Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, all right.

Although the NF put the blog in "suspended" mode just a 11 days ago, just too much happened last Shabbat to not post.

First things first, a number of you contacted the NF directly following the "suspension" annoucnement to express their shock and let me know the NF had your support. Example:

----Original Message-----
From: ****** R
Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 1:42 PM
To: The NF
Subject: RE: New post --- the blog is being put into suspended mode

>My life officially has no meaning from this point forward.

The NF is touched. really.
The gonging gabbai asked the NF to lead kabalat shabbat this past week. Now the NF is not a fan of using the Maoz Tzur melody for L'cha Dodi on Shabbat Chanuka --- we sing the song enough over the 8 days that it doesn't have to be used for yet another thing. And it's kitsch. (The NF was irritated last year when some guy threw it into kedusha on shabbat chanuka - it didn't fit resulting in a gong). Yet, the NF recognizes that a good chazan/baal tefilla jas to be a "benevolent dictator" as an American friend, MMD, likes to say. What do I mean? A creative chazzan can mix things up a bit (and generally do what he wants to do) as long as he doesn't piss the kahal off by using the wrong melody instead of what they are expecting - even if he (strongly) dislikes the melody. (The NF is not talking about the integrity of so called "mi-sinai" melodies - like Kol Nidrei, chatzi kaddish before musaf on r"h & y"k, tal & geshem --failure to use those melodies results in harsh punishements such as cleaning out the filters at the mikveh right afetr the whole community has dipped erev y"k).
For example, the NF hates the Israeli melody for Ki hinei kachomer (from Y"k night)...but the NF knows that should he introduce a different melody, he'll piss off the kahal. So I use the annoying melody.  
The NF has davened in shuls where the baal tefilla is not a benevolent dictator and does something to piss the kahal off; the kahal usually "punishes" the chazan by a) not singing along for anything and b) making sure the said chazan is never again asked to lead anything other than  mincha on R"h.
So the NF felt -- although he didn't like it --- he HAD to use the maoz tzur melody for lecha dodi. I did get dirty looks from both YS and Dr. D, physician. I suppose using Maoz Tsur is better than using "I had a little dreidel" or "I've been dreaming of a White Christmas" 
Kibud or Right
Just after the gonging gabbai asked the NF to daven, the NF noticed a guest walk in--- but not just a regular guest - a father of a shul member who fancies himself to be quite the baal tefilla. In fact this guest was the inspiration behind the KTC post. Half-jokingly, I asked the gonging gabbai if he wouldn't prefer to have this guest daven. The Gonging Gabbai (GG) then remembered that this guest's child had asked if the guest could lead kabalat Shabbat. GG went over to confirm that he wanted to daven...the response: "Machar(tomorrow)-Shacharit" as if it were obvious that it would be a big treat to have him lead.
So the guy starts shacharit the next morning sounding like a dying cat and then suddenly in the middle of birchat kriat shmaa he stops and points to his throat and walks away from the shtender. The entire shul let out a sigh of relief but not for long....
the GG (who still hasn't davened since finishing aveilut) decided he would continue as chazan but as he neared the shtender, Timmy, the baal habus who wrecked Maariv the first night of R"h decided that he hadn't davened in a while, rushed to the shtender and effectivly shoved the GG aside. Timmy's Hallel was bad. very bad. Example: He started the neigh neigh neigh's going into ana Hashem Hoshiya nah in a pitch that only dogs can hear....and then he went very flat when the neigh neighs finished.
The NF doesn't get it --- serving as a chazan on Shabbatot and of course special shabbatot and chagim is a kibud, not a right. I'm not sure where people --- especially the tonedeaf and castrati amongst us --- get a sense of entitlement from.
Repeating words
The NF is kind of indifferent to the issue of repeating words....yeah, I know that there are tons of rabbanim that are very against it, but a) The Abeshter, in His all-knowing way,  should be able to figure out what you are trying to say even if you do repeat a word or two and b) At least in Israel it's become pretty mekubal to have some limited repeating of summary it doesn't bother me all that much.
So Shloime Baruch davens Musaf. His grade: C-
1. It was getting late already and he sang Avinu Shebashayim. Gong
2. His Birchat Hachodesh was really boring. He used the melody for Sheyibaneh Beit Hmikdash but never did the high part. He forgot to wait for the GG to announce the molad... Gong x 3
3. And then we had his kedusha....Shloime has a really nice voice but he doesn;t like to shake it up....he always does a chazzunus bit going into Aye Mikom K'vodo...Knowing this, the NF suggested to a  few guys sitting with the NF ("J", Dr. D, etc that we count how many times he repeats) Unfortunetly we were all counting different words....the NF counted 11 k'vodos, J counted 14 malehs and Dr. D pointed out two l'haritsos...Even though the NF is not bothered by repeating words, this is just too much and once again, the Abeshter sent down a bat kol that he would be exiting the olam for a while. Please note, He hasn't done this since Parshat Zachor last year. Gongs x 26
It's good to be back after that 11 day hiatus....
The NF

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Has it come to this?

After dropping off the little NFs at their respective schools and ganim on Friday morning, the NF turned on the radio to the car to reshet gimmel (All Israeli music, all the time). Being that this past shabbat was the 108th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney, the DJ decided to precede the usual Friday morning hit parade of Mediterranean music (read: Tchach-tchach music) with a Disney hits translated into Hebrew....first up: It's a small world after all -זה עולם קטן מאוד. So the NF thinks to himself, boy, that would be inappropriate to use during davening ---with a 4/4 beat, I bet it fits to El Ha-adon. It does!!!! So then the NF decided to see if it could fit for kedusha of musaf --- it fits beautifully for Kvodo and Mimkomo! Please note that the next song --- when you wish upon a star --- didn't seem to fit to anything in the Jewish liturgy.

After shul Friday night, the Big Gong approached the NF and said, "I think it may be time to shut down the blog". You see the gonging gabbai asked  the yodeling guy who had made the NF cry on Y"k to daven friday night. With bated breath the kahal waited for something special and we got.....nothing. zippo. efes. nada. bubkis. The guy gave us a plain vanilla textbook maariv (a kid had led kabbalat shabbat in the fine tradition of Alvin and the Chipmunks). I really can't disagree with the Big Gong on this one....week in and week out no material makes itself available to the NF --- even old dependable sources such as Yankel & the Yodeler have not come through for us. Thus, the blog will be on "suspended mode" until further notice.

Signing off for the time being....

the NF

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I haven't posted in a while...

...a) I've been busy (especially with the Sefer Torah) and b) I keep waiting for material. Since the chagim ended really nothing of nusach note-worthiness has come up in the NF's shul. This is kind of shocking because there have been a few bar mitzvah's in the NF's shul in the last 6 weeks including Yankel's son --- the NF was sure we were going to get some material but no! Each bar mitzvah has been more normal than the next.

