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Giving All I Have

Riki Goldstein

The song of unswerving faith

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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or Mit Emunah may be Yanky Daskal’s debut album, but the Vizhnitz singer’s warm and leibedig voice is familiar to chassidic music listeners from the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva albums and the L’chaim Tish series, as well as decades of rousing the dancers at weddings. Perhaps the music closest to Yanky Daskal’s heart is the melodies he sounds as one of the key singers and composers of the Vizhnitz court, where he sang in the children’s choir since the young age of eight. He’s also composer of the 1990’s hit “Hakol Yoducha,” and the moving “Vehi Noam” from Motti Steinmetz’s debut album, Hanefesh Bekirba.

There’s true chassidish flavor in his new release, a 14-track album with a selection of uplifting songs, including a “Gut Shabbos” song that echoes the Vizhnitz’s traditional emphasis on the beauty and sanctity of Shabbos. The compositions are all Daskal’s own, and several have Yiddish lyrics in addition to pesukim. 

“Many people questioned why I included 14 songs, instead of selecting 10 or 12,” he says, “but I would have stuffed in more if I could. Why not give over all I have?”

Musically, the singer/composer’s own top pick is Track 12, “Al Hakol,” a melodic prayer for the revelation of Hashem’s glory, featuring the words recited as the sefer Torah is brought to the bimah for leining. “This piece of music is a retrospective,” he explains. “In recent years, music has become more instant and electronic. A melody has to be simplified so it can take hold right away. But ‘Al Hakol’ is a throwback to the music of decades ago. It has a complex structure, including waltz and march sections, three-beat, four-beat, and even seven-beat sections. I hope people will take the time to learn it — because while it’s difficult, it’s absolutely worthwhile.”

The title track, “Nor Mit Emunah,” was composed in two parts — the first part one Thursday as Daskal made his way from Ashdod to Jerusalem to visit a patient in Hadassah Ein Kerem, and the second part after that visit, on the way to cheer up a patient in a different hospital. That Motzaei Shabbos, he tried out the completed song in the Brachfeld home of a Vizhnitzer avreich who was about to begin intensive chemotherapy.

This particular patient became very attached to the song. “A friend who was escorting him home from treatment at Tel Hashomer hospital told me that the song ‘Nor Mit Emunah’ literally revived him. He was carried into the ambulance after treatment, frail as a paper cutout, and slowly, slowly, singing the song gave him energy, until he was singing and swaying, almost dancing with faith.”

That Purim, the new song was sung in Vizhnitz, and the following Erev Rosh Hashanah, the avreich called Yanky Daskal. He had just been declared free of the dreaded disease, and wanted to thank the composer for what he described as “the wonder pill I took three times a day” — the song of unswerving faith.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 745)

 

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