Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Sorry for not having posted much in the last few months....The NF has been really busy.

here is a very cute little video from "אנדרוס"....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Jewish Rain Dance

A reader has written in with a question regarding that Jewish Rain Dance called Tefillat Geshem:

From: "I Love the Nusach Freak"
Date: Oct 11, 2012 6:04 AM
Subject: Tefillat Geshem/Tal


Dear NF,

First of all, just discovered your blog, and it's amazing. Some of our nussachim are simply specimens of beautiful composition and totally deserve the respect you pay them.

Second of all, when on Shmini Atzeret the guy davening Mussaf used the Chatzi Kaddish from Yamim Noraim Shachris (or at least something very similar), I silently went a little crazy because I was expecting Yamim Noraim Mussaf (which I personally think is really, really beautiful). But after doing some research I discovered he was right. My question is, quite simply, why? How does it make sense to stick a Shachris Kaddish in a Mussaf?


Dear "I Love the Nusach Freak"
Thank you so much for your mail. You are so right: some of our nussachim are simply specimens of beautiful composition. Unfortunetly many others are complete dreck. But really who are we to judge? 

 Regarding Tefillat Geshem -- Let's start with some background regarding what to use when. In Ashkenazi nusach there is a concept of mi-sinai niggunim which of course means that they are not from sinai. Here is a link to an excellent article by Cantor Sherwood Goffin on the matter.
 In Ashkenazi nusach using the R"h/Y"k musaf kaddish for Tal/Geshem would kind of be like playing God Save the Queen instead of the Star Spangled Banner. Lhavdil, of course. I can only think what would happen should such a thing occur (mixing up the kadishim, not the anthems) and I'm pretty sure it would involve mixed dancing and inter-marriage. 
having said that, there are three distinct nusachim that all have 2 very similar attributes (and that are all mi-Sinai niggunim):
 1. Tal/Geshem
2. Neilah
3. the kaddish before baruch hu on R"H and Y"k (I'm not actually sure if this is a mi-Sinai niggun but since nobody is going to get hurt if we call it one, let's go for it). Listen to about 10 minutes in....  

Each kaddish starts with a declining scale for the words יתגדל ויתקדש followed by a sudden jump to a  higher note for שמיא רבה . This is followed by all sorts of ay yay yays. I never really thought about it before but I guess there are similarities between Shacharit and Tal.  So-So chazzanim are always getting confused between Tal/Geshem and neiilah and thus, one way to test  a chazzan if he knows his nusach is to ask him to sing both and identify which is which. I have alsways found that the way to remember the Neilah melody is that the melody on the initial words have a certain desperation while Tal and Geshem is a long slow decline which makes sense when we are in no hurry on chag (unless of course it is the first day of Pesach and the prunes that you had for breakfast finally did the trick right before musaf).  

I hope that answers your question.

    - the NF    

Shabbat Chol Hamoed - A guest blog

Editor's note: The NF is pleased to once agin host  a guest post from the Big Gong.

Yankel led shacharit, which I have to say, was surprisingly bearable. It was almost as if he was showing some sensitivity to the fact that we would soon have to endure 28 minutes of a man (editor's note: the same guy who led YK shacharit last year)  reading kohelet whilst his underwear was clearly too tight. They must have been very tight because he at least went at some pace.

The one foul up Yankel did make, IMO, was to use this tune during Hallel (as a bonus, the clip features both kol isha and some buxom seminary girls jumping up and down)

Just because a popular song has the same words as are included in Hallel, it doesn’t mean it suits the responsive nature of that particular part of tefilla. No one knew if they were coming or going --- and that was before they saw said clip of buxom seminary girls. (Editor's note: I take no respondibility for the Big Gong's humour).

The Torah reading was so slow, it was actually read backward. We ended up somewhere in Vaera for the Maftir.

When Ben Bollocks took the stage for Musaf an audible sigh was heard. I walked around the shul collecting everyone's belts so as to minimise the suicide attempts that would surely follow as Bollocks, showing no sensitivity to the time, proceeded to belt out his now obligatory “Avinu Avinu”. Shoot me now. Twice. And then hang me.

I just don’t get it.

thank you Big Gong.

The NF has recieved an intersting question from a reader regarding the correct nusach for the kaddish preceding Tal/Geshem....Hopefully I will respond in a post soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sukkot & Simchat Torah

shalom to the greater gonging community.