The Gonging Gabbai claims that the lack of gongable material is because he is running such a tight ship. Don't know. What I can tell you is that the Gonging Gabbai, fresh out of aveilut, has declined to lead davening for fear of being gonged. wuss.

Sure there have been little things that have come up ---
1. The guy who davened geshem on S"T asked me what I thought of pouring water on the Shat"z when he hits משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם. The NF's opinion: Stupid and un-original. (We should be able to come up with much more amusing things -- like filling the Kohanim's shoes with Peanut Butter during Birkat Kohanim of Shacharit) But when I heard that there were those that were opposed to it because the shat"z's talit might get wet and he might come to do s'chita (more likely is that he'll take out a gun and shoot the guy who got his heavy -- and now very smelly - wool talit wet), the NF realized that people really need to eat more whole wheat challah to help get the religious sticks out of their behinds.
2. The guy who did birkat hachodesh for kislev didn't use any chanukah related melodies for יחדשיהו. That deserves a mini-gong.

So shul has recently been - Yawn - boring. We need someone to come in and try singing kedusha to amazing grace or adon alom to Bizet (oh, yeah that has been done). The NF calls on each and everyone of you to  go out there and do something assinine in shul. If we don't act know, the holy mesorah of the gong will be lost to future generations.

Tizku l'mitzvot.

The NF

Monday, October 26, 2009

ahhh Cheshvan...

...Nothing too significant has been happening in shul since the end of the chagim. For lack of better material, the NF is putting up a picture of this week's parsha,  Lech Lecha, from the sefer torah (I'm actually in the middle of Lech Lecha)...Notice, the tagin have still not been added.


The NF

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The NF hates Simchat Torah

....If I have to explain why then you wouldn't understand in the first place.

Let me just say that the NF perfect solution to S"T is to go to the local hashkama minyan. We started at 6:00 am and were done by 8:20 (For all you folk in chu"l that includes yizkor and geshem as well). Roughly 100 people came. (another perfect solution would be to celbrate S"t in an old age home preferably in a ward where most of the patients are comatose).
The Big Gong, sitting next to the NF, noticed that the NF was thoroughly enjoying himself at the hashkama minyan. The NF's response: "I just saw another five people come into shul. Just seeing how many people hate S"T makes the NF happy."

For Hakafot, we walked around the bima 7 times and everyone there smiled and said: "This is the way it's supposed to be."

Unfortunetly, the NF's wife and kids throught it would be a good idea for the NF to take them to the main minyan for hakafot. Pain and agony. And boredom and many many Jewish men walking around and around in a circle doing the "We are Jewish, this is how we dance" dance for hours while singing really horrible songs. And of course as things dies down there is always some A**-h*le that decides he needs to start another song even though most people would prefer having an enema rather than continue with hakafot. I don't want to go into the damage done to sifrei torah on S"T....

At least there is a movement gaining ground (at least here in the Holyland) which recognizes that S"T sucks. Tzohar published an interesting article looking for ways to modify the stupid minhag of having everyone get an aliya on S"T. And hashkama minyanim seem to be more and more popular every year.

The NF is currently looking forward to the month of Cheshvan

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Yom Kippur of tears..., the NF has not gone soft --- I laughed so hard during mincha I started crying....more on that later.

Hope everyone had an easy fast.
First things first, the NF would like to thank Yosef Shmuel and Big M Halevi for all their help --- as I mentioned in an earlier post the NF developed a bad case of laryngitis over R"h -- -as the NF was scheduled to lead Kol Nidrei, you can say I was a bit stressed as the NF's voice remained rather grainy and low all week. Motza"sh, Big M and Yosef Shmuel came over to the NF's house and went over the davening (to know where to provide support) and even added some nice three part harmonies for a few bits. Kol Nidrei went off without a hitch --- a big success was Big M's suggestion of singing a three part harmony for V'nislach (after kol nidrei) to the melody of Bshem Hashem (Carlebach). It was a huge hit and the kahal started singing along.
Melody selection:
Yaaleh -- Vlirushalim ircha
Slach nach - Lmaan achai vrai
Omnom Ken - Ein Aroch
Ki Hinei - the annoying Israeli melody.

We also sang two smashing renditions of mochel avonot.

The big Gong told the NF that he was trying to look for something to gong and couldn't find anthing. Dr. D, physician, new to the neighborhood and fresh off the boat from London, half gonged the NF because the NF repeated words in Haneshama Lach. Hey Dr. D --- wait 'til your debut here in the 'hood...

J, always being sensitive to women's needs suggested that the NF and the rest of the chevra go to daven at a vatikin minyan in the neighbordhood so that a) we could provide suitable support for our wives or b) allow our wives to go to shul without any children bothering them. The vatikin minyan was pretty good (4:45 AM --- home by 9:45 AM) alhtough baal musaf didn;t have much of a voice and his melody selection was horrendous. Adding insult to injury was that he didn't know the nusach for the avoda --- then someone told a really rude joke and the avoda was finished from my perspective...but at least I didn't cry...

The NF played with his kids from 10:00 until 3:30 and then headed back to shul....the guy who davened mincha used a weird melody for kedusha that involved loud bellowing (sort of sfardi yodeling) and even when he kept flying waaaaaaaaaay off key he kept going. The NF looked at one guy who then looked at another guy, who looked at J who looked to the gonging gabbai who looked to the big Gong and then we all started laughing and then we couldn't stop....literally, tears were pouring down our cheeks and the NF was biting his lip hard to try to stop. It was the most extreme example of KTC I have ever heard. Awooooooooooooooooooooo! Super Double Gong with a "give me the finger" on top.

Yosef Shmuel davened Neila beautifully --- as always it was the perfect way to finish yom kippur.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The NF hopes that where ever you were over R"h, very few gongs were given out.

In the minyan where the NF davened, with only one exception the davening was excellent. A special shkoyach (BTW, the NF is thinking that we need to develop an award for fine davening that will be the opposite of the gong) to "J" whose musaf on the second day was beyond superb.

The only real downer was kabbalat shabbat/Aarvit the first night. The NF is not quite sure why the gabbaim asked the said "baal habus" to daven but it was horrible. The NF's shul is nusach achid which means that the chazzan gets to decide if the davening will be sfard, ashkenaz, karraite, tzeduki etc....this particular guy followed nusach sfard which meant that we sang the first and last two stanzas of lecha dodi...In Yamim Noraim davening there are a number of wondeful "marches" that can be used for piyutim such a melech elyon, imru leylokim. These marches all fit to lecha dodi. Alternativly, the Carlebach vyetayu (Lshana haba) fits very nicely to lecha dodi. So this guy decides to use the melody from Shanah Halcha, Shanah baah , a secular pre-school song. Adding insult to injury was the fact that it didn't fit. Gong

There was then a short dvar torah until tzeit hakochavim....Then the baal habus starts the ayy yay yays leading in to Borchu while sauntering up to the amud. Anyone who has ever davened maariv on R"h or Y"k knows you need to be very careful when selectign the pitch because of the wide range of notes in the melody. This guy paid no attention and started very high....when he realized he couldn't hit the high notes in the melody he simply changed the nusach....Gong.

