By: Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim
Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim and Richard D. Ruttenberg announce the just released Shemoneh Esrei Project. Nineteen original compositions by Richard D. Ruttenberg and mastered by Joe Berger of JoeZilla Studios. Available at:
Based on the original concept and descriptions of Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim, Richard D. Ruttenberg has masterfully looked into the heart of each of the benedictions of the Shemoneh Esrei, and composed a unique piece of music that brings out the depth, emotion and passion of each benediction.
The album is not intended to accompany the prayers when they are actually being recited during the prayer service, it is intended to be used to enhance the study of the benedictions to gain a deeper understanding of the benedictions.
From the Introduction on the album:
Imagine, you and your people have been conquered, your homes in ruins and your Holy Temple looted and destroyed. The survivors have been taken as captives to a strange land. All because the people turned their backs on G-d.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”
Why did we weep? Was it for our homes, our property, our shops and fields? No, these we missed. Was it for our family and friends who we would never see again? No, for they are with us in exile. Was it for the dead? No, for these we mourn.
We wept because we closed our ears to the warnings, and now they were open. We wept because we closed our eyes to the abominations, and now we see. We wept because HaShem sent to us His prophet with warnings, and we were foolish and brazen, and therefore, we inherited Gehenna of our own free will. We wept because strange gods now surrounded us and we long for the G-d of Yisrael and the Beit HaMikdash.
“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
Now, only now, do we see the great error of our arrogance. We were haughty and brazen and are now brought low. Until we repent, we cannot even form the words, for they have been removed from our hearts. Only now do we understand that, without HaShem all lands are foreign.
In time, our G-d remembered us in our desolation and sorrow. He heard our cries and saw our regret, and He accepted our teshuvah. He put a new king in Babylon and moved the king’s heart to allow us to return to our home and to rebuild our Holy Beit HaMikdash.
We learned our lessons the hard way, and we were once again G-d’s treasure. We were resolute in our commitment to adhere to G-d’s commandments.
We were now home, but our Holy Temple was in ruins. How could we perform the required sacrifices now?
Hoshaya the prophet, one of the “Men of the Great Assembly” said: “Return, O Israel, unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast stumbled in thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto Him: ‘Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.”
“… so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.”
And with that, the creation of the Shemoneh Esrei was warranted. We would substitute these prayers for the required sacrifices.
The Sages, Prophets and Priests that comprised the Men of the Great Assembly, crafted the 18, now 19, benedictions of the Shemoneh Esrei. Each letter, each word, each phrase was carefully constructed and imbued with mystical meaning to ensure we would be able to adhere to G-d’s laws even in times when we were without our Holy Temple.
One can study the history of the Shemoneh Esrei, one can study the prayers to gain an understanding of each benediction, but to truly understand the Shemoneh Esrei one must also understand the passion and emotion that leads to devekut, attachment to G-d.
But how does one understand passion and emotion?
Read the Kol Nidre prayer for Yom Kipper, then listen to Max Bruch’s rendition and notice how the music gives the written words more depth more passion, more emotion.
This is the aim of this project. To give the Shemoneh Esrei more depth, passion and emotion.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught us that if one were to recite the Shemoneh Esrei with the proper intention and gained that devekut, it would take almost an hour to complete, and when one was finished, they would be completely amazed that they survived the experience.
That is the mystical power of the Shemoneh Esrei!
The Rebbe also taught that, when one reads the Shemoneh Esrei, there should be a song in their heart while they recite the words.
The Shemoneh Esrei Project is intended to give the listener that depth, passion and emotion of the Shemoneh Esrei benedictions, and hopefully be that “song in the heart”.
Listen to the Shemoneh Esrei Project here: https://rdruttenberg.bandcamp.com/album/shemoneh-esrei-project