Sunday, October 23, 2011

Simchat Torah & Shabbat Bereishit

Simchat Torah
The NF doesn't like Simchat Torah very much as I've written in past years. My solution has always been to attend a hashkama minyan at 6:00 AM and be done by 8:30. But alas, the NF is the gabbai (along with J and YS) of the main minyan in the NF's local yokel shul. Going to hashkama was therefore not an option.

It wasn't as bad as a I was expecting. Having said that, it was still painful.

For our international readers, don't forget that in Israel Simchat Torah is observed on Shmini Atzeret. That means that in addition to al lthe simchat torah crap (hakafot, aliyot, chatanim, kiddush) there is also yizkor and geshem. The NF and J approached both Mendy and Big M Halevi about leading Geshem. Both refused. What the hell we thought, let's ask Ben Bollocks.

So Ben Bollocks gets up there to lead Geshem....right after putting back the sifrei torah, he asks me if he is supposed to say  "hineni". And then I knew we were in for it.

1. He started the kaddish that is used before Musaf on the yamim noraim. Gong. Only in the second half of kaddish did he correct his mistake and switch to Geshem.
2. For Avot, he used the melody for Neilah. Gong. This was a first....I have heard chazzanim use Geshem for Neilah but never Neilah for Geshem.
3. The piyut for Geshem itself was actaully done in a satisfactory manner.

Typically, The NF gets annoyed when people do shtuyot on Simchat Torah....but the NF, after working like a dog the last month (along with J and YS) hit the point of not caring sometime during the first day of The NF enjoyed watching the following:

1. The Gonging Gabbai pour a cup of water on Ben Bollocks when he said Mashiv Haruach Umorid Hageshem. Not original but funny enough.
2. After Kedusha, YS belted out yimloch to the melody used on Rh and YK...Ben Bollocks didn't stand a chance and couldn't make the switch to Shlosh Regalim nusach.
3. In the middle of chazarat Hashatz we simply took away the shtender (as we would for aleinu on RH and YK) leaving Ben Bollocks grasping for his machzor....
4. Tekiah was randomly called out....

Ben Bollocks was a good sport through all of this....

Shabbat Bereishit

The NF, YS, The Big Gong and the Gonging Gabbai wewre invited to a bar mitzvah held in KY/S&M. It was probably the worst davening experience I have had  ince the last time I went to a bar mitzvah at KY/S&M. This was no fault of the bar mizvah boy who read the parsha adequatly and for the most part accurately. No. What made the davening so special were the imported baalei tefilla the family of the bar mitzvah brought to lead services.

The guy who led shacharit did so in a manner that was completely inoffensive. It was also completing boring, uninspiring and as dry as a camel turd in the middle of the Sahara. The chazzan sang absolutley nothing. It was just as well I guess because the guy who davened musaf did sing and the NF wished he hadn't.  It was embarresingly painful to hear a guy sing melodies that didn't fit the words (Birchat hachodesh), in bad keys (kedusha) and try to sing melodies he didn't know ("Tanya" at the end of kedusha).

Some conclusions:
1. Just because it's your simcha doesn't mean that Uncle Harold - the one with the nasty toupe who likes to play "pull my finger"with your children --- has to daven musaf.
2. If you are going to daven, know your crowd --- if you are in a main minyan with 400 people you are expected to sing a little.
3. Know your limitations --- if you aren't 100% sure how a melody fits don't use it. All the more so if you don't know the melody.
4. Americans for the most part do not know how to sing. KY/S&M is by and large a shul attended by Americans....I have never been in a main minyan with 400+ people where the singing sounded so bad. No one seemed to know how to harmonize.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A guest post from Dr. D, Physician - Entitled: Be Careful What you Wish For

Dr D, having enjoyed an uplifting Yom Kippur (in contrast to the NF it has to be said), looked forward to his return to one of Tel Aviv's fine hotel establishments to enjoy some well deserved R+R after the Yamim Noraim. Apart from the breakfasts, the main highlight is the excrutiating davening experience that only hotels can provide - a subject which readers of NF are only too familiar.

Dr D was expecting the same chazan as previous years - a chazan who always brings his underage kids along to 'harmonise' with him. There are pigeons outside my window who chirp in harmony better than this chazan and his kids....In addition, Dr D fondly recalled the man who led Pesukei DeZimra, putting many of the paragraphs to music....The gong had been well and truly bashed to death.