People literally walked out of shul shaing their heads. the NF is not very chassidish but there is a chassidish concept that the first night of RH is "coronation night". One would think that you would try to have something regal to set the tone for the evening and start the chagim off right...what we experienced was more like a court jester trying to do stand up bs for the emperor.

The second night, "SE", slowly recovering from very serious health problems davened maariv. The chevra in our shul were so happy to see "SE" in shul AND leading davening that "SE" could have led maariv to the melody of "when I think of you I touch myself" and we would have given him a heart shkoyach. In fact "SE" davened beautifully using the correct nusach. Sh'tizkeh lshanim rabot tovot u'briot!

The NF leined first day....originally the NF was supposed to daven shacharit second day but about 4 weeks ago, Shloime Baruch asked to be added to the rota --- to make room, the NF offered not to daven. Shloime davened really nicely....hashgacha pratit becasue the NF developed a throat cold on 1st day afternoon and now has a very mild case of laryngitis....The NF is supposed to lead kol nidrei next week....we'll have to see how the rest of the week goes.

Of final note, Cantor Sherwood Goffin of the Belz school of music and of Wink and Stare synagogue published two interesting articles on R"h/Y"k nusach and the use of niggunim in davening....the articles can be found here and here.

Gmar Chatima Tovah -

the NF

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


While still a bachelor in the late 1990s, I lived on the UWS in Manhattan. My second year there, I went to the first Selichot at OZ, that bastion of Modern Orthodox spirituality. During Shma Kolenu, a few guys started spreading the message that after selichot a bunch of people would be meeting up at some bar in the 90s. Needless to say, the NF did not go. However, a good friend of my flatmate did go and gave us an update the following day. About 50 Ortho singles piled into this bar, started having drinks and eventually started booging on the dance floor. While dancing with a few UWS maidelach, one guy yelled out:

"This is the best Selichot I have ever been to!"

For the past few years, the NF and a good friend have gone to hear a chazzan and choir on the first night of selichot. More on why a bit later...

So most years we have tried to hear Chaim Lazer Hershtik accompanied by his son's awesome choir. It's sort of chazzanut-light and the choir was trully outstanding.

Unforetunetly, Chaim Lazer was not leading selichot anywhere this year so my buddy and I went to hear Shlomo Glick accompanied by the Yuval choir. All in all they were excellent.


1. The pre-selichot kaddish --- one of the best renditions I have ever heard. The interplay between chazzan and choir was outstanding, especially from yitbarach where the entire arrangement sounded like polyphany.

2. "צדק ומשפט" right before Haneshama Lach

3. Lshmoa El HaRina (Rosenblatt)

4. Machnisei Rachamim

Things the NF could have done with out

1. The guys behind me talking through out. If you show up to this kind of selichot, you know what you are getting yourself into. Now shut up so you don't disturbe the others around you.

2. The fact that Shlomo mixed and matched three different accents --- sometimes in the same section of selichot. (Ex: Ashrai yoshrai vesecha, followed by Potayach et yadecha, followed by meata vad oylam...). Pick a style and go with it. Shlomo clearly doesn't read NF.

3. Singing Haneshama Lach to the Carlebach melody. Don't get me wrong, it is a great melody which the NF has used and will be using again this year in Kol Nidrei selichot. But in a chazzanut context it doesn't work and it seems like the chazzan is just pimping to the kahal something they will recognize. Hello Mr. Chazan!, you have 1000 people who eagerly came to hear your nusach...

4. A very shleppy Anneinu at the end of selichot.

5. Having a professional chazzan mess up the victory kaddish and say l'ayla l'ayla. Super huge Gong.

The NF wonders why the chazzanim and accompanying choirs don't sing the English mochel avonot...

All in all, an excellent davening --- I'd go back and here Shlomo daven again next year.

Now a word on why I do go hear a chazan and choir for the first night and why the NF has such trouble with selichot after that.

Certain aspects of the liturgy (Ashkenazi & Sephardi) are sometimes hard to digest. The NF has particular trouble with Hoshanot, Kinot and Selichot. See the common denominator? Poems written in arachaic Hebrew meant to elicit a certain feeling from the reader (particularly Kinot and Selichot). Kinot are only said for a period of a few hours on Tisha B'av morning and in many Mod Ortho communities, rather than mumbling their way through them, explainations for the various kinot are given. When he still lived in NY, The NF used to go to S&P (where all the kinot are sung) and listen to the beautiful melodies (all rather somber) while reading a jewish history book --- listening to kinot was really a good way to get a feeling for what the day is all about. Also the kiddush at the end of Shacharit was really good (Spanish ham and port). In short, treating kinot as an experience gave the liturgy AND the day meaning.

Going to a big Motzash selichot is an experience --- you hear that first line of the pre-Musaf kaddish and you really feel R"h is coming. And just like when you leave any good concert, you feel uplifted....

Unfortunetly, selichot are said for a lot longer than just one day...It appears to me that the piyutim found in selichot were developed to create a context to say the 13 midot and viduy. (A fantastic explaination of the 13 midot's improtance and why we say them can be found here.) That's all good and well except understanding those piytim is nearly impossible especially while mumbling them at 5:00 AM or whenever you get to say selichot. The NF simply doesn't get how people get up every morning to go and mumble something they don't understand....Does the selichot sayer:

  • feel that mumbling is a good kapara for all those nasty things he did over the course of the year? (BTW, I know what you did with that sheep --- yeah, I'm talking to you --- and although I try not to judge, you should be ashamed of yourself)
  • believe he is now a better person by mumbling?

Don't get me wrong, the NF doesn't mean to put down daily selichot sayers --- the NF just doesn't get it --- The NF actually admirers people that go to selichot and feel they get something out of it...

Before you get to excited about that last statement the readers should know that the NF is also impressed by people that:

  • rock back and forth during seudah shlishit (if and when singing), eyes shut tight with a constipated look on their faces. (When the NF does this, he feels dizzy, feels he wants to let off some post-cholent steam and with eyes shut tight starts thinking about really awful dirty jokes to tell after Maariv)
  • can teach their 3-5 old sons to pee IN the toilet! (The NF has been unable to teach little-NF --- age 5 --- that peeing is not like horseshoes and handgrenades --- almost does not count)
  • can play the bagpipes

The NF would like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone out there who he may have offended by way of the blog at some point over the year. If the NF has not offended you then he'll have to try harder next year.

Ktiva V'chatima Tovah

the NF

Monday, September 14, 2009

A technical question

The NF has recieved a technical question from a reader:

What is the correct nusach for mincha on Rosh Hashana?

