Interview with Nissim Black

Nissim Black is a Jewish Orthodox rapper, musician, and producer from Seattle, Washington. In March 2016, Nissim made Aliyah with his wife and six children. They live in Beit Shemesh.

Q: When did the idea come to you to make Aliyah?

Very early on even before I was Jewish. Before a person comes to the enlightenment of Judaism. You first come across the Tanach. These stories took place in Israel. I believe that there is a natural longing in the heart to want to go to Israel.

Q: What is the most shocking experience that you have had while living in Israel? 

One of the biggest things that were hard for me to adjust to was that just because you cut in front of me in line, bumped me, stepped on my shoe, or accidentally nudged me out of the way, that doesn’t mean you want to fight me or that you don’t like me. It is nothing personal. 

Q: What is the most pleasant experience you had in Israel?

It’s a different experience living in Israel altogether. I am a very spiritual, sensitive person. Just being here in the land is so special. I am able to go to the kotel and to kiveri tzaddikim. I go often to the kever of Shmuel Hanevi. Everywhere I look there are Jews. It is a very beautiful experience. It has been very satisfying seeing my kids grow up here and watching them prefer speaking Hebrew over English! Also, to be able to observe them having the life I never had is very special. 

Q: What can we learn from the coronavirus? What is the take away from that?

I’ve been using this time to do reflection and teshuva. I have been trying to figure out how I can grow and come closer to Hashem. What else can we do? They have almost shut down everything else. I have taken this as an opportunity to grow. I have spent a lot of alone time doing Hitbodedut. Many people have a room in their homes that are designated as their study or office. I have a prayer room in my house that is my hisbodedus room. I go into the room for most of the day and I lock myself up. I pray and speak to Hashem. To be honest, apart from it being very hard financially for us and for most musicians, this time at home has been definitely rewarding spiritually. I think this situation is an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Q: They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  How have you grown as a person as a result of living in Israel?

I should come out with brand new eyes. To some degree, I am forced from a physical and health standpoint to look at things differently. How dare I allow for that to take place without looking at things differently spiritually at the same time. That would not be making the best use of this time. 

Q: What was a typical day in Israel before the virus?

Basically the same. I used to go out more. I would spend more time in the forest. Now, because of the COVID-19 virus, to do that might cost me a ticket. I used to be on the road, giving concerts, speaking, and making appearances. But when I am home, I live a pretty simple life. Picking up and dropping off my kids at school, learning and going to shul. Every time I go to a store, the bakery, I know the people there. I know their names. I enjoyed just being able to go and see people. You don’t know how much joy you bring to people when you smile and say hello to someone and have a conversation with them. I miss that part of it as well.  

 Q: Who do you admire?

Rebbe Nachman Breslov, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, my Rebbi, R’ Shalom Arush, Rav Kook, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Avraham Avinu is a model for me. He didn’t feel the need to comply with everyone else and was able to stand on the other side of the world. So, all the people who stand on the other side of the world to do what is right, I admire people like that. 

Q: Which albums did you record while you are living in Israel?

Lemala came out in 2017 and Gibor came out earlier. I have three more albums that have not yet been released. 

Q: Where can our readers get your music?

Nissim: iTunes and Amazon. They might be able to get the Lemala album in music stores. Lemala is also available at Mostly Music

We did not make a physical CD for the Gibor album; so they can only get it online.