Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky: El Malei Rachamim

Yizkor/Remember


El Malei Rachamim/Kel Maleh Rachamim/אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים
Via
Youtube:


Cantor Moshe Koussevitzky was born in 1899 in Smorgonwhich was then in Russian Poland (and now is in Belarus, near the Lithuanian border). Here he sings the pyet (“prayer-hymn”), “El Malei Rachamim” (אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים; “God full of Mercy” or “Merciful God”) at a memorial service for Holocaust victims (date unknown), in keeping with Jewish custom and tradition of remembering the departed souls or “memoralizing the souls.”

This is a prayer said at funerals (including the walk to the grave), at Yahrzeits of relatives called up for an aliyah and at communal Yizkor memorial services in shul four times a year, including on Yom Kippur, which was yesterday on Shabbat. The other Yizkor services on the Jewish calendar are on Shmini Atzeret, the last day of Pesach and the last day of Shavuot.

Some say that this prayer dates to medieval times and the “Christian Crusades.” Mayle, this prayer is said with a purpose in mind (“Therefore, may the All-Merciful One shelter him with the cover of His wings forever, and bind his soul in the bond of life.”) To say that this is moving and emotional in an understatement; it stirs my soul like few prayers can, especially when done by a great hazzan (cantor) like Koussevitzky.

His beautiful tenor voice saved him a number of times, writes Neil W. Levin in the Milken Archive of Jewish Music:
During the Second World War—with the help of the Polish underground and the Partisans, according to some reports—Koussevitzky was able to save himself and his family from the Germans by retreating into Soviet Russia. While there, he adopted the name Mikhail Koussevitzky and, after the German retreat, sang operatic roles in such productions as Boris Godunov, Rigoletto, and Tosca at the Tiflis National Opera Company in Georgia. Returning to Poland after the war, he performed at a concert in the presence of the British and United States ambassadors, who interceded in order to obtain visas for him for both countries.
Koussevitzky chose the United States and New York City in 1947. He was the eldest of four brothers (Simcha, David, and Jacob), each who became well-known cantors, a rarity among families. Moshe Koussevitzky died in 1966 in New York City, and is buried in Jerusalem. His reputation as one of the greatest hazzanim (“cantors”) remains intact more than fifty years later; it is by him and handful of others to whom all cantors are compared and measured.

In the same article cited above, Levin writes: “At the time of his death, Koussevitzky was the hazzan of Temple Beth El of Borough Park, in Brooklyn—one of New York’s largest and most prestigious orthodox pulpits with a long tradition of hosting world-class hazzanim.”

***********************
The prayer, for men and women can be found below, along with the transliteration, as well as here. Immediately below are a few other cantors saying the El Malei Rachamim; each does justice to the words of the prayer.


Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt [1882-1933]
Via: Youtube

Cantor Shalom Katz [1915-1982]
Via: Youtube


IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col Shai Abramson
Via: Youtube

***********************
Kel Maleh Rachamim: Prayer for the Soul of the Departed (Courtesy of Chabad.org)

For a Man:

Hebrew and Transliteration:



Translation:
O G‑d, full of compassion, Who dwells on high, grant true rest upon the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence), in the exalted spheres of the holy and pure, who shine as the resplendence of the firmament, to the soul of

(mention his Hebrew name and that of his father)

who has gone to his [supernal] world, for charity has been donated in remembrance of his soul; may his place of rest be in Gan Eden. Therefore, may the All-Merciful One shelter him with the cover of His wings forever, and bind his soul in the bond of life. The Lord is his heritage; may he rest in his resting-place in peace; and let us say: Amen.

For a Woman:

Hebrew and Transliteration:



Translation:

O G‑d, full of compassion, Who dwells on high, grant true rest upon the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence), in the exalted spheres of the holy and pure, who shine as the resplendence of the firmament, to the soul of

(mention her Hebrew name and that of her father)

who has gone to her [supernal] world, for charity has been donated in remembrance of her soul; may her place of rest be in Gan Eden. Therefore, may the All-Merciful One shelter her with the cover of His wings forever, and bind her soul in the bond of life. The Lord is her heritage; may she rest in her resting-place in peace; and let us say: Amen.

1 comment:

Comment Policy:

All comments will be moderated; and bear in mind that anonymous, hostile, vulgar and off-topic comments will not be published. Thoughtful, reasonable and clear comments, bearing your real name, will be. All comments must be in English.