The Tale of a Niggun

The Tale of a Niggun

Based on an actual event that occurred during World War II, this heartbreaking narrative poem about history, immortality, and the power of song is accompanied by magnificent full-color paintings by award-winning artist Mark Podwal.

It is the evening before the holiday of Purim, and the Nazis have given the ghetto's leaders twenty-four hours to turn over ten Jews to be hung to "avenge" the deaths of the ten sons of Haman, the villain of the Purim story, which celebrates the triumph of the Jews of Persia over potential genocide some 2,400 years ago. If the leaders refuse, the entire ghetto will be liquidated. Terrified, they go to the ghetto's rabbi for advice; he tells them to return the next morning. Over the course of the night the rabbi calls up the spirits of rabbis from centuries past, but no one can give him a satisfactory answer; they've never encountered anything like this. The eighteenth century mystic and founder of Hasidism, the Ba'al Shem Tov, tries to intercede with God by singing a niggun, a wordless, joyful melody with the power to break the chains of evil, but his efforts end in failure. Heartbroken, the Ba'al Shem Tov teaches the niggun to the ghetto's rabbi, and vanishes. That evening, everyone in the ghetto is herded into the synagogue courtyard. When no one steps forward, they are informed that in an hour they will all be killed. How does one prepare to die? The question is laid before the ghetto rabbi, and he teaches his assembled community the song that the Ba'al Shem Tov taught him the night before. As their voices soar upward, they are joined by those of Jews from centuries past from all over the world, all singing the Ba'al Shem Tov's niggun as the massacre begins. And as the souls of these men, women, and children rise to the heavens, their song continues, uninterrupted, to the end of time and beyond.

With an introduction by Elisha Wiesel

Title:The Tale of a Niggun
ISBN:9780805243635
Format Type:

    The Tale of a Niggun Reviews

  • Angela M

    “A nigun (Hebrew: ניגון‎ meaning "tune" or "melody", pl. nigunim) or niggun (pl. niggunim) is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive ...

  • Diane S ?

    Emotional, heartbreaking, brilliantly written, this narrative poem was written by Elie Wiesel in the late 1970s. It was found and brought to Elies sons attention by a Jerusalem-based bookseller. He ha...

  • Tamar overwhelmed by work - on temporary hiatus

    This poem tells a story of the terrifying choice posed by the Nazi regime to the inhabitants of a Jewish ghetto on the eve of the Jewish holiday, Purim. The Jews must choose ten of the ghetto inhabita...

  • Anne

    Niggun: a mystical musical prayer or a spiritual language beyond words.This short story written by Elie Wiesel in the 1970s is both heartbreaking and up-lifting. Told in the form of a narrative poem a...

  • Brina

    I read a lot of short books at the end of the year to round out my reading average. Yeah, I’m that person or my undiagnosed OCD gets the better of me. This slim gem by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel was...

  • Cheri

    God made man because He loves stories. -- Elie WieselA niggun is a melody, typically comprised of sounds rather than in verses as one hears in a hymn. The ones I’ve heard have tended to be...

  • Betsy Robinson

    Thanks to Angela for recommending this one. I listened to the audiobook of this predawn this morning as I had my coffee. I was not raised Jewish, but I'm ethnically an Ashkenazi Jew, and I felt it in ...

  • Jessica Haider

    Elie Wiesel is best known for his Night trilogy, in which he tells of his experience as a Jewish young man in nazi camps during WWII. Night is one of my all time top reads. It is very powerful. Wiesel...

  • Dawn Michelle

    This is a beautiful and heartbreakingly sad story, told in verse, by the incomparable Elie Wiesel with the beautiful illustrations of Mark Podwal and released by Elie's son after the story was found i...

  • Brenda

    Written by Elie Wiesel, about a true story during WWII. Compelling....