It was therefore mildly disappointing to see that the chazan had been replaced by another chazan. No kids either, and therefore - or so Dr D thought - no opportunity to write for the NF. Wrong.

It all started with Maariv on first evening. One of the slowest davenings any human has ever had to sit through. It became clear to Dr D that this chazan was clearly being paid by the minute. On the plus side, Dr D did enjoy catching up with his latest book....

The next morning brought on the same pesukei dezimra man. It looked very very bad when he stared singing 'she'yibaneh beit hamikdash' over and over again at the end of the Rabbi Yishmael paragraph. I mean, no-one ever says that bit, and here is a 'sheliach tzibbur' singing it!! Gong.

Fortunately, he restricted himself to mostly that. The Baal Shacharit was disappointingly average. The Chazan stood up for mussaf at which point Dr D was pulled aside and was asked to join a breakaway minyan. Of 100 men, over 50 joined this minyan.

Shabbat followed. Dr D was delighted to see that the famous YS was staying in the hotel. YS can verify everything written.

Chazan stood up for Kabbalat Shabbat. He sang everything - bad tunes. Gong. In addition, as no-one could be bothered to join in he turned to the Kahal like a conductor waving his arms in a failed attempt to get people to join in. Bad sign - gong. Dr D pointedly did not join in. If you have to conduct to get the Kahal to join in your tune, the tune sucks. Tough. However, the creme de la creme was his tune to the Kaddish before the Amidah. Sang to Yerushalayim shel Zahav. Double gong.

Unfortunately, he had Shacharit the next day. Dr D then noticed that the Chazan was being encouraged by the Pesukei dezimra man (herein known as PK man) who sat next to the Bimmah. Annoyingly, PK man clapped along with every tune. Dr D is very wary of the man who claps in shul. In his experience, the man who claps is signifying that he is considerably richer and more imprtant than everyone else and can do what he wants. After 2 days, PK man was irritating Dr D - too much clapping like he owned the flipping hotel.

He did own the hotel....

The Chazan then decided to end one of his kaddishes with an Amen as if it was a tekia gedolah. Gong. Seriously, at least half a minute. By the time Kohelet finished, the Kahal was exhausted and once more a breakaway minyan formed for YS to do a wonderful and quick mussaf.

The gong had been pulverised -smashed to the ground, trodden on and jumped on, buried half a mile underground.

Dr D has come to a conclusion when it comes to hotel minyanim and the activists in them - that Beit Shammai had it right all along ---- Don't suffer fools gladly. 

Moadim Lesimcha


--- Thank you Dr. D.
To the gonging community --- we hope to have another guest post from the Big Gong  ----critiquing the NF's Rosh hashana musaf and describing another bad nusach experience he had while attending KY/S&M this past shabbat ---- in the coming days.

Monday, October 10, 2011


As ADDERabbi wrote in this blogpost last year,
 "why did I get the feeling that it wasn’t anything special this year?"
this is exactly how the NF felt this year.

Maybe it was the fact that I'm a gabbai and was therefore busy (along with J, Gonging Gabbai and YS) in making sure everyone had a seat and everything was running smoothly. Or maybe I just have too high expectations....

Kol Nidrei was led by a guy who I would call a rising star in the world of Jewish Music....I don't own any of his CDs and I won't --- not because he doesn't have a beautiful voice....I just don't like the frummy music style of Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried etc.

So anyway, Rising Star's voice is magnificant and he did a very nice job leading Kol Nidrei, Maariv and Selichot. But the NF came out of it very uninspired. I found the experience rather parve other than when he used Carelbach's Ana Hashem for yaaleh tachanunenu with accompanying harmony from J and Dr. D, physician.

Shacharit was led by a local yokel with very good nusach and pretty good melody selection. The only problem: he was wearing tighty whities (as he always does) that were about 23 sizes too small. So every song was begin at a pitch that was way too high to sing along and sounded rather screechy. So no inspiration there. The NF got a headache.

Big M Halevi led a highly commendable musaf and introduced some really innovatove melodies but with a heachache and the fact that the Avodah doesn't really inspire me with any spirtual thoughts, I came up empty on this one too. At least the gonging gabbai's counting abilities during "achat, achat v' achat etc." were somewhat entertaining.

mincha was mincha. Enough said. Dr. Blue finished exactly on time.

