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Joseph Schmidt, tenor

By January 19, 2021March 19th, 2023No Comments


It is impossible to assess how many great artists were among the casualties of the last war. We do know that Joseph Schmidt, who died at the young age of 38, was one of them.

Schmidt was born in 1904 in Davideny, Buchavina, Romania to a farming family. While his mother was sympathetic to Joseph taking up a career in music, his father was against it. Because of the First World War Schmidt moved with his parents to Czernowitz where, at a very young age, he was appointed Cantor. It was also there, at the age of 20, that he gave his first public performance as a concert singer.

When he was 24, Schmidt’s uncle, Leo Engel, who was a well-known manager, arranged for him to appear in Berlin. He remained there for a while, for his great talent brought him a position as Cantor at the Adas Yisroel Synagogue. As he established himself, so his concerts gradually took shape. They usually consisted of one half of cantorial music and the second of Neapolitan songs and operatic arias. He was an accomplished pianist and frequently accompanied himself.

It was unfortunate, however, that a tenor voice of such brilliance and quality emanated from a frame that was under five feet tall. When the conductor Leo Blech first heard him sing, he was deeply moved: ’Pity you aren’t small,’ he said. ’But I am small,’ Schmidt said. ‘No, you aren’t small, you’re too small,’ replied Blech. Although his stature effectively barred Schmidt from opera, there were other outlets for his talents. He appeared in a number of films, made records, and gave many radio performances. In 1934 he managed to go to Palestine, where he gave a number of concerts of cantorial music.

When the war broke out Schmidt made his way to France, where he settled in the unoccupied zone. When France was defeated, he travelled to Switzerland, where he arrived virtually penniless. Although he was in possession of an American visa and was well known, he was interned as an illegal immigrant. Sadly his health deteriorated whilst in the Gierenbad camp near Hindwhill, and owing to a lack of medical attention he died on November 16, 1942. He was buried in the Friezenberg Cemetery near Zurich, and it is reported that all 350 inmates of the camp attended his funeral in defiance of authority.

Here, I have done what I promised myself I would not do. L’Africaine was an opera written by Giacomo Meyerbeer, who was born Jacob Liebmann Beer to a Jewish family in Berlin. He seems to have put the “grand” in grand opera, at least in France. Which brings me to the translations. L’Africaine although written and done in French was done quite often in Italian. What I have below is the Italian score with the German translation of the Italian score. Next is the original French score, which has a relation to the Italian score, but the French score, at least to me, is more sonorous. Finally, there is the English translation of the French score. Consequently, the German, Italian, and English scores are derivative of the first French score. Read the German score when Schmidt sings. It is what he is singing, and for an idea as to what he is singing, read the English. It won’t match up, but it will give you an idea.

Land so wunderbar!
Gärten, reich und schön!
Tempel, so voll Glanz, seid gegrüsst!
O Paradies, das mir zum Ruhe werde,
Himmel so rein, Himmel so blau, den entzücket ich schau!
Dank dass ich fand dich, neue Erde, Schatz den nun empfängt den empfängt
Das Vaterland!
Für uns diese fruchtbaren Felder,
Dies Eden dem keines gleich!

Du an Schätzen,
Ach an Wundern so reich!
O neue Welt
Ich halte dich,
O sei nun mein,
O sei nun mein, du neue Welt, sei nun mein!
Du neue Welt, ich halte dich,
Ich halte dich, sei mein, du neue Welt, sei mein!

O ridente suol!
Vago e bel giardin!
Salute a voi, a voi!
O Paradiso, in terra sceso
Ciel azzur senza egual,
che incanti il mio cor!
Tu m’appartini,
O nuovo mondo, dono feci dite all’amato mio
Suol natal!
A noi queste apriche campagne,
A noi questo Paradiso!

Riechi tesori!
O meraviglie, ah!
Sì! Salute a voi, salute a voi,
O bel paese o bel paese,
alfino mio sei tu! Un nuovo suol
Sì, mio sei tu,
O bel paese alfine mio tu sei

Oui, les voilà, ce n’est plus qu’un mensonge,
Ces bords heureux que je voyais en song!
Ce jour découvre enfin à mes senses ètonnés
Les climats inconnus que j’avais devinés.
Salut, salut, ö nouveau monde,
Cieux transparents, riches pays . . . !
Soleil, dont la clarté m’inonde!
Je t’ai vu! Vasco t’a conquis!

