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