The NF was asked to lead Maariv the first night of sukkot....It's kind of fun being the shaliach tzibbur for a big (450+ people) minyan but it was a bit annoying that only a handful of people joined in for the English/German shalosh regalim kaddish before the amida. Here is a link to the sheet music.  I'm still working on getting a sound file....

A good time was had by all over Sukkot, .זמן שמחתינו----- that is other than an NF fan who wrote to the NF describing his disgust of an experience he had at his local hashkama minyan on the first day of chag....Yes, Shacharit was fine (even if the chazzan screwed up Hoshanot), our fan was even forgiving when the chazzan for Musaf forgot ותערב. However, when the chazzan for musaf used the Partisan's song for kedusha, our fan had had enough. As our fan wrote:
"Yes, I just love that joyous image of jews in ghettos fighting the Nazis and marching under the gates of the camps to liven up my yomtov"

(At some point we may need to do a post on inappropriate melodies in shul)

Another NF fan told me of his disgust when on the first night of sukkot  the baal tefilla in his shul used the pre-mussaf kaddish from the yamim noraim. If you don't know the nusach, don't get up there.

Simchat Torah
The NF happily spent some time in shul over Sukkot reading תולדות חג שמחת תורה by א יערי which identifies the origins (all in late antiquity) and various minhagim (very sketchy) practiced around the world on this awful day. I came across a minhag from E. Europe where the village melamed would lead all the little children through the village yelling out צאן קדשים to which the children would respond:


Yes. יערי  then dedicates 2 pages in his book breaking this minhag down mentioning in which towns the children would say, Mehh Mehh and which villages they just said Mehh.

So the NF brings the 4 little NFs to shul on simchat Torah night only to find an old guy yelling: צאן קדשים. Children responding loudly were rewarded with lots of candy.

All in all, hakafot were bareable at night...

In the AM, the NF davened at the 5:15 AM minyan, finishing at 7:45 AM. The problem: I ended up returning to shul at 9:30 with the children....At least kol Hanearim was very well organized (150+ children making their way  after their aliya to shake hands with the rav and get a bag of junk.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

0 for 5

No Golden Shtenders were given out over Yom Kippur.
The older gentlemen leading Kol Nidrei wasn't my cup of tea, Baal Shacharit had a nice voice but poor nusach and melody selection, Baal Musaf was alright until he used Fiddler on the roof for וכל מאמינים (GONG!). Baal mincha used this kaddish to start and then again as his victory kaddish. Enough said.
....and then the older gentlemen who had led kol nidrei led Neilah using the geshem nusach. Gong. and then he sang more or less everything to this melody. Double Gong.  All in all it was an easy fast but the davening left us feeling a bit wanting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gmar Chatima Tovah

....and a Golden Shtender has been awarded to Dr. D, physician for an outstanding Musaf second day of R"h. Dr. D nailed Unetaneh Tokef using this nusach and then led a flawless Modzitz Ein Kitzvah earning him his 2nd Golden Shtender (his first was awarded two years ago for an excellent Y"k musaf at a vatikin minyan).

The NF led Shacharit first day R"h rather uneventfully.
my only new "chiddush" was switching to אנא ה' by Carlebach in the middle of לאל אורך דין....At the last second, I also decided to shake things up a bit and rather than using the traditional "victory" kaddish, I used the Modzitz Kaddish instead. Correct move.  Mrs. NF tells me the entire davening was well recieved.
 The guy whol led musaf first day was rather creative, using Leanord Cohen's Who by Fire for מי באש in Unetaneh Tokef and again Leanord Cohen's Hallelujah for הללוליה. Being that our minyan consists of  people who enjoy singing/ harmonzing, it came out very nicely. Very gutsy.

So now we are in the 10 days of Awe and the NF has been getting the occasional email/phone call about moichelling. "Will you Moichel me?", I am asked.

Two reactions:
1. Maybe the NF has a sick mind (not just maybe- he does), but Moicheling really sounds like something very dirty  that happens in the men's mikveh or in the back of the beis medrish between very "special" chavrusas or alternativly out in the pasture between a man and his sheep. Not that it makes them bad people  or anything. (We don't judge here at Nusach Freak). But I'm not into that sort of thing so no, I will not moichel you.

2. You want me to forgive you? Tell me exactly for what you would like to be forgiven. You are not getting away with a blanket, "will you moichel me". I want to hear everything you said about me or did to me in the last 12 months.  Then I can decide if I will forgive you.

Any way, the NF wishes everyone an easy fast and an enjoyable moichelling if you are into that sort of thing.