O terre en merveilles féconde,
A nous, tes trésors et tes biens!
Beau paradis sorti de l’onde,
Désormais tu nous appartiens!

Hail fruitful land of plenty, beauteous garden, hail!
Indeed an earthly paradise art thou! Yon sky of matchless azure,
All – all enchants my soul!
O New World thou art mine! to me thou dost belong,
And as a gift I will present thee to my dear native land!
These sunny plains are ours!
Ours these matchless scenes!
Hail! priceless treasures! wondrous marvels, hail!
O beauteous country – mine art thou at last!
Yes – land till now unknown, thou’rt mine!
Mine! yes, mine!


Leise flehen meine Lieder
Durch die Nacht zu Dir;
In den stillen Hain hernieder,
Liebchen, komm’ zu mir!

Flüsternd schlanke Wipfel rauschen
In des Mondes Licht;
Des Verräters feindlich Lauschen
Fürchte, Holde, nicht.

Hörst die Nachtigallen schlagen?
Ach! sie flehen Dich,
Mit der Töne süssen Klagen
Flehen sie für mich.

Sie verstehn des Busens Sehnen,
Kennen Liebesschmerz,
Rühren mit den Silbertönen
Jedes weiche Herz.

Lass auch Dir die Brust bewegen,
Liebchen, höre mich!
Bebend harr’ ich Dir entgegen!
Komm’, beglücke mich!


Softly my songs implore
through the night to you;
down into the silent grove,
darling, come to me!

Slender treetops whisper and rustle
in the moonlight;
my darling, do not fear
that the hostile betrayer will overhear us.

Do you not hear the nightingales call?
Ah, they are imploring you;
with their sweet, plaintive songs
they plead for me.

They understand the heart’s yearning,
they know the pain of love;
with their silvery notes
they touch every tender heart.

Let your heart, too, be moved,
beloved, hear me!
Trembling, I await you!
Come, make me happy!

I was very hesitant to put the closing service of Yom Kippur into the blog. Not because Joseph Schmidt does not sing it magnificently, but because it would require some degree of theological explanation so that listeners might have the context in which it is sung. Many congregations change the word from “Adonai” Hu Ha Eloihim to “HaShem” Hu Haelohim. Why is this done? Adonai means “Lord” and Ha Shem means “the Name”. In this particular synagogue, no change was made, but many synagogues do make this change.

Without giving you a degree in Jewish Theology, and recognizing that most people are not Jewish, I will give it a go. I will try to remove as much esoteric Theology as possible.

There is one thing that you should keep in mind with respect to Jewish Theology – nothing is simple. One explanation for the change in “Adnonai” to Ha Shem” is because of a shift of the collective conscious nation. They descended from being a people in their land, with prophecy and Temple to being a people in exile without Divine direction, national unity, and focus. The shift in consciousness caused their to be a shift in Names.

Without prophecy, Ark, and Temple, the Israelite collective lost the proper forms through which the name YHVH can be channeled.

Now, rather than go through the rest of this argument, which includes Kabbalah and gets as close to intradimensional physics as Judaism ever does, I’m going to leave it for you. Remember, this is one Kabbalistic Scholar’s view. One thing that you can be sure of in Judaism, if there’s one view, there are a thousand. If you are interested in the reading what this rebbe has to say, I will leave the remainder of it below. I must warn you though, it is very esoteric. It you just want to hear Joseph Schmidt, then skip the text.

Continued from above:

The Name ADONAI was chosen to replace YHVH to more appropriately reflect the nature of the shift in the collective consciousness of the Israelite nation. ADONAI translates as “L-rd,” however it means so much more. The Name ADONAI has the same numerical value as the word “Heikhal” (palace). A Heikhal palace is a domain of residence. A residence contains its owner, protects him from the outside and also conceals him from outsiders.

This physical universe of ours operates according to the laws of nature as ordained by G-d in the beginning. The Hebrew Name used in the creation story we know is ELOHIM. The numerical value of this Name is equal to the value of the Hebrew term HaTeva (nature). Thus the natural universe of physical form is the creation of ELOHIM. The laws of nature are the expressions of ELOHIM. ELOHIM is the force and power underlying the physical universe.

