Chassidism attributes profound importance to the power of music. “If words are the pen of the heart,” taught Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, “then song is the pen of the soul.”1

Chassidim also put considerable emphasis on teaching the most profound insights in Yiddish, the vernacular of Eastern European Jewry. Torah study could both elevate the language of everyday interactions and better communicate G‑dliness to the “animal soul,” enriching the mundane aspects of life.

They likewise borrowed from the non-Jewish languages around them. Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian peasants were a source for beloved songs, which they infused with new chassidic meaning.

This concept connects closely with the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching to find the Hand of G‑d—and a lesson for our personal lives and Divine service—in everything we see or hear. Surely, the words and songs around us can be mined for meaning and elevated through application.

With English one of the most common languages of world Jewry, a number of English-language songs—most of which were originally sung in Chabad summer camps—have entered the repertoire of Chabad nigunim. These songs, encouraged by the Rebbe and sung in his presence, bring the fire and fervor of Chassidism into the English language.

We Want Moshiach Now

Am Yisrael, have no fear,
Moshiach will be here this year!

We want Moshiach now, (3x)
We don’t want to wait!

This song was introduced at the Gan Israel network of camps in 1980. It’s based on a camp ditty that would launch Color War:

Gan Yisroel, have no fear,
There will be Color War this year.
One, two, three, four, we want Color War,
Five, six, seven, eight, we don’t want to wait.

The adaptation proved incredibly popular, extending far beyond camp itself. It was sung in 770 during the distribution of Kos shel Berachahwine following Havdalah—at the end of the High Holidays that year. A few days later, on October 8, 1980, at a children’s rally for Tzivos Hashem, it was adopted as the official anthem for the children’s movement. From that point on it was sung repeatedly at rallies, farbrengens, and other public gatherings the Rebbe led.

Wake Up Yidden

Wake up, Yidden,
From this dream of golus,
Get ready to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu!
Geulah is coming
Swiftly towards us,
Hinei zeh oimed achar kosleinu!
There will be no more wars,
No more the lions’ roars,
Umal’ah ha’aretz dey’ah.
In a Mikdash built of flames,
We’ll give thanks to His name,
And march to the geulah with the Rebbe shlita.

On the 20th of Av, the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, Jewish summer camps would come to Brooklyn to attend the Rebbe's farbrengen. Often the Rebbe would often ask the campers to sing a melody from camp. This song was frequently chosen.

The words were written in Camp Gan Israel Montreal, by Rabbi Itche Meir Kagan in 1964, and set to a marching tune popular among Polish Chassidim. Many of the lines depict prophecies concerning the coming of Moshiach.

Hear a wordless version:

We Want Moshiach Now II (Ve Vodye Mi Nye Patonim)

We want Moshiach now! With just a single verse set to the Russian chant Ve Vodye Mi Nye Patonim (“No water can drown us, no fire can burn us”), this song repeats the words “We want Moshiach now” with increasing urgency. Like the Russian original, this song communicates a fierce determination and spiritual tenacity.

The Rebbe explained that the English words convey a needed sense of urgency and desire that can be found only in that language:

The Baal Shem Tov said that one should learn a lesson from whatever he sees and hears. This especially applies to the words sung by children, whose words are holy and free of sin. In our case, we can learn from their song “We want Moshiach now.” In the English language, there are many phrases to choose from, such as “I wish” and “I desire.” “I want,” however, denotes something which “I lacked and needed,” not just a mere desire—and this is what they exclaim, “We want,” that Moshiach is something they lack!

From 770, We’re Marching Out!

From 770 we’re marching out,
On to victory without a doubt,
From corners four we’re marching happily,
Nation after nation we are conquering!
Shluchei Adoneinu to bring Moshiach Tzidkeinu,
Tomorrow there’ll be golus no more,
And we’ll win this golus war!

Like many of the other English-language Chabad nigunim, “From 770” originated as a camp song. First sung in the summer of 1972 in Camp Gan Israel Montreal, it became a popular tune at gatherings of Chabad emissaries (shluchim), often sung to accompany young emissaries as they leave 770 to open new Chabad centers. The tune is Der Toska, a wordless Russian melody that became a popular nigun at chassidic gatherings. It was sung at the Rebbe’s public gatherings on numerous occasions, including during the Hakafot on Simchat Torah in 770. It has also become popular at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, as it highlights the growth of Chabad around the world.

Ad mosai, do we have to wait?
We want moshiach now, we don’t want to wait.

Popularized in English in the 1980s, this tune was originally composed by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Traditionally, it was set to Omi Ani Chomah, a Hebrew/Yiddish song based on a stanza from the Hoshanot prayers for the third day of Sukkot.

Hear the song without words:

To Love a Fellow Jew

To love a fellow Jew
Just the same as you
Is the basis of our holy Torah.
He may be far from me,
Across the widest sea,
Still I’ll always love him just the same.
For 70-80 years,
A neshamah wears and tears,
Just to do a favor for another.
Love him with all your heart
The heavens spread apart
For every Jew is really our brother!

This song features a melody originally composed by Rabbi Michel Twerski of Milwaukee. His tune was adapted with different words, written by Miriam Nadoff, at Camp Gan Israel Montreal. The words reference an aphorism from Hayom Yom’s entry forIyar 5, which states:

The Alter Rebbe received the following teaching from the tzadik Reb Mordechai, who had heard it from the Baal Shem Tov: “A soul may descend to this world and live seventy or eighty years, in order to do a Jew a material favor, and certainly a spiritual one.”