--- the NF

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shana Tova

Shana Tova to the greater gonging community.
the NF apologises for not having written more in the last few weeks--- between work, helping Mrs NF get the 4 little NFs settled in their new respective schools and the sefer torah (now 82%+ finished - we ordered the עצי חיים a few weeks ago and sat with a designer this morning on the מעיל),  I've had little time to breathe.

The NF has a relativly light schedule for the yamim noraim --- I'm only davening schacharit on the first day of Rosh Hashana at a small private minyan here in Jerusalem ....and I'm really thrilled not to be organising or gabbaing this year.

Here are links to two new songs worth listening to before the yamim noraim....

The NF

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New beginnings

For reasons that are well outside the scope of the blog, Mr & Mrs NF along with the 4 little NFs have moved from a small bedroom community half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to the big city. While the NF is sure to stay in touch with "J", "YS", the big Gong, the Gonging gabbai, the LA etc,  the move will hopefully afford lots of new cannon fodder for the blog.

So the NF took NF #2 (age 8) to Shteiblach yesterday morning for shacharit. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Shteiblach, it is a Jerusalem institution where one can pretty much catch a minyan at any time of the day. The population in Shteiblach is pretty eclectic - dati leumi, shasnikim, chareidi light, some breslov chasidim....

Two observations:
1. Many if not all charedim insist on wearing a jacket and hat for davening. A hat is worn because you never know when it is going to start raining in the middle of davening (and also Yaakov Avinu wore a hat when he davened right before his chavrusa learning Tosfos with the Eastern Bunny --- and we all want to be like Yaakov Avinu). The jacket is worn because in Europe (before the war)  many shuls had a country club attached  where mitpallelim could have their juice and toast right after davening before going home to the rebbetzin and 11 children. It goes without saying that  entry to the clubhouse dining room required a jacket. As religious life in Europe was perfect before the war, we should all wear jackets when we daven.

Why is it that people who wear  hats have to wear a hat that looks like a group of Mexicans have danced on it?  

Why is it that people who wear jackets have to mismatch an old dusty suit jacket with any old random trousers? If you really want to look "michubadik" during davening, then dress in a "put together" manner.

2. In the NF's experience when davening in Shteiblach, there is always some very frum dude who will always stand right in front of the aron kodesh for shmoneh esrei. He will then go for the world record in how slowly he can daven. So  when the cohanim need to get to the aron for birkat cohanim they are blocked by "really frum dude". "Really frum dude" - if you know that your shmoneh esrei needs a little ex lax to get it moving, why stand in front of the aron?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shabbat Mincha

So what is the correct nusach for Shabbat mincha. As noted in my last blog post, Cantor Sherwood Forest Goffin maintains that the correct nusach is Shabbat mincha nusach for Ashrei, Uva L'zion etc until chazarat Hashatz. Chazarat Hashatz is said using the weekday melody until the end of kedusha (yimloch) at which point the chazzan switches back to shabbat mincha nusach

The Big Gong approached the chazzan of the shul in which he grew up for his opinion regarding the correct nusach. Said chazzan (who will not be named because he probably does not want to be associated with this blog - who can blame him?)  maintains the correct nusach is shabbat mincha nusach all the way from Ashrei until the end.

So who is correct? I turn to you, the greater gonging community for your feedback. Please fill in the poll below

Shabbat Shalom ---

The NF

Monday, July 2, 2012

It happens to all chazanim at some point or another

As Shabbat starts late and the NF has 4 little NFs, the NF has been attending KY/S&M on Friday afternoons as it is the only shul in the area with an early Shabbat minyan. Let's just say that one does not come out of that shul very fact this past friday night, with Kabbalat Shabbat being led by an older gentleman whose death-warmed-over singing style made me think that we needed to call the chevra kadisha in for a little tahara action, was the least inspiring Friday night davening I had attended since the previous week at KY/S&M.

Observation #1: When a little kid gets up to lead yigdal at the end of davening and he's wearing shorts and then wraps a long talit around himself so that only a bit of calf is showing, it really looks like a flasher in a trench coat.

Observation #2: For those living in Israel or for those who have visited Israel over the last few years, you will know that the OU Israel Center publishes a weekly rag known as TorahTidbits (or in the NF's circles as TorahNitWits). This publication is everything that is wrong with American Orthodoxy, contains idiotic articles, ads for superficial sounding shiurim (in English of course), little mazal tov and condolonce announcements and ads which are completly inapproriate for shul. This week's edition did not dissapoint. As found on page 28:

Yes, as Death Warmed Over warbled through Lecha Dodi, I got to think about the 50+ year old members of the anglo community here in Israel taking a natural, herbal supplement for their ED.  Gross. And remember folks, it's powerful!!!!