YHVH as a Hebrew word can be seen to contain the root verb “Hovey” (to be). In its basic tense, a Hebrew verb is passive, however when the prefix letter Yod is added to a passive verb base, it transforms the verb from the passive tense into the active tense. Thus the verb “Hovey” (Hey Vav Hey), with a Yod in front of it (Yod Hey Vav Hey, the holy Name YHVH) could be translated to mean “active being,” “being in action,” or simply “active existence.” This Name was not used to describe the physical creation and is only introduced later in Torah with the manifestation of the higher (Yetziratic) spiritual reality.

We thus have two parallel dimensional planes; one physical (in Kabbalah, Asiyah), operating under known natural laws and another (in Kabbalah, Yetzirah), not physical, operating under less known and entirely different conditions. The natural universe is represented in Torah by the Name ELOHIM and the “supernatural” universe by the Name YHVH. The two universes operate parallel to one another and are supposed to operate and function in harmony with each other. The YHVH universe (Yetzirah) is the source and sustenance of the ELOHIM universe (Asiyah). Our physical universe (Asiyah) emanates out of the higher dimensional plane (Yetzirah) and is completely sustained by it.

When the order of creation is in proper balance, the YHVH universe flows naturally into the ELOHIM universe. In this relationship the physical universe materializes abundance in all its forms and everything is in blossom, harmony, balance and peace. However, the flow of the upper universe into the lower universe can be hindered. Natural law dictates that channels can be either opened or closed or partially restricted.

At Sinai, an interdimensional vortex was opened enabling YHVH to materialize in this physical universe in a form that could contain it and sustain it. This form is the Torah. The body of Torah is the mitzvot (commandments). When Israel correlates its collective mind to Torah it properly channels YHVH and enables its power and force to materialize in this physical plane and thus into the Name ELOHIM. This is the purpose of Halakha (the Torah way, commonly but limitedly translated as Jewish Law).

The Name YHVH was channeled originally through prophecy, Ark and Temple coupled with the pronunciations of the ancient ba’alei shem tov (literally “Lords of the good”), who were the Biblical prophets and priests. When the nation’s deviant behavior caused a collective shift in the national consciousness, the power of YHVH was severely curtailed. It could no longer be properly channeled into the ELOHIM physical universe.

Thus, the vessels of channeling and reception were either destroyed or removed. We therefore lost prophecy, Ark and Temple. We were left in a mental and correlating physical place which we call exile.

There can be no redemption from exile until such redemption is properly carried out. The inner channels must first be restored before the external channels can be restored. For even if the external forms of Ark and Temple were replaced, they would still be nothing but empty hollow shells. This was the situation regarding the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Without the internal shift of collective national consciousness back to the supernatural reality of the Name YHVH, exile will continue, regardless of external forms.

Internal shifts in the collective national consciousness can be achieved through the focused concerted effort of those in the nation who can steer the collective in the proper mental direction. Only they can realign focus away from ELOHIM and the natural and restore it to YHVH and the supernatural, thus enabling both to properly realign, unite and flow harmoniously into one another. This is the true meaning of Teshuva (return, commonly understood to be repentance).

Now we can begin to understand the meaning of HaShem Hu HaElohim. This statement is no mere recitation of words; rather it needs to be an actual focus of consciousness that helps realign parallel universes to being parallel universes.

When we recite the words HaShem Hu HaElohim, the sounds themselves need to be joined with intense mental focus. In Hebrew we call this Kavana (mental intent). When we recite the Name ADONAI, we must not focus on that Name but rather on the Name YHVH. ADONAI is the dwelling place, the palace, the Heikhal of YHVH. YHVH is concealed within ADONAI. Our mental focus is to make sure the two Names are perfectly united and that the YHVH energy is properly channeled through its vessel ADONAI. Thus, when reciting ADONAI we mentally visualize the Name YHVH and imagine its supernatural life giving energy flowing into the Name ADONAI enlivening it and enabling it to enliven our physical universe. YHVH is the inner conduit; ADONAI is the outer conduit.

This mental focus (Kavanah) is what we call in Kabbalah the Yihud Havaya/Adnoot. Havaya, like the word HaShem is a term used to call the Name YHVH. Adnoot is the term for the Name ADONAI. Yihud means union. The two Names together thus form a relationship of light and vessel or of soul and body. Again, YHVH is the inner conduit; ADONAI is the outer conduit. One is the source and strength of the other; one is the vessel and form of the other. One alone cannot be complete. A body without a soul is dead and a soul without a body is a ghost. Therefore when we pronounce ADONAI we contemplate YHVH. Without this there is no flow of energy and thus no manifestation of the Divine channeled through the recitation of the Name. Mind and speech must be joined together for one without the other is dead.

