Matan Wygoda

The devotional niggunim in the courts of the Ruzhin dynasty

I was born in a small suburb of Paris, and was educated at the Himelpharb high-school in Jerusalem after which I studied for several years at the Ma’ale Gilboa Yeshiva. I finished my B.A. at The Hebrew University majoring in Jewish Philosophy and musicology. I then started working in the music department of the National library of Israel, in which I currently serve as head of cataloging of the music department department. My main focus at the library is Jewish ethomusicology, particularly Ashkenazi musical traditions and Hasidic niggunim. In the course of my work at the library I move from the collection and classification of past recordings to field recordings of current-day communities and musical traditions. My academic interest lie primarily in the Hassidic world, and the intertwining connections between their teachings, their Hasidic ways of life, and their musical traditions.

My Dissertation written under the supervision of pro. Edwin Seroussi treats the devotional niggunim in the courts of the Ruzhin dynasty which constitute a defined repertoir of niggunim that are sung by the Rebbes alone. These unique musical compositions were awarded a special status by the Rebbes and the Hasidim of this dynasty, and they are accompanied by mystical meditations, legends and special instructions as to the manner they are to be executed. In my dissertation I intend to show through the analysis of these niggunim and their distinctive liturgical practices how they reflect the Ruzhin dynasty’s remarkable ideological and social approach. It is my hope that in so doing I will be able to shed new light on the understanding of the Ruzhin dynasty with its varied Hasidic courts, traditions and musical expressions that have yet to be recorded and analyzed. What is more, I hope that through the focus of my study I will contribute to our broader understanding of the Hasidic world by demonstrating the inextricable ties that exist between its teachings and and its music.