The Holy Harmonica Player Who Surprised Evyatar Banai

The Holy Harmonica Player Who Surprised Evyatar Banai

Something surprising and wonderful happened during our trip to Uman right before Shabbat. I told you that my daughter and I joined up with a group being led by Rabbi Michi Yosefi and singer Evyatar Banai, and right before Shabbat, Evyatar was leading our group in nigunim and songs.

And then, from out of nowhere, a man with long hair wearing a turquoise shirt and black platform shoes starting accompanying Evyatar on the harmonica. As a former french horn player (though I will freely admit an extremely poor one), I have never thought of a harmonica as a “real” instrument. A master harmonica player sounds nearly as silly to my ears as “master kazoo blower,” or “master tambourine banger.”

But this former (awful) french horn player along with the entire group were blown away by this mysterious harmonica player! What Itzhak Perlman is for violin and Yo-Yo Ma for the cello, this guy is for the harmonica! (You can see him playing with Evyatar in this short clip).

After the song, this harmonica player spoke, his voice quivering with excitement and emotion:

“Shalom Evyatar, it’s been many months since a musician of your caliber was in Uman. I’ve been looking forward to playing with you. Rebbe Nachman said that music has the power to heal. And that’s why I live here. I spend my time here playing people their niggun, the exact melody of their souls. And when people hear their true niggun, it heals them. I’ve seen it again and again with my own eyes.”

Earlier that day, Rav Michi Yosefi pointed out something that never occurred to me. Rebbe Nachman was the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism. He easily could have thought to himself, my grandfather already said everything important there was to say, I’m not even in the same league, I’ll just keep my ideas to myself.

But Rebbe Nachman, thank G-d, didn’t do that. He taught and taught some more, and his teachings have inspired and uplifted the lives of millions since then.

Or, as Rebbe Nachman once wrote, and the holy harmonica player of Uman implied: “If I will be HIM, who will be ME?”

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