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

1 comment:

Deborah Shaya said...

1. It is Hashem, the King of the World, who directly provides for all of our needs. And it is to Hashem, that we pray, for our livelihood and sustenance and health. Whatever we receive in life - materially and spiritually - is given to us by Hashem.

The Malachim are the creations of Hashem.

We are not allowed to pray to ANY Malachim.

When Moshe Rabeinu prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

With regard to the Selichot, and the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition - they include direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim. Prayers to Malachim are completely forbidden, assur, and cause very great damage and harm. I emphasise that this is something very grave which needs to be rectified - speedily.

The Selichot and the Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily, to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.

2.There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person's tefillot and Hashem. Mediation in any form is assur and completely forbidden.

If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Christianity.

We pray to Hashem – at all times. If a person is insisting on praying to one of the creations of Hashem, instead of directly to the King Himself, Hashem will say to us, "You are meant to pray to ME!"

Remember that Hashem, our G-d, is a very "JEALOUS G-D" who demands "EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP." (2nd Commandment of the Asseret Hadibrot.)

Our very own tefillot, directly to Hashem are much more precious than anything else. Hashem likes to hear the prayers, tefillot, from our own mouths. Even if all we know is how to recite the first 3 letters of the Aleph Bet: Aleph, Bet, Gimmel....