This is indeed an interesting question. Being that the NF wouldn't want to mislead the readers of the blog given that different nusach traditions have been transmitted over the years, the NF spoke to two good friends (one South African and one English) -- both well trained baalei tefilla --- to see what they were taught.

The NF was taught that ashrei, uva ltzition and kaddish are said in the Shabbat mincha nusach, the beginning of chazarat hashatz is said in weekday nusach (or shabbat mincha if that is your minhag) and then you switch over to R"h nusach at Yimloch. I was taught NOT to sing the end of avinu malkeinu nor to do the victory kaddish at the end for the simple reason that it is pas nicht. My two buddies confirmed that they were taught the same.

The NF has noticed in recent years that the guy who davens mincha on R"h is often a wannabe chazzan. When he gets up there to daven mincha, it is his chance to show the gabbaim that they made a serious mistake in not asking him to daven musaf on R"h/Y"k and for that matter, naming him Chazzan for life. So the guy - often tone deaf and with no sense of nusach --- will start ashrei as if he is leading selichot at the great synagogue, will look confused during uva lztion, and will then give a, ahem, most interestign rendition of the pre-musaf kaddish.

A full dose of avot is then given (usually with a few ay yay yay yays leading into "Baruch"), followed by a full choral mekhalkel chaim b-hesed. All of this is down in an off-key manner as was down in the Beit Hamikdash. The guy is usually stuck for kedusha so he either goes to shabbat or weekday nusach although I heard one guy try to use the musaf kedusha nusach (kevodo, ahhh, ahhhhh etc) --- it doesn't work. It goes without saying that an off-key version of the victory kaddish is performed at the end of mincha. I don't want to say that this is incorrect nusach --maybe this is a valid minhag in some cruel horrible parallel universe--- it just doesn't seem to fit and hearing this sort of mincha makes the NF cringe.

More than anythign else, the victory kaddish at the end of mincha seems really wrong. It's sort of like putting on a full chef's outfit to make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. It's sort of like expecting rave reviews from the wife on a gourmet supper after making an omelot (especially without any special additions such as onions, mushrooms etc). It's sort of like coming out of the dugout for an encore/standing ovation after hitting a sacrifice fly to left field to move the runner from 1st to 2nd. It's sort of like getting invited in for a night cap at the end of a mediocre first date (in the goyish world of course, lhavdil) -- not that the NF would know from such things. The NF never had mediocre first dates. :) Gong!

The NF will be posting later on his Motzash Selichot experience of hearing Chazan Shlomo Glick and the Yuval choir at Dovev Oz in Ramat Gan and why the NF has trouble going to selichot after the first night.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

new terminology

Folks -
While sitting through a very miserable shacharit yesterday, I realized that it was time to introduce a new terminology/concept to the NusachFreak blog. I'm sure all you readers are now very familiar with the gong. Well today, I'd like to introduce the concept of KTC.

A bit of background: My father, Avi Mori, (who should only be well) decided in early middle age that he always really wanted to be a cellist (after having already been trained as a pianist). Let's just say he is no Yo Yo Ma. Fo years, my father has awoken early in the morning to retire to a back bedroom in the house and practice his beloved cello. For anyone awake at that hour and has heard his cello playing, the phrase KTC or killing the cat will come to mind. His playing is a cross between the sound a cat would make while in heat and the sound a cat would make while slowing being tortured.

As I mentioned above, yesterday's shacharit made me think of ktc. The chazzan's nusach wasn't too bad, his singing was. For some reason, everything came out very shrill and pained. Then during kedusha, someone with an equally irritating nd shrill voice started singing along leading to a duet of ktc. Meeeeeeeeeeeeow.

In a more humorous vein:
The gabbai of our shul doesn't speak much English. Pticha was given to a recent anglo oleh --- while the Torah was being taken out of the aron, the gabbai realized that the yad (called an Etzbah in Israel) was not hanging on the Torah. So the gabbai turns to the recent oleh and say, The finger, give me the finger!!!! Awesome.

Shavua tov,

the NF

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shabbat in Venice, CA

As noted in my last blog, we just spent the last 2 weeks in chul visiting family. Last shabbat found us visiting the NF's wife's family in Venice, CA home to the weirdest shul in the world.

A quick clarification: in my last blog I described a woman rollerblading into shul during musaf wearing a bikini. This did in fact happen a number of years ago but the woman was not the rebbetzin.

All the way to shul Shabbat morning, my father in law kept asking me if I wanted to daven...I didn't because I wanted serious material for the blog. The sacrifices I make for you, the nusachfreak readers.

Shul was everything I was hoping for and more:
1. During psukei dezimra, three different gabbaim gave out shacharit to three different people. It was amusing to watch three guys head up to the shtender all at once until the Rav declared that he himself would daven. Shacharit itself was actually pretty good nusach wise although the Rav used a melody for kedusah that no one other than maybe the rav's great grandfather would have recognized. Akward! But melody selection has been discussed before....and now we have more amusing things to discuss.
2. The Torah was taken out and then the fun began. There was a bar mitzvah...and as I saw the bar mitzvah boy get up there to lein, I knew we would be in for some fine gonging.
3. The Rav first announced that he and only he would be allowed to correct the bar mitzvah boy. When the rav has to make such an announcement, it is usually indicative that the boy shares something in common with most college football players--- he doesn't know how to read.
4. the rav then announced that the boy comes from a Levitical family and that because there were soooo many Levites in the room, they would be using the halacha that one can continue to call up Leviim for shlishi, revii, chamishi as long as you have not called up a yisrael yet. I had never heard of this but who cares because when it came time to call up shlishi, the gabbai messed up and called up a yisrael. Doh!!!
5. the bar mitzvah boy couldn't read. There was not a pasuk without a grammatical or serious trop error. Gong. However, given the poor reading, I was thinking that we were dealing with a public school kid who was doing his best. I asked the NF's shver where this kid went to school. "Oh him?, he goes to ____ Academy, the largest Ortho day school in the area." Gong. Yaamod ____ the son of disappointed parents, Maftir.
6. They called the Rav to the Torah for Shishi. As only he could correct the bar mitzvah, he slowed the bar mitzvah boy down so that the rabbi could eye-scan a pasuk from a chumash, have the boy misread it and then correct him. It was a long aliyah. Gong.
7. When it came time to call the bar mitzvah boy to the Torah for maftir, the gabbai thought he would do a rendition of yaamod, yaamod etc. except the gabbai couldn't sing. The yaamod came out to the melody of the howdy doodie show. Gong.
8. There is no eruv in Venice so the candy they throw at the bar mitzvah boys is reused over and over again. The Sunkist fruit jellies looked like they were about 10 years old. This didn't prevent the NF's two older children from eating about 10 each. Yuck!
9. Someone forgot to teach the Bar Mitzvah boy to read the haftara so someone else got up there to read it (with the bm only making the berachot) but then the Rav realized that no one had bothered to teach the boy the berachot so the rabbi whispered the berachot (before and after) in the bm's ear. Gong.
10. Baal musaf thought he was was a professional chazzan. He wasn't. You know those guys that roll their "rrrrs" thinking they sound chazonish? This guy did that and sounded stupid. His nusach was the pits and every three words had its own submelody making a mish mash of the davening. Gong.
11. Kedusha was the worst. First the guy used that annoying American Naaritzcha melody and then he proceeded to use it again for every other part of kedusah (it doesn't fit). Gong.
12. At this point, the NF's son was complaining of a bad stomachache (I would have had a bad one too had I eaten 10, 10-year old sunkist jellies) and so I decided to go. I missed the sermon which I'm sure included the phrase "Authentic Torah Lifestyle" (doesn't that sound like a condom brand?). The announcements at the shul are usually pretty weird too (Pres of the shul: "Bob got out of prison this week and he is really looking forward to being with us for Shabbat next week.") but I just couldn't take anymore.

