Monday, December 29, 2008

The Children - they are our future....and GONG!

Let me begin with a post-Chanuka gong: The guy who davened musaf in our shul this past Shabbat decided to use the melody from Maoz Tzur for the last section of kedusha.

Ok, we got it already! We lit candles last night, we ate sufganiyot and livivot, we just leined out of three sifrei torah, we said full hallel on a rosh hodesh. Using the maoz tzur melody was completely uncalled for. Also, at least the way he sang it, it didn't fit. Jingle bells or silent night would have fit better.

Conclusion: Gong and no more sufganiyot for you.

I ended up leining on the fly at mincha --- my father had asked me to lein Vayigash about 20 years ago for my grandfather's yahrzeit. No one else had prepared the mincha lenining so I volunteered. One of the gabbaim knows about this blog and threathened to gong me if I messed up but luckily I didn't.

And now to our main topic: Children.

It is clear that the best way to get children active in a shul and train them to be baalei tephila is to get them involved from a young age. Growing up in chu"l that meant leading adon olam/yigdal from age 6 and graduating to anim zemirot by age 9 or 10. (some boys also sang with the shul choir picking up a bit of nusach along the way) Then nusach was taught to many guys as they learned to lein for their bar mitzvah. Then while in high school many guys attended a teen/youth minyan during high school where they could hone their davening skills. (Those guys with the better voices were also taught to be baalei tephila for the chagim/yamim noraim.) Many shuls had 1-2 youth shabatot a year where the teenagers in the shul would take over the main minyan to give them a taste of a minyan that didn't involve sniffing one anothers farts and trying to see if davening could be finished in under an hour and ten minutes (I used to go to the Bnai Yeshurun youth minyan --- I speak from experience). Also, these youth shabbatot afforded the teenagers in the community the opportunity to learn how to discuss stocks/sports and women in a spiritual setting.

In Israel things are a bit different of course. The 6-9 year-olds still do anim zemirot but they are also asked to lead Kabbalat Shabbat and Pesukei D'zimra. That is all well and good except these boys often have davening leading skills that are on par with a walrus. (This past week a kid actually did a very good job leading kabbalat shabbat although he did mess up the very first line --- לכו נרננה --- which earned him a gonging. Shabbat morning, a 10 year old led psukei dzimra and took 35 minutes --- that earned the gabbai a gonging!)

My problems with having kids lead kabbalat shabbat at such a young age are as follows:

1. Kabbalat Shabbat can be a really nice tephilla. But in many Israeli shuls it is always given to a kid to do which means week in and week out we are getting a rather uninspiring davening at best and alvin and the chipmunks doing lecha dodi at worst.

2. In classic Israeli fashion, the boys are never really taught how to daven --- they just kind of get up there and do it חפיפניק style. Depsite it being their mother tongue, dikduk is less than perfect and the meoldy/nusach used can be pretty crappy. Very rarely does their poor leading of kabbalat shabbat morph into good davening after their bar mitzvahs....


1. The pre-bar mitzvah boys should be taught how to daven before they get up there....

2. there should be some sort of schedule for how often a kid leads versus an adult....

Now I have to get back to shopping for that gong...


The Gonging Gabbai said...

I agree with you that children should better trained for leading the prayers however; it is the trainers not the trainees that are to be blamed. I applaud the little kids that get up week after week to lead the services in the face of a gong wielding crowd. In fact, maybe the gong should be put away when they lead the services. The incessant gonging might damage their self esteem to such an extent that they end up old, sarcastic gongers in their later years.

Michael Sedley said...

There is a guy at our minyan (that would be the "other" homelss minyan in the area) who wants to set up a training course for kids - i.e., they could only do kabbalat Shabbat or Psukei Dzimra after graduating a course run by him.

The idea is nice, but hard to get the kids (or Gubai'im) on board.
The guba'im did however make a decision that kids can only do Kabalat Shabbat if they are at least 12, and they do not allow kids to do it every week.

Last week a 12 year old davened Kabbalat Shabbat Nussach Carliabach and he was clear, in tune, timing was spot on, really a pleasue (even if you're not normally into Carlibach).

If you had been homw with your windows open you would have probably heard him - the minyan was right below your house.