Just Out: Rising to Painful Challenges   

“Having a song go viral is like winning the lottery,” BERI WEBER says, “but I’m not talking about money. What it means to me is that I’ve reached people’s hearts. We all go through different emotional experiences, which often remain private, and music can reflect those emotional experiences and create a musical encounter or even a spiritual encounter that can give comfort. Sometimes, people reach out and tell me that they felt I was there for them at a difficult time, which is a great privilege and stroke of Hashgachah.”

Beri has had many hits over the years, and he’s hoping his latest effort, a 12-track album called KORBAN, will connect in the same way.

The title track, “Korban,” was composed by Hershy Weinberger some years ago. Beri knew about the song, but somehow it didn’t touch him, and he passed it by. Weber is also the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Kochvei Ohr, a place for bochurim who don’t fit into the regular yeshivah system. One day, a bochur came to discuss a very painful and negative experience he had gone through.

“The amount of struggle in some people’s lives broke my heart,” Beri says, “but there was so little I could do for him and what he had to cope with. That evening, I was with Hershy, and when I told him what was going on, he played me this song again. It actually brought me to tears. It suddenly seemed to represent all that Yidden go through, the misfortune and tragedy, and yet how much they try to do for Hashem. When my friend Reb Shragee Gestetner lost his life in Meron, the ultimate korban, we decided to dedicate the song to him.”

Keen eyed fans will notice that this is the first time Beri is singing a song by Yossi Green, although he’d gone to the composer for songs from the time he was a young singer working on his debut album 15 years ago.

“There was a song I deliberated over — I really liked it, but I felt I wasn’t ready for it at that stage of my career. I actually took it, but then gave it back to Yossi to give to another singer, and we arranged that he would give me another song the next time for free, in exchange.”

Beri sought songs from Yossi Green for his second and third album too, but somehow, when they sat down together, nothing worked for him. Just recently, Yossi was playing some songs for Zemiros choir leader Yoely Polatsek, and showed him a haunting song called “Eifo Kulam.” The refrain “Where are they, my father, my mother, sister, grandparents...” is the chilling cry of a Holocaust survivor wandering through his village. Polatsek suggested that Beri could do justice to the song, and the shidduch between Yossi and Beri finally took shape.

“And the original song that I liked but wasn’t ready for?” Beri continues, “That was ‘Happy Birthday,’ which Shloime Gertner took. I guess I closed a circle with that too, because this album has another ‘happy birthday’ song — “A Bisel”— “heint is dien geburnstog…” written by Lipa.

The song “Retzon Boreini” came to Beri while he was preparing to put on tefillin one morning. “The words of the ‘Lesheim Yichud’ we say when putting on tefillin tell of how we are doing this ‘lekayem mitzvas Bor’ee — to fulfil the command of my Creator.’ I loved the warmth and the personal connection. Although Hashem’s role as Creator is so far beyond my limited grasp, still, He knows me personally, intimately, because He created me as an individual and it means I’m desired.” Beri added his own lyrics to the theme.

But so far, he’s gotten the most feedback from the album’s final track, “Od Yosef Chai.” Written and composed by Yiddish songwriter Motti Ilowitz, the ballad offers perspective on Yosef Hatzaddik’s travails and challenges, from orphanhood to imprisonment, and on Yaakov Avinu’s powerful faith in him.

The story of Yosef and its many lessons was a hidden gem that Beri wanted to uncover. When he contacted Motti Ilowitz, the composer was equally enthusiastic. He too, had wanted to shine a spotlight on the formidable inner strength of Yosef and the power of his father’s belief in him.

“I have a yeshivah for boys like Yosef,” he says. “Of course, every parent wants their child to be a tzaddik like Yosef, but nobody wants their child to go through what he did. Every challenge, every hardship, that you would want to protect your child from, happened to Yosef. These bochurim too often contend with very difficult situations.”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 919)