It's good to be back in the Holyland...

The NF

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Hey Boys and Girls -
Sorry for not having posted in ages. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen in shul but it has been a rather boring summer.
The NF is currently in chutz laaretz visiting family. I spent this past Shabbat with my parents in a small mid-western community and davened in thier irritating local yokel shul (not the yekke shul in which I grew up). I was sure that I would come away with some good blog-fodder being that the davening there usually sucks and the baalei kriah don't really know dikduk but alas, I was dissappointed. The NF was asked to daven friday night. Then there was a bar mitzvah Shabbat mornign so a fairly good baal tephilla davened shacharit. I figured with an American bar mitzvah boy leining we would get a few gongs in (especially given that this past week was one of the highly gongabe parshiot) but alas, the bar mitzvah boy didn't lein and instead an Israeli doing his residency at a local hospital leined insraed, nailing every trop and shva nah/nach. Humph. There was nothign to complain about in musaf either. Only slightly amusing story: the gabbai -- originating from the deep South -- doesn't understand a word of Hebrew. Given the large number of guests in for the bar mitzvah (and a shabbat chatan), numerous hosafot were added. The gabbai kept callign each one up as acharon in this heavy Southern drawel. made me crackup. Hey, it was a slow shabbat. Oh and one other thing, after calling up both the bar mitzvah boy and the chatan, the Rabbi led everyone in an awkward, "we are Jewish, this is how we dance" dance around the bimah. Can't these people get lives?

This coming Shabbat we are out on the West coast and should be davening in the weirdest shul in the US (in Venice, CA). I really hope something bizarre happens --- for example, a few years ago a woman came roller blading into shul in the middle of mussaf wearing nothing other than a turns out it was the rebbetzin.

the NF

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shabbat in Jerusalem

The NF's in-laws own a little bed and breakfast on the Midrachov in Jerusalem. It's clean, central, affordable and the kind of place I would want to stay if I were travelling - on budget - to a place like Paris, Madrid, Barcelona etc. However, it is not the kind of place I like to spend Shabbat --- especially given that the NF and his wife have a lovely little house about 30 minutes from Jerusalem. But alas, the NF's mother-in-law is in Israel visiting and the NF's wife informed the NF that we would be spending Shabbat on the Midrachov. This is not the first time we have spent Shabbat in merkaz ha--ir...we ventured a stay in the hotel about 18 months ago. I recall saying then, "I hope I never have to do that again". Oh well.

Anyway, staying in Merkaz Ha-ir afforded the NF the opportunity to go to the Great Synagogue. The NF doesn't love chazzanut per se but the choir is usually Grade A...Given that the Shul is currently without a Chazan Rashi, visting as guest cantor was Lipa Glanz.

First things first, the NF loves when things are just so...that's one reason the NF is an NF and for that reason, I love the Great Synagogue (or any very formal shul)....I love the fact that the Shulchan cover fits perfectly, the fact that the shtenders on the bima each have a differetn symbol reflecting who is meant to sit there (the sign of the state for the PM/President, the J-m sign for the mayor of J-m etc), the place doesn't smell like herring....It makes the place seem like a real mikdash me'at.

Anyway, the NF thoroughly enjoyed:
1. Seeing Jesus show up for Kabbal Shabbat with a group of Polish tourists.
2. Seeing an usher inform Jesus that although he may be a diety, he still needs to wear a kippah in shul.
3. Lipa Glanz's davening. Lipa has avery nice voice -- almost baal tephila-ish...
4. Hearing the choir when they bothered to sing.
5. Seeing the ushers block the doors during Yigdal so that people couldn't leave ----until one old guy pointed to his "makom hamila" and made the pshhhhhhhh sound....the ushers opened the doors pretty quickly.

The NF did not enjoy:
1. The tone deaf old guy that kept bellowing random phrases of the davening every time the choir got singing.

I was shocked to find that Lipa used Carlebach nusach for "Moshe v'Aharon" and then Lcha Dodi. Is it the case that Carebach is a now a valid form of Chazzanut or was the chazzan trying to pimp himself to the kahal by singing soemthign they would actaully recognize? Either way, it wasn't too bad and no one insisted on dancing around the shulachan in that awkward sort of "we are Jewish and this is how we dance" kind of way.

Friday night was miserable for many many reasons that I will not go into....Let me just say that our room had a window which faced the enterence to a night club and from 11:30 PM until 4:30 AM the entire street was literally shaking thanks to the oompa-oompa music. The NF got all of about 2 hours sleep.

Shabbat morning the NF went to a little minyan in Heichal Shelomo that is housed in a room with furniture (aron/ bima etc) from the Sephardi shul in Padua. As noted above, I think the physical setting/avira of the shul can be as important as the nusach itself (places with ugly interiors or that smell like poo/wee/old people/livestock are not my kind of place to daven). Thus, despite a very plain shabbat morning davening led by a bunch of geriatric patients (who for the most part did not smell), it was pleasant enough experience. The NF and his wife peeked into the great synagogue after we had finished davening and managed to catch musaf kedusha....The choir was really not on and simply did not throw any chords for the Chazzan for Naaritzcha. The NF got a kick out of the seeing the chazzan get very peeved when this happened. It was clear that the choir had not had time to rehearse with the chazzan ahead of time...or maybe they just didn't care.

For mincha, the NF and his brother in law went to a little shteibel on Agrippas. It smelled like old herring so when the guy in front of me decided to bring meaning to "v'tisaeini ruach v'eshma acharai kol raash gadol" I almost threw up. I guess the guy remembered that this week was Lag b'omer and thinking of Rabbi Akiva (sheli, shelcha) he decided to share. Such a tzaddik.

The NF is still very tired and I've just been informed that the NF's mother-in-law is joining us for Shabbat at our house this week. Yesurin shel Ahava.

the NF

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Would you like some schmaltz herring with your malawach?

