sky, ride the winds and jet streams, turn at any moment, ascend and descend as they please. They are free to rest when they are tired, where they want, sleep when they need, and migrate sometimes thousands of miles to feed, to nest, to thrive. I invite you to let this melody help you spread your wings, and even imagine yourself gliding above the earth, looking down, ascending, descending, turning, spinning, embracing a sense of limitlessness and an unbounded sense of freedom.

The next is an excerpt from Shirat HaYam, or the Song of the Sea which is one of the most dramatic moments of out Torah narrative when the Ancient israelites experienced such great miracles from the Divine, witnessed the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and made it safely to the other side, out of harm’s way. It was a song that they sang proclaiming to the Divine, who is like you to help us escape from a narrow place, and to bring us a sense of wholeness, of safety, of freedom!?

The excerpt I selected is Ozi V’Zimrat Yah – A melody by Rabbi Shefah Gold, that translates to My strength, balanced with the Song of the Divine, shall be my salvation. For me, music is a powerful tool to break the chains that hold me back, that bog me down, and keep me in states of pain. Music and the Divine words of the Torah combined bring a sense of magic, that elevates the spirit, that dissolves the chains, that connects us deeper to our purpose, our bodies and minds and inspires us to push forward and strive to be our best.

With that, I invite you to engage in the music however you feel, whether it is singing or humming along, closing your eyes and letting the music take you off your feet and send you to a place of meditation, or even dance or movement. Feel free to grab an instrument, or something you can use as such, and do what you can to feel the deepest sense of freedom that you can, and let that feeling linger into your daily life, allow your soul to elevate to its highest place.

Dan Yolles
Open Tent Be Mitzvah Educator and rabbinical student