Neilah was certainly an improvement. YS did his usual excellent job --- the NF's lack of inspiration was ceratinly not his fault. There was some good singing, nice the Cubs Fans always say:
"There's always next year"

Alas, no Golden Schtenders were given out...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gmar chatima tovah

...after hitting the mikveh at 6:00 AM (contact Big Yoni Posselizer for mikveh jokes)  followed by Shacharit at KY/S&M, the NF sat down to do his daily chance, today I finished Parshat Metzora and started Acharei Mot....tomorrow's leining.

Gmar Chatima Tovah

-- The NF

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

getting ready for YK

2 links everyone should listen to before Yom Kippur:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rosh Hashana 5772

Shana Tova and Gmar Chatima Tova to the greater gonging community.

First things first, the NF skipped out on his annual selichot night hot date with the LA. Srulik Hershtik's choir had not been engaged to accompany any chazzan  and past experience taught me hearing a chazzan with a random choir is about as spiritually uplifting as being on the recieving end of a high colonic (or giving end for that matter).

So the NF attended his local yokel shul where a very nice kumzitz was held in the 45 minutes leading up to Selichot. Selichot were led by the same guy who led last year's neilah using the nusach from Geshem. Said Selichot leader proceeded to do an inoffensive job until he began singing everything to the Yonatan Razel melody for והיא שעמדה. The Big Gong started giving out matzah to  the mitpallelim who then complained of bloating and constipation. The connection between והיא שעמדה (The Abeshter saving us from our enemies) and Selichot (repenting for being very naughty) is not very clear to me.

Four short days later and Rosh Hashana was upon us. Shacharit first day was led by a guy with inoffensive nusach until he got to the piyutim in חזרת הש"ץ. He then preceded to sing אתה הוא אלוקינו to the melody of  אלי אלי, the Holocaust poem by Chana Senesh. I am assuming he got confused between  יום הזיכרון and יום השואה. Either way, he succeeded in alienating the kahal. Just when the NF thought it couldn't get any worse, the Uzbekistani Bikini team showed up he sang Sim Shalom to this melody, repeating the opening line about 300 times and causing most of the mitpallelim to join Hamas. Chazzan's Grade: C
"J" led an excellent musaf.

2nd Day, the Big Gong led a perfect psukei dezimra. Nicely done Big Gong. All psukei dezimra chazzanim in the neighborhood now use the Big Gong's perfromance as a benchmark for their own.
"YS" led what was probably the best R"H Shacharit I've ever heard. YS picked excellent melodies and came up with some excellent innovations such as sing all the Kadosh's leading up to Melech Elyon to this melody. YS, you have won a golden shtender.
The NF led musaf. This was a first for the NF after having led Shacharit on Rosh Hashana about 20 times going back to when I was in University.  All in all it went well although it was far from perfect --- the NF has invited the Big Gong to write up his critique and present it here.

In the meantime, here is what the NF did:

Hineni - The Gush nusach (Rami Yanai) with three part harmony from J and YS at the end...
Unetaneh Tokef - Heinevitz for the beginning, Kibbutz for the middle and Carlebach at the end. Brosh Hashana using this and then Henivitz for all the מיs and of course, Modzitz for אין קצבה.
For Vchol Maminim - this and this (more on that later)
Pipiot - this and Ana Hashem by Carelbach
Seu Shearim - the melody everyone sings between sheva berachot
Zacharit Lach - Lewandowski (with multi part harmony from J, YS, Yankel, Ben Bolloks, and the Gonging Gabbai
Halleluya - Carlebach's shomrim
Hashem Tzvaot Yaken Aleihem, ken Tagen - the high part from והיא שעמדה (Here, the meaning of the phrase matches the words of the song)
Hayom Teamtzanu - Tehei Hashaa Hazot ) --- or Modzitz
Hayom Harat Olam - Avinu Malkeinu
Areshet - This melody

Some conslusions:
1. If it aint broke don't fix it. The NF switched the melody in vchol Maaminim half way through...a mistake....the kahal really got into the first melody and didn't take to the second as well.
2. You often have to  sacrifice the traditional melody you love/you grew up with if you want to the have the crowd on your side. J used the Gushi hoyom teamzanu and Hayom Harat olam and both fell a bit flat because people either don't know them or associate them with anything special....using more traditional melodies on the 2nd day, people seemed to be singing more.
3. In a participatory minyan, the chazzan is as good as the guys supporting him. Without J, YS, the Gonging Gabbai and Yankel, singing at the top of their lungs I would have been dead in the water....As it was, I was hoarse all Friday afternoon. thanks guys!

Happily, A very tired NF is not leading anything on Yom Kippur....