A number of people in the NF's shul told me that my Pesach round-up post was dry, not funny and far too technical. Those same people then mentioned to me that they'd noticed that I haven't blogged in a while. The truth, I have been waiting for someone to royally mess up so that I would have some material to play with...

Such an event occurred at Shabbat Mincha this past week.

This week's theme: Consistency
Before we get to our aforementioned Shabbat Mincha....a public service announcement

"J" of seuda shlishit fame is an excellent baal tephila with a pleasant voice and excellent nusach. But what makes J special is the fact that in the 25+ years since J's bar mitzvah, J has not once altered his nusach or his selection of melodies. Such regularity can generally only be experienced through daily ingestion of Metamucil or a hell of a lot dried fruit. Thus it came as a complete (pleasant) surprise this past Shabbat when J decided to use a new melody for Kel Adon. Well done can you pass me another roll of toilet paper? the guy who used the loo before me seemed to have finished the roll.

Shabbat Mincha
A 13-year old oleh from Australia whose bar mitzvah was only a few months ago led Mincha. First things first, I'd like to give the kid a hearty shkoyach on his willingness to go out there and get some practice as a baal tephilla. Mincha on shabbat is the perfect time to get up there and learn how to be a chazzan not to mention let off some of the steam from lunch's cholent if you know what I mean (there is a reason we say גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת at seudah shlishit)

Given that this kid is a) an oleh chadash b) showed tremendous bravery in davening and c) I'm feeling generous today, we will not be gonging him. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that most inanimate objects could do a better job davening.

OK, so the kid doesn't have the voice of Pavarotti (or Yankel for that matter). that's ok. His mincha sucked because it lacked consistency:

1. Ashrei was said in an Israeli accent
2. By Chazarat Hashatz he was alternating between an Israeli accent, an Israeli accent with a "sa" (avos instead of avot) and the occasional oy as in goymel instead of gomel (his father's accent).
3. He started in Nusach Ashkenaz
4. He reread Elokai Avraham, Elokai yitzchak etc two or three times.
5. He said Baruch....Magen Avraham twice
(OK 4&5 had nothing to do with consistency but it was worth the mention because everyone answered amen twice)
6. Kaddish Titkabel included vayatzmach purkanei
7. the melody/nusach would sort of be there at the beginning of each paragraph and would be gone by the end.

The mitpallel was left feeling confused and kind of icky. When the NF got home and the NF's wife offered him Malawach with schmaltz herring for Seudah Shlishit it was just too much. While the NF likes ethnic food as much as the next guy....(can you pass me another roll of toilet paper please) sometimes mixing and matching different cultures goes and sometimes it doesn't.

Playing with melodies is one thing. I was once at Selihot where Chaim Lazer Herstik (and his amazing choir) sang one stanza of L'shmoa el harina to Adon Haselichot. The NF uses Los Biblicos Cantan (a Ladino Romanza) which most Ashkenazim know as "the Sephardi Tzur Mishalo" for V'shameru in Chazarat Hashat"z of Shabbat Shacharit....but somethings - like nusach and accents - require consistency.

Finally, I'd like to thank Yoni R. for opening the gate to my house this morning. I rewarded Yoni with a cute dirty joke which can't be repeated here becasue Rav Lau may be reading my blog.

Happy Wednesday,

the NF

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pesach Round-up

My apologies for the lack of postings over the last month but the NF's wife had the NF on cleaning for Pesach duty. Thus, the NF spent much time blowtorching the curtains, ceilings and linens.

Let's begin with Shabbat Hagadol - "Mendy" davens musaf and decides it would be a good idea to sing kaddish to the melody of Mah Nishtana. Thanks Mendy. Don't let the door hit you on your wait out. Mendy has a very nice voice and generally has very very good nusach so I was sort of surprised by his lack of good judgement. Had he used mah nishtana for part of kedusha I would have smiled. Gong.

The NF was asked to do tefillat Tal on the first of Pesach. Didn't do too bad a job if I say so myself. I hadn't davened Tal in 9 years and as I was asked last minute (the night before actually) to daven I couldn't remember what melodies fit the piyyut "Tal Tein". I ended up using a Carlebach niggun (I think it was originally used for "v'hanchilenu" from Birkat Hamazon but I can't be sure). Other melodies that fit:

1. The Seudah Shlishit niggun (it fits to Yonah Maza)

2. Mizmor L'david

3. Barchenu Avinu

4. Naar Hayiti

Other ideas?

Shabbat Chol Hamoed was pretty uneventful other than the fact that the guy who davened musaf didn't really know the yom tov nusach and insisted on singing avinu shebashamayim. It's actually a really nice composition if sung nicely by a choir. Unfortunetly it's become more and more common in the NF's shul to do it EVERY WEEK. (In fact the guy who davened musaf on shabbat chol hamoed always sings it. and badly.) Oversinging it annoys me because:

1. Invariably the baal tephila uses it when we have already been in shul for 3 hours (because of Hallel, Shir Hashirim, Double Parshiot etc) and that adds another 25 minutes to shul. (Ok, not really but it feels like 25 minutes)

2. You need someone who can sing it and enough people in the kahal who can harmonize which is usually not the case.

The NF thinks it should be used for the Shabbay before Yom Haatzmaut and, God Forbid, the first Shabbat after a war breaks out. However, if two or more wars break out, there is no need to keep singing.

The Last day of Chag was pretty uneverntful. Shloime of Shabbat Zachor fame davened aarvit. While Shloime has a really nice voice his nusach was really the pits. It sounded like he heard someone else do Yom Tov Maariv and thought to himself -" boy that can;t be very hard to do". The Brits in the shul were all expecting the Shalosh Regalim Kaddish/March before the amida. Nothing doing. One Israeli in the shul once told me that the Kaddish of dread (used before maftir in the US and before the amida on Friday night in the UK) is only used in Israel during Maariv for shalosh regalim. That may be the case but Shloime didn;t do that one either. Instead he did the regular friday night kaddish without the fancy finish letting everyone know that it was chag. Gong. Maybe it's time to lay off the Slivovitz...And go back to Nusach school.

Mendy davened musaf beautifully but I gave him a grade of B for the simple reason that despite the late hour he thought it would be a good idea to sing, you guessed it, avinu shebashamayim. Other than that his nusach was very very good. Question to those who know these things: For v'Te'erav on chag do you switch to yamim noraim nusach until Hamachazir shchinato ltzion?

One final note, over Pesach one mitpallel mentioned that while davening at the kotel he overheard a baal tephila try to sing hodu/ana Hashem to the meoldy from Adir Hu (which is actually the "correct" nusach according to the Yekkes). But the guy screwed up and sang Maoz Tzur instead. Classic error. Another classic - mixing up Neila and Tal/Geshem. Any others?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

כִּי אֵיכָכָה אוּכַל, וְרָאִיתִי, בָּרָעָה, אֲשֶׁר-יִמְצָא אֶת-עַמִּי

Oy. Oy meh haya lanu. My Shabbat Zachor --- by the NF.

