The Rebbe Rashab wrote: "My revered father (the Rebbe Maharash) told me that my revered grandfather (the Tzemach Tzedek
) had handed on the reason that the Alter Rebbe had given as to why his Siddur
had not included the zemiros
for the meals of Shabbos.
The Alter Rebbe had assumed that in the course of the Shabbos
meals chassidim would sing wordless melodies, which are loftier than songs with words. On another occasion he gave a different reason: he had assumed that at the table chassidim would discuss Chassidus.
- (Back to text) From the Glosses of the Rebbe Rashab on Siddur Torah Or (N.Y., 5701), where he adds the following parenthetical comment: "I do not know whether he had in mind azameir bishvachin (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 147), asadeir (p. 202) and benei (p. 211), for these three zemiros do appear in his Siddur. One thing, however, is certain - that [the Rebbeim of previous generations] did not recite them. I was present during several Shabbos meals [at the table of the Tzemach Tzedek], and did not see him reciting the zemiros. On one of the occasions when we joined him at his table he told us to sing them, but this continued for only a few weeks."
In the Introduction to Pokeiach Ivrim (Kehot, N.Y., 5715), p. 7, the Rebbe Rashab records: "At the evening meal of that Shabbos, which was the Shabbos of Selichos in the year 5637 (1877), my father (the Rebbe Maharash) said that there were times at which our forebears, the Rebbeim, used to recite zemiros at the Shabbos table."
[At this point the Rebbe Maharash quoted a heartwarming Yiddish aphorism of the Alter Rebbe - a multiple play on words, and hence utterly untranslatable. Its message, at any rate, is as follows:]
"My greatgrandfather held that zemiros should be sung out of spontaneous inspiration. If singing of that kind springs forth unprompted, then it can be called singing; but if it is no more than singing by rote, then it is not singing at all."
On this the Rebbe Maharash commented: "This approach is of course only for tzaddikim of lofty stature. As for ourselves, we have to accept the yoke of our obligations as they fall due, in a spirit of self-subordination."
The Rebbe Rashab concludes his note: "And with that the Rebbe Maharash began to sing zemiros, in which those at the table joined him."