Havaya/Adnoot is the source of all life in the ELOHIM (Asiyah) physical universe. YHVH is the pure source that when it flows into this universe directly, without dilution in ADONAI, brings with it an abundance that can transform the very sub-atomic structure of all physical matter in the universe. In our present fallen state of exile, we cannot ascend to the proper level to channel this flow undiluted. We channel it the best we can through the Name ADONAI. It is not perfect, but it is the best that we can do at present. And without this all life would cease to exist in this physical universe.

Havaya/Adnoot needs to flow in order for there to be life. And to where does it flow? It flows into the substructures of this physical universe, into the very Presence of the Creator underlying our physical reality. This is the source of natural law, represented by the Name ELOHIM. By channeling Havaya/Adnoot into ELOHIM we are essentially sustaining all physical existence. The indwelling Presence of ELOHIM in every sub-atomic reality that defines for it its natural laws is called in Hebrew, the Shekhina (the Indwelling Divine Presence).

When we verbally proclaim HaShem Hu HaElohim, we are doing much more than making a statement of faith. In our mental focus we are actually moving very subtle energy forces that themselves nurture life. Our statement is an actual act of providing nourishment for our physical (Asiyah) universe. We are focusing on the energetic reality (YHVH) of the supernatural source universe (Yetzirah) and channeling its sustaining flow (ADONAI) into a proper conduit of materialization (Havaya/Adnoot) and from the conduit out into the receptacle (Asiyah/ELOHIM/Shekhina/nature).

While the words HaShem Hu HaElohim themselves are meaningful at the simple level; it is the properly place mental focus on their real intent that unleashes real raw power that will have so many positive effects.

Now that we have discussed the Names YHVH, ADONAI and ELOHIM, let me turn momentarily to the additional letters that form the statement HaShem Hu HaElohim. The Hebrew word Hu (He is) is spelled Hey, Vav, Alef. The Name ELOHIM is introduced with a prefix, the letter Hey (the), however due to the nature of English grammar and syntax, we do not translate it. It would sound awkward to say, HaShem He is The G-d, so the Hey (the) is usually left untranslated. However, in Hebrew grammar, the insertion of this preposition is entirely accurate and proper.

The Hebrew letters that spell Hu Ha reside in between the two Names YHVH and ELOHIM. These letters, Hey, Vav, Alef and Hey numerically add up to the value of 17. This is the numerical value of the word Tov (good). It is no coincidence that this is found here. YHVH, though ADONAI, channels the energetic flow of the higher universe (Yetzirah) into the lower one (Asiyah). As I said above, this flow is the source and sustenance of all life in the physical world. This energy is not symbolic or mental in nature. It is a real, life-force, life-giving radiance (shefa). In Hebrew we call it Nefesh; in the Orient it is called by a more popular, more recognizable term, Chi. This is the Tov (good) that we channel.

The recitation of HaShem Hu HaElohim is not limited to Yom Kippur. In our regular daily morning prayers, it is also recited in a very precisely placed section. When reciting the words, one should bear in mind that through the power of one’s focus and concentration one can actually transcend dimensional boundaries, tap into higher energy sources and through the combined power of thought and sound actually serve as a conduit of life-force energy from one universe to another. This is precisely how we serve Heaven and in religious terms proclaim HaShem to be G-d.

Proclaiming HaShem to be G-d has lost much of its meaning over many centuries. In ancient times when the competition between mutually exclusive religious systems was vicious, proclaiming the religion of Torah over the other religions and other gods was a vital thing. Today, the majority of the world believes in a Supreme Being of one sort or another. To proclaim this is not controversial. To proclaim that there is One G-d over all is acceptable to most today, whereas at one time it was not. To proclaim that HaShem is the G-d of Israel and Israel alone, excluding all others is not the message of Torah and never was. Israel‟s message is that G-d is the G-d over all, without distinction or separation. Therefore, the message of HaShem Hu HaElohim is a universal one that can be embraced by all humanity.
We need to learn to see beyond the limited focus of physical eyes and recognize the soul within the body. This is true of how we must interact with one another and this is equally true of how we interact with Heaven. Religious mythologies of separation must be delegated to the bookshelf of children’s stories where they belong. Instead, we must focus on true and actual spiritual accomplishment and not just on philosophical religious rituals that look good on the surface, but are actually empty inside.

Only we can make the difference when we say God is God.