Two yekkes are standing outside Adas Yeshurun in Frankfurt-am-Main discussing Purim. the discussion goes as follows:

Chaver Shimshon: "Chaver Refael, do you know why we read part of megillos esther to the melody of Eichoh?"

Chaver Refael: "No, Chaver Shimshon, why?"

Chaver Shimshon: "Because even on our happiest days we shouldn't be too happy"

Chaver Refael: "If that's so, why don't we read the entie megillos esther to the melody of eichoh?"

Chaver Shimshon: "No one should ever be THAT happy."

The NF is not a big fan of Purim --- the balagan, the noise the levels of excess, the whole v'nahafoch hu thing just doesn't do it for me. I like things orderly, in thier place etc. For the same reasons I don't enjoy Simchat Torah very much either.

There are many things that drive me crazy on Purim
  • having to sit - while still fasting --- through a long megilla reading at night with some 11 year old sounding an air horn every time he hears Haman giving me a nasty migraine.
  • The sheer levels of waste that go into Mishloach Manot
  • How the idea of v'nahafoch hu has morphed into a blanket heter to do anything and everything during tephilla not only on Purim itself, but also on the Shabbat before (Zachor). The NF would like to rant and rave for a moment on this very point.

The NF can carry a tune (translation: I have been trained as a baal tephilla --- I end up davening every 6-8 weeks and generally lead a tephilla or 2 or 3 over R"H and Y"k)...when I got to shul this past Friday afternoon, the gabbai asked me if I wanted to daven. Being that I hadn't slept in about 4 days and had a bad headache, I declined....instead a kid got up there to lead....

One of the gabbaim then hijacked Lecha Dodi and used the melody from Meshenichnas Adar. (It sort of fits). then they started dancing. Knowing my feelings about melodies that sort of fit and dancing during kabbalat shabbat the Gonging Gabbai then came over to me to see what I thought. Being in a generous mood, I responded that there is no gonging on Shabbat Zachor or on Purim....At least that's how I felt until I got to shul on Shabbat Morning.

While putting on my talit, I was informed that I was davening Shacharit --- no big deal. As an honest NF, I need to admit that I gonged myself --- I went a little flat on a little chazzzanus bit at the end of Yishtabach that I picked up from Lionel Rosenfeld and the Shabbaton Choir. I'd nailed that bit a number of times....not sure what threw me off this Shabbat. The judges were kind although the score from the Bulgarian judge was only a 6.5. Gong.

We finished up leining zachor in the ashkenazi, sephardi and teimani traditions. One guy named Bob also insisted in reading it in "burp voice" but again I was in a generous mood and no gongs were given out. Then it happened. It was 10:20 AM (we usually finish by 9:45), it was hot in the house we were davening in and there were about 300 women waiting outside to hear zachor. Shloime Baruch gets up there and decides that it would be a good idea to shlep. First he sang avinu sheba shamayim . 20 minutes later he finished and I think that everyone in the shul agreed that he deserved a gonging. Even Shloime's mother.

Shloime put back the torah and starts kaddish to the melody of the Y"k victory kaddish (why he didn't use the y"k pre-musaf kaddish is also a mystery) . Gong. Then in chazarat hashatz, he did a whole chazzanus piece that led into the melody of avot from the yamim noraim. Gong. In kedusha he used yachad yachad for Keter and messed up the phrasing. Gong. He then repeated Kvodo maleh olam about 30 times until a bat kol came and down and informed us that The Abishter couldn't stand it any more and He and His Kavod would be exiting the olam for a little while. Gong. Adding insult to injury, Shloime then used the Carlebach mimkomcha for mimkomo...that would be fine except that it had already been used in Aarvit friday night and in NF's shacharit kedusha. You can't keep reusing the same melodies like that. Although I try to be dan lchaf zchut, I have a feeling that Shloime came a bit late to shul and was unaware that the melody had already been used. Gong. The reaction to Shloime's offensive davening was the mitpalilim started having shilshul right there in the shul --- that is all the mitpalilim other than the constipated ones. they threw up.

you know you have done something wrong when Yankel of El Solo Mio fame 's reaction is: "You don't mess with Yom Kippur. That was wrong. I'm having a bunch of guys over for Cornettos after shul. Shloime is not invited". Gong.

A fellow mitpalel overheard Shloime explain that his shananagins were based on what his yeshiva used ot do on Shabbat Zachor. Of course Shloime learned at Yeshivat Malbish Arumim in Eilat --- not exactly a bastion of erudition and scholarship.

The NF does not understand why people constantly confuse simcha with making fun of davening. The same sort of thing that happened in NF's shul this past week happens on Simchat Torah. I'm all for creating a unique avira on special shabbatot. In Gush, the chutznikim would form a choir for Shabbat Zachor and the best best best baalei tephila led davening.In my little yekke shul growing up we celebrated Simchat Torah through pomp and circumstance rather than through wild partying. There is no reason special occaisons must be somber but making the davening on special days hefker only goes to degrade, not enhance.

Chag Purim Sameach,

the NF

Monday, February 16, 2009


The NF attended the Gush many years back and although I wouldn't consider myself a "Gushie" I am a huge fan of Rav Yehuda Amital's. I recall having heard in his name that by and large melodies are not mekabel tumah (If I'm misquoting Rav Amital, I kindly request that all the Gushies reading this to refrain from flaming me badly --- simply correct what I've mistated). In other words, there is nothing inherently wrong with singing the melody certainly from a secular song and even from a (non-Jewish) religious song. (In contrast, trying to make use of the words from a (non-Jewish) religious prayer could pose halachik problems.) Thus in theory, melodies from Jewish, secular or non-Jewish religious sources can be used in tephilla.

Now that doesn't mean that you HAVE TO or SHOULD use random melodies. Baalei tephila still need to think about whether the melody is appropriate. Will using the melody enhance davening/kavanah or will it distract? Lastly, can the baal tephilla pull off singing an unusal solo or will the melody go unrecognized as the guy flies off key?

As a kid I once heard the story of a chazzan in our little German shul in my hometown that for "ועל כולם סלח לנו" in the vidui of y"k one year in the 1960s, a melody taken from a Cabaret in Berlin from before WWII was used. The chazzan's argument was that by using a melody that would bring to mind a strip tease, he was helping the mitpalel focus on his sins. Needless to say the chazzan's contract was not renewed for the following year.

