Updated: Aug 12, 2020
In 2009 my older brother Lazer and his close friend Motty Safrin called me from Israel for the 3rd year in a row to attempt once more to convince me to come to Uman for Rosh Hashana with them and Nekuda Tova. Motty said “I don't know about you but I’m scared to go into Rosh HaShana without a good lawyer and Rebbe Nachman promises he’ll take my case to the Heavenly court”. When I heard Motty, the tzadik of a guy, talk like that, I was convinced right away that I absolutely needed to go to Uman.
That year I went to Uman and began my journey into the world of Breslev. I spent a lot of time with my brother Lazer and his Chevra at Nekuda Tova in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem. There I learned how to love yiddishkeit. Celebrating every Siyum, Rosh Chodesh and even Shabbos with so much joy was something very foreign to me and in those years it became my reality.
Nekuda Tova had frequent visits from very holy individuals such as Reb Elya Sukot, Reb Mota Frank, and many others. The theme of “A Yid Is Never Alone” and “A Yid Can Always Talk To HaShem” were said so often and put into play by everyone there that it became impossible for me to think otherwise.
As time went on I officially took on the title of a Brelsover Chossid and grew with my relationship with HaShem. Talking to HaShem stayed with me but, on one particular day it grew to another level, the level which is the highest yet most basic.
It was 2015, I had been married for a few years already, living in LA, and I was flown in to Monsey to perform at an event. It was a few hours before the event when I was told that there was no sound system. After making a few unsuccessful attempts to find a system I began to get anxious, as this event could not be performed unplugged.
As I was sitting in my rental car in the pouring rain, trying to think of a solution, my good friend Yaakov Gradman called me from Israel and I quickly told him about my current dilemma and that I would have to call him back. He responded and said “wait, did you ask HaShem to help you”? I stopped for a second and realized, wow, how could I have not thought to ask HaShem for help.
After that instance, I tried to infuse HaShem into my day to day life as much as possible and I realized that I could handle the same situations much more calmly and relaxed knowing that He’s in it with me and I could truly ask Him anything, anywhere, anytime.
That same year I heard that Rabbi Tauber, a very well known Rav in Los Angeles who is a Breslover chossid, was giving a 7am shiur to a few people in his office every morning and I decided to join. They called it a shiur, but quite frankly, it felt like an interrogation at first. Rabbi Tauber would open a Likutei Moharan and sometimes read from it but each day he would ask every one of us “Did You talk to HaShem yesterday?” Such a simple question that made us so uncomfortable and I had such a hard time answering. Rabbi Tauber taught us the ins and outs of talking to HaShem in your own words. He taught us how much HaShem loves us and is excitedly waiting to hear from us. He encouraged us to start with 5 minutes a day, then gradually work our way to 20 minutes.
During this period of time, my wife and I decided to take a trip to Israel. When I told my friend Yaakov Gradman that we were coming he asked me if I had ever done a full hour of hisbodedus. I answered no and he insisted you need to experience the full hour at least once, so make sure to put aside a night where we could go out together and do a full hour.
I was a bit reluctant, but at this point I believed in it so much and I trusted Yaakov, so one night we went together to the forest behind Ramat Eshkol. We each parted into different directions and made up to meet back in exactly an hour. No phone, no book, no tv, no person, no chair… one full hour alone with HaShem in the forest. I had been learning from Rabbi Tauber so I knew what to do, but it was not easy to stand alone in the forest and have a “seemingly” one way conversation.
First say Hi, then call Abba, Tatteh, just call out to Him. Next try talking and when you don't know what to say and you're mind takes you to every place in the world except the present one, pull back your focus. It is hard, so you lift your arms, build your confidence, shake around and yell AAAAAAABBBBBBBBAAAAAAA. You yell this multiple times at the top of your lungs. Suddenly you feel relieved and a little more focused. You are ready to really talk but again, no words come to mind.
Rabbi Tauber had taught us from Rebbe Nachman that when you don’t know what to say, just say “HaShem I don't know what to say”. So I said “HaShem I don’t know what to say.”
Immediately, I realized that those words themselves were what I needed to say and then the words just started flowing and sure enough I was having a conversation with HaShem.
A few minutes later, feeling satisfied with the conversation I assumed I was done until I noticed that I was only 20 minutes into the hour! At this point I was already all in so I continued on eventually reaching subjects in my life that I hadn’t spoken on prior. And then the 30 minute mark hit. Once I passed the 30 minutes of being alone in the woods with HaShem, going through the whole process of starting the conversation, and getting over the uncomfortability of having a one way conversation, I finally began to feel at ease. My eyes welled with tears (as they are right now as I type this) and I really felt that I could fully lean on HaShem. I could be vulnerable with Him, free from judgment to be the real me, and speak about what is really going on in my life.
Needless to say the next 30 minutes were life changing for me and I left that forest having experienced the 1 hour Hisbodedus, alone time with HaShem. I was on a high that lasted a long time. Yaakov left me with a beautiful gift, a Sefer by Reb Nosson about talking to HaShem called “Hishtapchus Hanefesh”.
A few days later I arrived back in LA where I was working out of an office building in Beverly Hills just a ten minute drive from Franklin Canyon Park, a park that my dear friend and founder of Beit Breslov La, Yosef Kohen had introduced me to a bit earlier.
