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The Day of Instant Transformation

“The task was to portray the frenzy of the weekday in contrast to the menuchah and kedushah of Shabbos”

IT was late last summer, just after YAAKOV SHWEKEY put the final touches on his Toast to Life—Lechayim album, that he called songwriter Yitzy Waldner all excited about creating a Shabbos themed song, inspired by the “Baruch Hashem It’s Shabbos” campaign dreamed up by the Baron Herzog and HeartWorks media teams that has become a veritable movement.

“Sometimes when things are common, we take them for granted,” Shwekey reflects on his attachment to the theme. “Yet Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that Shabbos is the greatest gift in the world. Today we are so reliant on technology and gadgetry, that if it weren’t for Shabbos we would never be able to have true tranquility and connection to who we really are. About 15 years ago, I went to a very great person in Eretz Yisrael and asked him for a brachah. He told me the greatest blessing you can get in your life is if you start Shabbos early even by a few minutes.”

Fellow composer Hershy Weinberger had already been enlisted and had the germ of an idea playing around with the words “Baruch Hashem it’s Shabbos” — and with such infectious enthusiasm, Waldner got on board.

Their teamwork paid off. This Erev Shabbos Nachamu marks the release of Shwekey’s new single, BARUCH HASHEM IT’S SHABBOS,” accompanied by a creative music video that showcases some superb video techniques and innovations.

The theme of the song is the moment when the world stops and lets us off: sundown on Friday, when every Jew can step off the hamster wheel of the daily grind and head into another realm. Shabbos not only takes us there, but actually transforms who we are, so that blue-collar, white-collar, oily hands or floury apron or busy key-tapping fingers suddenly become suit-or-beketshe clad, shtreimel-or-hat crowned nobility. Our minds, occupied on weekdays with the minutiae of numbers and logistics and measurements, become meditative and mellowed, absorbed in prayer, Torah, and uplifting song.

When the co-composers originally sat down for a session in Yitzy’s Lakewood studio, it didn’t take long to come up with a catchy song. But Hershy wanted more than a contemporary English language slogan. He also wanted to include the words of Kiddush — “Yom hashishi, vayechulu hashamayim...” — as the climax, the crux of the Shabbos story. The synthesis between the two themes that resulted is innovative and fresh.

In the words of gifted lyricist Miriam Israeli, Shwekey sings, “The daily grind is over and we can find the peace of mind, the light inside that makes us whole... we let out a sigh and look up to the sky as the sun sets on all our cares.”

Representing Shabbos peace musically is obviously one challenge, and there’s so much Shabbos music out there, that being innovative was another hurdle. The song starts in English with lots of energy, but after the first two stanzas, the rhythm — created by drums, guitars, and base — just stops. Left with only piano and synthesiser, the peaceful interlude of Shabbos, represented by “Yom Hashishi,” follows.

“We knew this song would be right up Naftali Schnitzler’s alley, so we turned to him for arrangements,” Waldner says. The musical brains behind House of Music productions did not disappoint. Schnitzler’s idea was to interpose the first stanza of the iconic melody for Shalom Aleichem into the track, to represent the universally recognized flavor of Shabbos.

Music consumers familiar with Miriam Israeli’s work know she has written several Shabbos songs. That’s no coincidence, as she says that the two themes that are easiest for her to open up to emotionally and creatively are Shabbos and Eretz Yisrael.

“The task was to portray the frenzy of the weekday in contrast to the menuchah and kedushah of Shabbos,” Miriam explains. “The melody wasn’t such an easy one to work with — it took me time to connect and make sense of it. But in the end, I loved the writing. The part I enjoyed the most was describing Shabbos. Obviously I had to feel inside what Shabbos does for us, and connect to that and give it expression, which was very special.” And indeed, she successfully captures the contrasting moods of Shabbos peace and weekday frenzy with the contrasting ideas of “peace of mind, the light inside that makes us whole,” versus “wheeling dealing,” and “daily grind.”

HeartWorks advertising agency, working with Olam media in Israel, orchestrated a team of 25 artists, scriptwriters, and videographers to capture that “moment of transformation” in motion on the music video. The mechanic holding a tangle of wires switches mid-scene to holding a bunch of flowers, as his entire dress and demeanor changes to a “Shabbos persona.” The salesman, entrepreneur, and contractor likewise transform dramatically — and can’t we all relate to that sigh of relief as the world stops for Shabbos?


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 923)

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