This past Shabbat, a guy, let's call him Yankel, got up there in NF's local shul and for kedusha of Shacharit used "O sole mio". This is how it went:

1. Yankel begins Mimkomcha rather shakely. After a few bars, a distinct melody is still yet to immerge.
2. No one is really sure where Yankel is going with this and there is very akward silence
3. Yankel actually hits some of the more difficult notes at the end of O sole mio and repeats the melody in the 2nd part of Mimkomcha
4. Members of the kahal are looking at one another nervously and silently mouthing - "WTF"
5. Yankel again hits some of the diffuclt notes and finishes kedusha. The kahal is relieved
6. As Yankel begins yismach moshe, members of the kahal try to figure out what the hell that was --- the English amongst us are convinced its the Cornetto advert. Some members start licking their talitot.
7. Members of the kahal go home after shul ends and note that the cholent has gone off, the sephirot are out of wack and they have this incredible urge to mix dance.
8. Members begin to pass thier children to molech and cohort with the daughters of Midian.

Yes, Yankel is guilty of using a melody that was inappropriate. Maybe Yankel innocently felt that an Italian love song could reflect his yearning for the geula (or an ice cream cone) and thus could bring the kahal to reach spiritual nirvana in that heimish sort of way. But what Yankel did was wrong, plain wrong. In some kehillot Yankel would be taken out and shot. But we are a kinder, gentler kehilla. Instead we'll just give him a warning and a massive GONG. Please Yankel, for the sake of our children, don't do it again.

the NF

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Highly gongable parshiot

Today we read one of the most highly gonagble parshiot in the Torah as Parshat B'Shalach includes Az Yashir....There is nothing like a baal koreh reading through Az Yashir and making dikduk/pronounciation mistakes indicating that not only did he not prepare the parasha well enough (gong!), he's also a dufus (sp?) because he has now shown the entire kehilla that he mis-reads Az Yashir everyday while davening shacharit (double gong!). Of course this assumes that the dufus in question actaully davens everyday but that is a whole other discussion. For the record, the guy who lained today in the NF's local yokel shul did mess up a bit but more from brain freeze, not from not knowing how to read az yashir. Thus he was not gonged (unlike the dufus who messed up his bar mitzvah parsha at mincha). However, he did not get a second helping of dessert at lunch.

Other highly gongable parshiot include Ve'etchanan (shma), E'kev (v'haya im shemoa) and Shlach (Tzitzit).

As an aside perek 15, pasuk 16 presents one of the classic opportunities where screwing up a shva na/nach changes the meaning of the word/phrase.

תִּפֹּל עֲלֵיהֶם אֵימָתָה וָפַחַד בִּגְדֹל זְרוֹעֲךָ יִדְּמוּ כָּאָבֶן

Note the dagesh in the dalet of yid'emu. Missing the dagesh (yidmu instead of yid'emu) will lead to a misreading of the word and changing the meaning of the phrase from "they will be as still as a stone" to "they will be similiar like a stone". (triple gong!)

Mazal Tov to my chavruta Yoni R on passing the vaad mishmeret stam oral exam and thus becoming a sofer stam musmach....Mazal Tov to the nusach freak as well for passing the aforementioned exam.

Below is a picture of the nusach freak's latest megillat esther.
I'm not thrilled with the writing --- I made a new quill right before beginning the column and while testing the quill on a scrap piece of klaf I was getting much sharper writing....the cow/calf that "donated" the klaf must have been anti-semitic. Only logical answer.
Shavua Tov....

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Apologies for not blogging over the last couple of weeks....

We begin this week's blog with a joke recently told me by my next-door-neighbor (and chavruta) --- So What's the difference between rude and crude?
Rude is where you thrown your underwear against the wall. Crude is when they stick.

(hat-tip to Yoni --- Mazal Tov on Passing Shlav Aleph)

Why do I begin with such a disgusting and tasteless joke (other than the fact that almost all of my own jokes are disgusting and tasteless?). Because this week's blog is about distinctions and specifically what is yekkish and what is litvish.
Now I'm not going to go into the fact that the yekkish nusach is pretty distant from the litvish nusach in respect to melodies, trop, minhagim and actual texts. That's pretty much a given. Rather, what behavior is yekkish and what is litvish?

A good friend of mine, "J", a superb baal tefilla with excellent nusach who typically arrives to shul on time (although vatikin is not his thing) began showing up to shul around leining starting a few weeks ago. The reason: "J" was concerned that in the winter months the mitzvah of seudah shlishit was not being observed properly. By the time lunch ended, it would be time for mincha and who wants to wash and have a meal just after finishing lunch. So---- "J" began attending the neighborhood hashkama minyan at 7:00 AM, went home after Schacharit, made kiddush and hamotzi so as to be yotzai the second seuda and then came --- at roughly 8:40 --- to the 8:00 minyan to catch leining and musaf. After shul, "J" could go home and have seudah shlishit. (One question for "J" --- isn't there an inyan to have seudah shlishit after davening mincha? The last time I checked, there is no mincha gedola miyan on Shabbat in our neighborhood)

So "J" finished expaining all of this to me one Shabbat and then asked --- "so you like it, huh? Pretty yekkish of me, yeah?"

My response: First of all, it is not yekkish, it is litvish and while I appreciate the somewhat elegant solution "J" has developed (and "J"'s committment to having all three seudot shabbat al hasovah), it's not for me - I'll explain why below.

Litvish means that there is ultimate dedication to meeting halachic requirements as best as possible. Yekkish means that there is ultimate dedication to minhag (and of course being on time). That is not to say that the yekke's aren't dedicated to meeting halachic requirements.

Given "J"'s example, a litvish solution focuses on attending two different shuls, potentially missing part of kriat hatorah and being 100% yotzai the more machmir deot regarding seudah shlishit (I'm assuming "J" can explain the mincha issue to me). In contrast, the yekke will insist on eating seudah shlishit exactly at 4:47 PM (and 31 seconds), beer, kaiser rolls and herring will be served and exactly 4 zemirot will be sung so that benching will be completed 2.5 minutes (the amoutn of time it takes to put on your jacket and hat and get to the beit knesset) before "ldovid" is started before aarvit motzash --- just like in Frankfurt before the war.

So why don't I like the Litvish approach? First of all, having grown up with yekkes I developed an affinity for both beer and kaiser rolls. You can eat the herring yourself. More seriously,
1. I don't like solutions that don't work for the entire world. What I mean by that is, if everyone wanted to do what "J" was doing in regard to Seudah Shlishit, everyone would go to Hashkama and then leave before leining thus ending the hashkama minyan. Meanwhile no one would show up to the main minyan on time...(another example is the minhag/chumra not to buy/use chametz that was sold over Pesach to a goy --- people who follow this chumra/minhag will wait a few weeks until supermarket goods that were "sold" over Pesach are effectively turned-over.... except that if everone followed this minhag these good would never move off the shelves)
2. While "J"'s solution elegantly finds away to observe two complete shabbat meals in a short time span, he must go to 2 seperate minyanim for Shabbat morning davening to do so. That's just weird in my book but to each their own.

Shabbat Shalom