Avi Weiss

Song in memory of the Pittsburgh 11 on the one-year anniversary

'We are with you in your distress; A little bit of light pushes away an abundance of darkness'

This melody (niggun) is composed in memory of the 11 women and men murdered in the massacre at the Tree of Life (Etz Hayim) Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The grim one-year anniversary fell this past Sunday, October 27.

The words reflect the outpouring of love that followed this horror. People of all backgrounds streamed to the site to offer sympathy, reflecting the sentiment of the Psalmist, We are with you in your distress — Imo anochi be’tzara. As dark a time as it was, the overflowing light of the millions who came forward to share in the grief echoed the Hassidic teaching, A little bit a light pushes away an abundance of darkness — k’tzat min ha’or doheh harbeh min ha-hoshech.

The names of the slain are called out amidst the collage of ancient holy words, in an ultimate tribute. And who can ever forget the headline of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in large Hebrew letters: Yitgadel Ve’yitkadesh Shmeih Rabbah –- the text of the Kaddish, the memorial prayer for the dead.

And then, a final cry. Ad matai, Ad matai –When will it end? In Pittsburgh, San Diego, Kenya, New Zealand…

In tribute to Congregation Tree of Life, the words shift midway to the prayer Etz Hayim Hi (It Is a Tree of Life), sung when returning the Torah to the Ark.

Coming from the heart, the niggun is melancholy yet hopeful–the hope that soon, soon, the light will push away the darkness.

As people came together to share in the sorrow, so this niggun is meant to be shared, to be passed around and to be spread–the teaching, the memory, the healing.

Chaim Fruchter: vocals, guitar
Yoshie Fruchter: guitars, bass, banjo, mandolin, percussion
Jeremy Brown: violin
Avi Bloom: visual montage
The melody was composed and paired to words by Avi Weiss

About the Author
Avi Weiss is the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Bronx, N.Y., and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat rabbinical schools. He is a co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship and longtime Jewish activist for Israel and human rights.
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