Through Reason and Niggun // A conversation with the renowned mechanech and composer Rabbi Pinchas Breier

A widely respected mechanech and mashpia, Rabbi Pinchas Breier is the son of noted Belzer composer Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Breier, who also serves as the rosh yeshivah of Belz in Beis Chilkiyah in central Israel.
Rabbi Breier, who resides in the city of Ashdod, has been involved in chinuch for over 25 years and frequently travels to New York, where people of all ages and walks of life come to hear his lectures on various topics, including shalom bayis.
In addition to his profound insights and ideas, Rabbi Breier is also a prolific composer of chasidic music. Many of his compositions have become exceptionally popular, especially “Hineni B’yadcha,” sung by Avraham Fried, and “Hishbati,” which has been recorded by many artists, including most recently Ishay Ribo.
In this wide-ranging interview with Ami, Rabbi Breier shares various aspects of his colorful life and career. 

I’ve spoken with many mechanchim, and I’ve also spoken to many songwriters and composers. It’s rare to find someone who is both, and each aspect is deserving of its own conversation.
Everything really comes from the same place, even though they’re two separate pursuits. What’s the difference between a drashah and a niggun? The answer is that you can debate the points of a drashah, but a niggun goes directly into the heart and takes over the person. I always say that if you have a crowd of a thousand people, you can’t give them a juicy steak and make them happy and then give them a hard-boiled egg and make them serious. With a niggun, however, you can play with people’s emotions and switch back and forth very quickly. You can make them feel so elated that they want to start dancing, and a minute later you can turn off the lights, sing something emotional and flip the mood in an instant. A niggun affects the entirety of the person.
I must say that I find it hard to talk about myself.

You don’t have much of a choice when you’re here sitting with me.
Okay, I’ll try. In Belz they say in the name of the previous Rav that you’re allowed to boast about a talent you were born with. Unfortunately, I was born a very pashute person. There are some people who are naturally chashuv, but I wasn’t given that gift. However, I do believe that it helps me to be mashpia on others, because I can tell them, “I’m a regular person just like you.”
For example, for the past few years I’ve taken it upon myself to convince people who need it to go to therapy. I’m not a therapist myself, but I’ve learned a lot about the therapeutic process. I’m often successful in convincing them to go because I myself have been going to group therapy once a week for the past six or seven years. I firmly believe that the only way to be mashpia nowadays is to be just like the person you’re talking to. The fact that I’m standing at the podium doesn’t mean that I’m any better than the person who’s sitting in the audience, because I also sit with a crowd when I go to my weekly sessions. When a person comes from a place where he’s working on himself, the person sitting next to him will also want to work on himself. When a person gets up and starts speaking about how others have to do this, that or the other thing, it’s often hard for them to accept it.

What skills do you bring to the places where you’re invited to speak?
My main strength is the ability to connect as a person to other people. When I address someone, I do so as Pinchas Breier addressing so-and-so. I’m not an expert in human behavior or a big oved Hashem or anything like that. I’m not even very educated; I’m an autodidact, meaning that I am self-taught and that I learn from experience. I hear a story, I get involved and I learn from it. I’m just a simple Yid, and I genuinely love the person I’m speaking to. I feel a closeness to people, and everyone has a hunger for that. People look for others who don’t look down on them and believe that they have value. If you can look someone in the eye and show him real love, you can reach him.

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