Nigun Galut (‘Exile’)

Music and audio © 2021 Alexander Massey (You can download the sheet music for free.)

Galut – ‘exile’ – has been a recurring theme through Jewish history. We have been expelled from many countries over the centuries. I don’t ascribe to the idea that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Jews any more than it does to anyone else, but I do feel the universal human yearning for ‘home’, wherever and whatever that is. When we feel broken or lost, as individuals, or as a community, feeling into that rupture in body, mind and soul makes us realise that we ache to restore equilibrium, wholeness, and connection. That is what this nigun is about. Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (ztz”l) taught that in yearning, we already begin to make that re-connection, even while the yearning continues to burn strongly within us.

This music unfolds in four phrases. We invoke the ‘in-gathering of the exiles’ (Ex. 30:3-4, Talmud/Pesachim 88a), drawing not just Jews, but all people together from the four corners of the earth. We call on and connect to our four kabbalistic selves of body, emotion, mind and spirit. We sing in order to make t’shuvah, to find our way back to God, and to make a space to let God back into our lives. Just as our return to the Source takes place in the yearning itself, so does the key note of the nigun ring in our mind even when it is not being sung. The yearning continues, and the nigun ends wistfully without returning to the key note.

Suggestions for use:

  1. Don’t try to sing this metronomically. Give room for the phrases to breathe.
  2. On the recording, I sang this through twice, and added a wordless vowel as a bass note, mostly on the key note. Listen carefully to when to change.
  3. Please don’t add guitar or chords to this.