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It has been said that the quickest way to God's innermost ear is through niggunim - Jewish tunes chanted or sung as prayers. Thousands of niggunim have been composed over the centuries, and they remain an active part of Jewish life today. Sung in the synagogue, around the Shabbos table, at farbrengenchasidic get-togethers - at work, in solitude, to express joy or sorrow, niggunim allow Jews to find that which is hidden deep within their souls, to connect with God and their own spiritually without the use of words. In Niggun: Stories behind the Chasidic Songs that Inspire Jews, Mordechai Staiman relates thirty-eight tales in which niggunim affect the lives of Jews. The stories range from those about great chasidic rebbes of the past, such as "The Purpose of Life", in which the Baal Shem Tov binds a Jew to the world of music to help him find his way; through those from recent history, such as "David without the Slingshot" and "Embers midst the Ruins", where niggunim helped to save people from certain death at the hands of the Nazis, and "Jerusalem on Her Mind", about Soviet-Jewish emigres; to contemporary situations, as in "Jail House Rock", in which the singing of a niggun helps to bring holiday magic to Jewish prisoners on Riker's Island in New York City, and "Leonard Bernstein Unbound", in which the great conductor is so moved by a tune that he is prompted to wrap tefillin for the first time. This wonderfully moving collection contains stories of faith, of miracles and transformations, and of daily life, all connected through the beauty of niggunim. According to the author, the stories, or "prayers", as he calls them, contained in Niggun will teach us about our deep, rich, Jewishheritage, helping us to reclaim our inheritance and share in the Jewish legacy.
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