November 29, 2016, I went to the park. On this day I rebelled a little bit from the regular course of Hisbodedus. I brought a guitar and a phone, climbed to the top of the mountain, and tried to begin to speak to HaShem. At that time my younger sister, Hudis, was battling stage four colon cancer and she was a big part of my Hisbodedus. I wanted to get back to that feeling of really being one with HaShem, to tap into the part of yourself that already feels the oneness, but like many days it just wasn’t coming.
I picked up my guitar and played an A minor chord and said as I had hundreds of times before “Oh HaShem, I wanna talk to You, I wanna get close to You, Oh HaShem, I wanna talk to You, I wanna get close to You.” As I said these words, I kept the simplicity and switched to the D minor and then an E major. And just like that, the song, Oh HaShem, was created.
On the key of Aminor, the D minor chord is really all about tefillah, it sounds so simple and pure and feels like a yearning. I believe this is the reason so many jewish songs about tefillah go to the D minor at the yearning section of the song. The E major on the other hand is a major chord, strong, full and powerful in a confident declaration manner. When saying these words I started on the A minor and sang “Oh HaShem I wanna” and then switched to the D minor to say “Talk to You” and the second time around as I got to the words “Close to You” I switched to the E major chord.
Right away I knew something huge happened so I took out my phone and recorded this video to remember the song/tefila. (See Video Below)
I climbed down the mountain and drove back to Hancock Park where I was scheduled to join Sal Litvak on his show the Accidental Talmudist, a Facebook page with over 1 million followers bringing ancient Jewish wisdom to the masses. When I arrived I just couldn’t hold it back. I taught him the song and we sang it together on the Facebook live show (See video below). It was glorifying to see thousands of people listening to a song that had been created just hours before in a nearby park. It was as if we were all praying together in a communal song to HaShem.
Sometime soon after, Reb Mota Frank was in LA for a Shabbos and after spending Friday night with him I asked him for some advice on how to connect with my thoughts while doing my 4 mile walk to The Westside Shul where I am the Baal Tefila Shabbos morning. He said that I should try to look down only within 6 feet ahead of me the whole way.
The next morning on my way back from TWS I walked the whole way back home only looking within 6 feet and had written the first verse to this song. It is a common mistake that Gashmiyus, materialism is bad and one needs to only focus on Ruchniyos, spirituality. The truth is that Gashmiyus is necessary and very much part of our spiritual journey however, we just need to let it know that it must have Achdus, unity with our Ruchniyos. I was excited to share this with Reb Mota and glad to get his approval.
I don't recall exactly when I wrote the second verse but the concept of “we are a piece of HaShem” is something that I heard a lot from my father and when I realized what that meant I knew it had to be in this song because if we really understood that we are one with HaShem of course we’d want to talk to Him even if we feel “really far” because we would always know who we “really are” and that He is waiting for us to talk to him.
The third verse came along by the Orlofsky home in Woodmere New York, after a Shabbos of in depth discussion with Moshe Orlofsky about HaShem and the role He plays in our life. It was a fun and challenging conversation which continued on to Saturday night with his brothers Daniel, Eitan and Ami. I remember grabbing my guitar to sing Oh HaShem with them. We then began to speak about Hisbodedus and the question came up “Why do we go to the woods to pray to HaShem” I answered that there in the woods all the trees and grass are singing praise to HaShem and it’s an environment extremely conducive to prayer. Moshe Orlofsky then mentioned it’s like the birds, we know when they tweet they are actually singing songs of praise to HaShem. And right there, in the Orlofsky home, the final part of “Oh HaShem” was composed.
Over the past almost 4 years this song has become my personal prayer every time I start a conversation with HaShem as well as my signature song which I perform at many events.
It started in Calabasas Yeshiva just weeks after it was composed (See Video Below) and then it became the song we sang at all the uplifting events with the Waterbury boys starting at the epic Kumzitz in Stowe Vermont in February 2018 and continuing on in Durham that Lag Baomer and multiple times thereafter. At Valley Torah High School annual Shabbatons 2016 thru 2019 we sang it every year as well.
Calabasas Yeshiva Kumzitz 2016
Right at the inception of “Oh HaShem” I introduced it to the men at The Westside Shul one Shabbos at the weekly Kiddush Fabrengens and it quickly became a regular song which the kids would often sing with me as well. Years later on Lag Baomer 2019 we had a beautiful performance by the children of The Westside Shul singing the song.
The Westside Shul Lag Baomer 2019
November 2018, I was asked to perform at the annual Aish International Conference in Newport Beach and on Saturday night we performed Oh HaShem. It was professionally recorded and later mixed by Ami Kozak. Click here to enjoy that audio recording.
June 2020, I decided that I would release my next single with Mendy Portnoy as the producer. I sent Mendy 5 of my songs to see which he recommends is the best of them. I’ll never forget, June 18th, I had taken my first flight since Quarantine began back in March. I had just arrived in Telluride Colorado and as the taxi approached the town of Telluride amidst the beautiful mountain top scenery famous for the Coors Lite Beer bottle imagery I got a call from Mendy saying that he really liked Oh HaShem and thought it was the best of the 5. By June 30th I had the first sample (listen here) The rest is history.