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It's hard to describe who's tune this is and I can only refer to it as the 'commonly used' or 'popular' tune for birkat hamazon. It seems like it is compiled of many unrelated tunes. At times there are melodies for a specific phrase and at other times there are melodies for paragraphs.

Was there an 'original tune' that has now developed and where was it from?

[I'm interested in this, because I dislike the melodies (!) and of course wish to implement universal changes at some very near future.]

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    this one? youtu.be/D-EhExbPqTc?t=37s
    – Menachem
    Jun 19, 2013 at 1:15
  • 2
    There are different tunes in different places. For instance, Brits and Americans with similar backgrounds have different tunes. Jun 19, 2013 at 1:59
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    Just curious - how exactly does one go about implementing universal changes?
    – Dave
    Jun 19, 2013 at 3:04
  • @Dave I haven't decided yet, but probably via the blessings of totalitarianism in the form of force and social engineering.
    – bondonk
    Nov 17, 2020 at 10:29

3 Answers 3

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Most of the tunes still used were written by Moshe Nathanson in 1938 (some say 1939) for Camp Ramah, a Conservative Jewish overnight camp. He published the sheet music in "Shirei Manginoth", and here is a recording of him performing it.

https://youtu.be/rGkUwZdwoRY

The irony is that Nathanson was the cantor at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism at the time, the flagship synagogue of Reconstructionist Judaism, where Mordecai Kaplan was rabbi. This is a movement which at the time taught that "God is the sum of all natural processes that allow man to become self-fulfilled." Atheism, according to halakhah, and by the standards of the other movements.

So we are thanking G-d using the tunes of someone who broke away from classical Judaism over a disbelief in what we call G-d.

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  • So what your saying is might as well use Debbie Friedman's Havdala tune?
    – user6591
    Apr 6, 2020 at 19:10
  • @user6591 : I think her tune is easier to defend using, because it's at least written by someone who believes in G-d and in some form of Havdalah. Apr 6, 2020 at 19:51
  • True point. Which makes it more interesting. Btw, based on the description, I think they would qualify more as pantheistic than atheistic.
    – user6591
    Apr 6, 2020 at 19:53
  • @user6591: First, I think panentheism would halachically be considered atheism. But in any case, I am not sure you are correct. A "God" which is the process by which man seeks holiness isn't "G-d" is even further from theism than pantheism is. And doesn't remotely resemble any traditional use of the word. Apr 7, 2020 at 10:28
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    Got it. On to Torah indeed!:)
    – user6591
    Oct 25, 2020 at 0:53
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I have heard (but never confirmed) that it was composed by Rabbi Manis Mandel a"h, the longtime Menahel of Yeshiva of Brooklyn.

UPDATE: It seems that this information is at least partially incorrect, as the first part of the tune was apparently composed by Moshe Nathanson (of "Hava Nagila" fame).

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  • This may have been the case originally, however, the tune is varied and haphazard at times. It doesn't make sense for someone to compose it in this way. In which case, who compiled the tunes and placed them in different places? I could be wrong!
    – bondonk
    Jun 19, 2013 at 14:12
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    I assumed that it was originally composed this way, as a hybrid song / chant, to make it more interesting for the kids to sing. Judging by the tune's wide popularity and appeal over the last half century, I'd say it was quite successful in that regard!
    – Dave
    Jun 19, 2013 at 16:01
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    Just to avoid a misconception - the tune of Hava Nagila is a chassidic melody (still song in skver i have heard) and the words were added much later. learn more about the song here myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Music/Israeli_Music/Folk_Music/…
    – eramm
    Oct 2, 2014 at 10:34
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I could confirm it better, but based on what my grandfather שיחי told me, there was a small group of Viennese Bochurim (my Grandpa is from Vienna too) that started a small camp in Brooklyn - this was in the early '50 - and they would do Bentching with the tune they have been taught in Vienna. This was one of the first Orthodox camps in the US, and the tune just caught up becoming 'universal'...

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  • welcome to the site. thanks for the contribution.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 1, 2015 at 5:15
  • could zalmen please find out from his grandfather which camp he is referring to? Was it Camp Agudah (not in Brooklyn, but in Highmount and later Ferndale)?
    – Karen
    Dec 25, 2016 at 23:35

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