So Shabbat day passed uneverntfully until I got to arvit. YS comes over to me and tells me that "J" was the chazzan for mincha at the neighborhood 1:30 mincha minyan and had a bit of an dysfunctional episode. You see, he started chazarat Hashat"z in the weekday melody (correct nusach --see Cantor Sherwood Goffin's notes on Mincha nusach here) but at yimloch, he failed to switch over and repeated all of mincha in the shalosh regalim melody. "J" is usually a top notch baal tefilla that doesn't get gonged but these things happen to all chazanim at some point or another. Maybe it's stress from work, a need to exercise more or poor diet that is causing the problems. Of course, J did just celebrate a significant birthday. J - For older men solutions are available: They are natural, herbal and powerful!!!!  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2 days in a row

the NF hopes you all enjoyed the post on Hitler Youth and his confused havara.

Being that the NF is avoiding writing a rather important email on interest rate mismatch and the lack of a clear government bond baseline for floating rate, CPI-linked notes in the Israeli market, here is a great link to mickopedia on the piyyut  יגדל


Monday, May 14, 2012

It's been a while...

No I'm not dead, I've just been very busy:
I'm hitting the homestretch on the sefer torah....Projected date for fininshing the writing is March 2013.
Between the torah, work, the 4 little NFs and gabbaing I've had zero free time to amuse you, the greater gonging community.....until now.

So last Shabbat, the NF and the rest of the neighborhood posse headed over to KY/S&M for a little mincha action. As the leining was the Big Gong's bar mitzvah parsha we all eagerly awaited to hear his rendition. But alas it was not meant to be.

There is a American-born mitpallel (or to be more specific, mispallel) in KY/S&M who is known around the neighborhood as the AshkeNazi. The AshkeNazi feels very strongly in maintaining minhagei Ashkenaz and that is very admirable --- at least in theory (we'll discuss further below).  So the AshkeNazi's Israeli-born and raised teenaged son get's up to lein....The son of the AshkeNazi, henceforth called Hitler Youth, speaks Hebrew with a thick Israeli accent so he leined that way ---expect clearly his father, the AshkeNazi, had drilled into him the importance of havara hitler youth started guessing which tavs where savs and of course got them all wrong all the while reading the rest of the words with an Israeli (Sephardic) havara. Gong. It was just plain offensive. The AshkeNazi was overheard murmuring in the corner:
"I knew I should have worn a condom".

Why is minhag so important (to people)?  the NF intentionally put the words "to people" in parantheses because there is the reason minhag is important  and there is the reason that it is importnant to people.

Minhag is important in halacha because of the simple concept "מנהג אבותינו בידינו". Translation: We follow our parent's minhagim. So if your parents waited 6 hours between meat and milk, so should you. If your family ate kitniyot on Pesach in the old country, so should you. If your father talked in shul and told dirty jokes during leining, so should you.  Why do we do this? Because חז"ל said so. And they all had really long beards. And if we stopped listening to חז"ל it could lead to mixed dancing.

Minhag is also important becuase it gives people a sense of belonging. People get hot under the collar that we have to daven this nusach or that not because that is the only version that Hashem listens to --- Most people have never thought about that. People get hot under the collar becuase they like to get hot under the collar (for lack of anything better to do)...and also doing things a certain way may remind them of where they came from (most likely illiterate cavemen or monkeys if I have to guess) and that they can't be lumped together with the rest of  "amcha" that includes unwanteds  you would never want to date your daughter.

So is minhag bad? No. But it should be taken with a grain of salt. Hitler Youth didn't understand that the tav and sav is not what makes torah reading Ashkenazi. He forgot about the rest of the requisite accent (example komotz) and the need to yell "oy vey" at the end of every aliya. However, in  Hitler Youth's defense when he finished leining, he sat down to have some Shaloshoodis (on the menu: gribines, gefitle fish,  ptcha and mashgiach beard hair kugel). After bentching, Hitler You looked aound and asked if there were any Sephardim in the room. One swarthy young man answered in the affirmative. Hitler Youth then said "Well, go ahead and clean up"

***** Please note: some of this post is satire. Some is not.