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This soulful melody has a rich background involving a Chechen tribe leader named Shamil.



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Musical Notes

This melody has the following background:

A story is told of a man named Shamil, a leader of assorted tribes that lived in Russia’s Caucasian Mountains over a century ago. The Russian army attacked these tribes, intending to deprive them of their freedom. Unable to vanquish the valiant warriors in battle, the Russian army leaders proposed a false peace treaty, and thus succeeded in getting them to lay down their arms. Immediately afterwards, the Russians lured the Caucasian leader, Shamil, away from his stronghold and imprisoned him.

Staring out of the window of his small narrow cell, Shamil reflected on his days of liberty in the past, In his current exile and helplessness, he bewailed his plight and yearned for his previous position of freedom and fortune. He consoled himself, however, with the knowledge that he would eventually be released from his imprisonment and return to his previous position with even more power and glory. It is the above thought that he expressed in this melancholy, yearning melody.

The Moral: The soul descends to this world from the heavens above, clothed in the earthly body of a human being. The soul's physical vestments here are really its prison cell, for it constantly longs for spiritual, heavenly fulfillments. The soul strives to free itself from the "exile" of the human body and its earthly pleasures by directing its physical being into the illuminated and living paths of Torah and Mitzvot.

Composed or Taught By
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Cantor Moshe Teleshevsky
Music notes courtesy of Kehot Publication Society and Chabad Melodies by Eli Lipsker and Velvel Pasternak.
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Discussion (12)
September 3, 2015
The Rebbe was born near Nikolayev, which was the site of a number of vicious pogroms organized or tolerated by the Tsar.

Imam Shamil was an Aver Muslim Sufi, of the Naqshbandi order. The Caucasus was victimized by a series of vicious Tsarist progroms, enslavements, ethnic cleansing. Shamil was kept captive in Russia and died in exile, on the Hajj.

So the Rebbe's composition is a remarkable act of sympathy with a devout Muslim who was (also) victimized by Tsarist Christian violence, and who (also) died in exile.
James Holstun
May 1, 2013
Shamil was caucasian.
I don't know who felt a need to state that Shamil was not Georgian when we never believed he was Georgian.
The Rebbe said he was from the kavkazi mountains, without mentioning which tribe he was from, but Daghestan is a Caucasian tribe.
The song that we sing is based on something he sang.
IMHO his motivation may have been different or his people recorded one part of the memory through the years while we held on to parts they didn't want to remember. Either way, the story is only a way for us to reach to something higher.

I think it isn't like stories of the Ba'al Shem Tov where we believe every detail physically occurred when told to us by a Rebbe,
The main point is the way the Rebbe interpreted this song for the parable of the soul's yearning.
Although it sometimes brings back bittersweet moments when Muslims got on better with Jews there is no need to mourn the fact that our cultural memories may differ from the way the story actually occurred.
Hope it's kosher
July 18, 2011
reply: Shamil isn't a georgian
Its sad that we have made so many mistakes in preserving a story that belongs to you.

However this song is also a part of our history to some extent and no self-respecting chassid would deny the origin of the song (thoug how much of its history was told by the Rebbe [our religious leader, whose story must have been accurate] and how much was invented by his chassidim [followers, who may have been mistaken] is an important consideration that I'm unsure of).

Is it possible that he sang this song after victories, but when in prison remembered it with regret that he could no longer have these victories? If I recall our version of the story correctly, a chassid passed by his window and heard it (though I'm pretty sure that he didn't ask him his intentions).

I hope that we can resolve this contradiction between our two cultural stories about this great hero and use his story in our own ways to inspire us to greater service of G-D.
Aaron Kastel
Sydney, Australia
January 6, 2010
Shamil imam 1797 - 1871 Avar King and Commander
Shamil was an Avar leader , he commanded all Caucasian tribes in Cauasus Freedom wars , against Russian Tsar's army. He and his Avar soldiers were fight 35 years against to Russia. Hundreds of dance melodies , songs , lullabies... Avars wrote about Shamil. He is a "living legend" in Caucasian Avars' memory.
Aitbert Adallo Khunz
December 23, 2009
How sad that division between human beings (we are all humans before we are Khazaks or Americans or Jews or Muslims) cause someone to feel angry over paying homage to a person from history, regardless of ethnic identity.I believe if women were in charge, there would be no war, therefore, no need to be proud of a war song! That said, it's a beautiful niggun.
November 21, 2008
dear Avraham Yosef, Los Angeles, USA
i think you have obviously gotten the story of muslims vs jews the wrong way
i very much doubt you ever lived in a muslim country if you had you would not be so horribly ignorant as to blame the jews for the animosity between the two
i assure you of one thing though it IS muslims who have truley hatboured hatred towards the jews and NOT the other way around.
also jews never really lived peacefully in muslim country's.
please check history and you will find most racist stigmatisations where started by muslims ,such as the wearing the yellow star began in iraq ,being forced to salt decaopitaed heads ,sexual slavery of our women murdering boys when they reached the age of nine ..etc
london, eng
July 22, 2008
To Anonymous in Jerusalem
As a Jew, I think it is more often that media in Israel and the US tends to portray Muslims as evil terrorists and so on. I have lived in a Muslim country and I experienced less anti-Semitism than the amount of anti-Muslim sentiment I have seen in the West.

But you are right that we have much in common with the Muslims, and if Jews could get past their current hatred of Islam, then we could move forward. Our real enemies are not each other, and Jews and Muslims should unite, as we have done historically for hundreds of years!
Avraham Yosef
Los Angeles, USA
October 26, 2006
Shamil is not Gerogian
Please do not write your own imaginary version of well known history. Because it's part of my history, and I react when someboty changes it.
Ali Shamil was born in Ghimri (Dagistan) as a son of Avarian family. Altought Georgians and Avars have common linguistic relativity, Avars are not Georgians. Distinguished tribe like Chechens or Cherkes of same Caucasion region. Shamil was imam (Islamic leader) and sheik of Nakshibends and commander of Muslim Khazak armies. And this melody was not created by Shamil, this song is attached to his victories. This is a song of wars, loosing friends but at the and the victory, not sadness or for somebody who would sing in prison. Kazaks played and danced this and similar fast-pacing marches after sucessful attacks to Russian strongholds. My roots come from Shamil's family. Khazaks are not Georgians. And this is not a sadness song nor created by my grand uncle Ali Shamil.
July 31, 2006
why not? II
The confusion by which Sheikh Shamil, a famous Chechen and regional hero, is remembered (by one person at least) as being Georgian, is of course an unfortunate display of ignorance that doesn't help break down barriers either.
Jerusalem, Israel
July 31, 2006
why not?
It should not be so interesting that in the 19th century, one group of strict monotheists belonging to a mystical movement and belonging to a people oppressed by Tzarist Russia should find inspiration in the defiance displayed by a leader of another people oppressed by Tzarist Russia, who also happen to be strict monotheists belonging to a mystical movement. The resemblance goes beyond beards and big hats. Furthermore, the imagery of imprisonment of community leaders is one that Hassidic lore – particularly Chabad – is full of. If Muslims would get past their current hatred of Jewry, maybe they would see that for centuries both groups found much common ground and learned much from each other. But no, media in Muslim countries prefer to portray Jews as a second coming of the crusaders. Even in Dagestan? So be it.
Jerusalem, Israel
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