Sunday, July 17, 2011


The Gilded Gabbai, in his comments to the Big Gong's guest post, writes on "Puff, the past-his prime chazzan", who mis-applied the victory kaddish":

"Said chazan contends that Yossele Rosenblatt composed the "victory Kaddish" for use on regular Shabbatot."

a few comments:
1. Although the NF and his contemporaries refer to the said kaddish as "the victory kaddish", in fact, in liturgical writings, it is usually referred to as "the chassidic kaddish".
2. It was not composed by Yossele Rosenblatt but rather by Yankele Gottleib (1852– 1900), better known as Yankel der Heisereicher (Yankel the Horse Runner)  ---- you really have to wonder about that name.
3. Of the internet sources I have found, not one says that the melody was composed for weekly Shabbat use.
4. According to this blog, the melody was composed for the kaddish titkabel at the end of neilah but its use has now spread to all kaddishim titkabel during the yamim noraim.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

A guest post from the Big Gong

I am pleased once again to present a guest post by the esteemed Big Gong Shlit"a.

(NF note:  The shul for which the NF is currently a gabbai and the Big Gong,  a member in good standing (an upstanding member?) is currently praying in a non-air-conditioned atrium in the local public religious  elementry school. In the winter months, the davening is quite pleasant but in the summer the heat/humidity in the room makes it ideal for steaming vegetables. Our kehilla has raised considerable funds and has commenced construction on our shul building ---due to be finished in 2012. Another kehilla, sometimes known in the neighborhood as KY/S&M, completed their shul building earlier this year. It is in that shul building that the Big Gong attended services this past week)

This past Shabbat I had the pleasure of davening in the “Gilded Landsmanschaft” across the street from the shul/school/sauna I normally frequent. It’s funny because I always thought a “Gilded Landsmanschaft” was a handheld, battery operated device, available for purchase in specialty stores, or via discrete mail order, but it turns out that, in this case, it is referring to a synagogue.

I do like praying in the Gilded Landsmanschaft. It’s bright, airy, roomy (usually), and you can daven like a mensch.

I often reflect, whilst davening in the shul/school/sauna, on how we underestimate the importance of the physical environment in which we pray. Some of us romanticise about Kabbalat Shabbat in the shtetl, where our foreskinsfathers  would run into the fields to greet the Shabbes Queen, although the reality was, I suspect, something closer to a group of people huddled in a wooden shack hoping there would be no pogrom that week.

 It is certainly true that a quality baal tefilla is a necessity, as well as a relatively decorous crowd of people, but being in a “real” shul, somehow brings out the best in (almost) everyone (I think).

Sure it’s nice to pray vatikin at the kotel from time to time, or to daven mincha on top of a mountain, but there’s nothing like a real shul.  If the environment is hot, stuffy and acoustically lacking, then many people understandably find it tough to focus. Cue much talking and inattention. And the weeks where there isn’t much talking is usually because a large contingent didn’t bother coming because it’s too hot in the shul/school/sauna, or because they crossed the street to enjoy the much vaunted pleasures of the Gilded Landsmanschaft. 

 Enough about that. You get the point. Build the bloody shul already.

Regular readers of this blog will by now be very familiar with the Freak’s gongs, the “Victory Kaddish” and the horribly ubiquitous “Avinu Avinu” (that is mercifully becoming less ubiquitous).

 I sat in (not “on”) the Gilded Landsmanschaft, enjoying the davening that day. A pleasant shacharit had passed, leining was uneventful (as it should be) – I even received a proper aliya. We were about 1.5hrs into things, a perfectly acceptable timeframe for musaf to begin, and up strolls a slightly-older-than-average-though-not-actually-old man to the bima. I had never seen him before, and no one, amazingly, knew his name. He was clearly a somewhat-trained chazzan, and did not have a particularly offensive voice by any definition. (NF note: There is good reason to suspect that this chazzan was the one who sang hallel to "Puff the Magic Dragon on  Yom Haatzmaut  as reported by Dr. D, Physician - Gong)

And the performance began. The thing that should really have set alarms bells ringing was in the middle of the first mi sheberach. When it got to the bit about “u’mi she’notnim ner lamaor v’yayin l’kiddush u’lehavdala”, he sang it to this classic tune (Ofra sings it best).

And then, in a sense of crushing irony, we were subjected to an avinu avinu. It’s like going to a steak house and ordering the vegetarian option. It just shouldn’t happen.

When it is performed butchered in our shul, I normally roll my eyes, catch a sympathetic gaze or two from a fellow congregant, and carry on reading my book. But here, in the Gilded Landsmanschaft, I had just been served the nut cutlet, and I was mortified. Mercifully, the baal tefilla must have sensed my displeasure, and after the first line, immediately switched into the standard incantation and rattled off the remainder. It still took several minutes for people to pick up their jaws from the floor.

Musaf continued with a few little funnies, but you know what, it was air conditioned, we were still well on time for a 2 hour finish, and my kids were at home tormenting Mrs Big Gong. I was fine.

 But the best was yet to come.  By way of reminder. I am writing about a standard Shabbat in July. Parshat Balak (which incidentally is where my favourite piece of translation, ever, is found in the JPS translation (1917) of this week’s parasha):

Numbers 22:30: “And the ass said unto Balaam: 'Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden all thy life long unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?' And he [yes, the ass!] said: 'Nay.'”. 

Brilliant. You couldn’t make it up.

This was no Shabbat Mevarachin, no Rosh Chodesh, and certainly no Yom Kippur Musaf. Why then did the baal tefilla find it appropriate to end musaf with the Victory Kaddish? Why. Did. He. Do. It?

This question, will I fear, remain unanswered for all time. There was no Gilded Gonging in the Gilded Landsmanschaft. There was only silence as the assembled looked on in disbelief, with only one word hanging from their lips. “Why?”

Fellow freaks, may all your prayers be answered (in whatever tune they are sung, and on whatever week of the year that particular tune is correctly, or incorrectly, sung).

The Big Gong.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

shabbat in Tel Aviv

The NF spent this past Shabbat in Tel Aviv at a small boutique hotel celebrating the shabbat chatan of Mrs. NF's recently married cousin.

At this boutique hotel does not have a dedicated room for tefilla purposes, the NF and his brother in laws attended an old Ashkenazi shul about 3 blocks away. Given that we are all in the 29-35 range age wise,  our presence went to lower the average age in the room to about 86. The NF was asked to daven friday night and surprisngly, the kahal sang along....

Shabbat morning, a really old dude davened shaharit with really nice nusach. Then when it came time to take out the torah, the chazan started singing all the familiar German melodies....of course the NF sang along much to the shock of all the old geezers who wanted to know how I knew German nusach....
The baal koreh leined yekke and the NF enjoyed showing NF#2 what a wimple looks like and how it is used during gelila....

By the end of davening, I had all these old guys talking to me in German (which I don't speak) and telling me yekke jokes. Example: How do we know that Adam HaRishon was a yekke? Because the Torah says: אדם, אדם איכה.....Adam Adam a-yekke.

Baal musaf was a guest who was trully horrible. He:
1. Sang the famous Kvodo Maleh Olam --- always sung by Ben  Bollocks --- but being that he was really frum, he sang it so that he didn't repeat any words. It sounded really bad.
2. He sang Mimkomo to the melody of Mitzva gedola leheot bsimcha....uh  hello! you are davening with a bunch of old yekkes whose idea of simcha is to have an ingrown toenail removed while singing  deutschland uber alles
3. For Shma Yisrael he used the famous chabad melody which is meant for nusach sfarad --- so the melody didn't fit.

Returning to the hotel, the NF and his brother in laws discovered that there was two families of a certain ethnic origin,  having a private minyan as part of a Shabbat Chatan....we were invited to join them for mincha....All the men other than the rav wore wife beaters , silky satin kippot on very gelled hair and lots of cologne....they sang some really awful pizmonim in an off-key manner bein gavra l'gavra (during mincha!) and then right after the sefer was retuned to the heichal, a fist fight broke out....The NF was completely in shock and still doesn't know what to make of it....