Monday, October 31, 2016


Selichot: The NF attended the Great Synagogue with the two older little NFs. The choir was outstanding and the chazan (Tzvi Weiss) was good+.

My only criticisms:  1. A low baritone should not be singing the solo of מוחל עוונות and
                                 2. The chazan sang three of the batim from לשמוע אל הרינה to  a pretty well known melody used for birkat cohanim in the US. Too  mundane for me when there are so many better options.

Rosh Hashana Day 1:
"Velvet", an Israeli of French (Strasbourg) descent, davened mussaf and won a golden shtender --- it was smooth, not shleppy and he sang all the right melodies. People joined in and you could say that the entire experience was both uplifting and fun.

Rosh Hashana Day 2:
Swiss Army Thespian led mussaf. Grade: Gong x 26.
Many of us (Velvet, Dr. D, the NF) have the philosophy that the teffilot in a maoin minyan but especially those on the yamim noraim offer an opportunity to reconnect, to participate and to experience something רוחני. (That is why we don't eat nut (or beans, cauliflower, broccoli or cabbage) on Rosh Hashana as those foods offer an opportunity for something רוחני but in the bad physical sense.)

Although I never asked, I would guess that Swiss doesn't subscribe to this philosophy. Swiss stuck to his own nostalgia (of home and/or yeshiva) and severely alienated and pissed off the kahal. Of course, there is room to slip lit bits and pieces of family or hometown nusach into the davening but singing  בראש השנה יכתבון to a (boring) melody that only you know from home and then אין קצבה  to  a melody that maybe 5 know (instead of the Modzitz melody that everyone is expecting) is unforgivable. Singing Calebach's כבקרת רועה עדרו in a different part of  ונתנה תןקף confused the hell out of people. The grand finale of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah for הללוליה was just irritating and people were not singing along. As our internationally famous Rav said afterward, "Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is very nice, but it (and other Hollywood melodies) has no place in my shul". Gong
Yom Kippur:
Kol Nidrei was fine.
The NF led Shacharit with  a bit of a raspy voice. the piyut אמרו לאלהים  is way too long, nothing fits and forces the chzzan to sing for 39 pages by himself. Other than that piyut, I got people singing.

Musaf: The old Yekkish Don led for the 40th year in a row using Nusach Frankfurth, 1938. It was all right but not terribly uplifting.

Mincha: The guy finished on time but for his victory kaddish he used a Dutch melody that only he knew.

Neila: the youngest NF was a rockstar, singing a mochel avonot solo and earning his payment of a crapload of Toblerone.

Sukkot: All was fine or at worst, parve.

Simchat Torah:
The night was fine and then we got to Shacharit: Martini led and all was fine until he got to hallel. Although hallel is a part of davening that people eagerly join in singing, Martini decided to sing a bunch of Australian melodies from the 1950s that only he knew. See Rosh Hashana Day 2. Gong.

Shabbat Breishit:
Kabbalat Shabbat was led my mini-martini (no relation to Martini), a trained chazzan. It was slow and boring but apparently, mini-martini wanted to show us what we missed when he was not asked to daven over r"h and y"k. When he got to השכיבנו, he sang the entire thing slowly to, ready,....מכניסי רחמים. People were clearly getting annoyed ---but was he done. Oh no! He finished off the bracha to the melody of והיא שעמדה (connection unknown). The NF wished everyone a חג שמח וכשר, gonged and then went home.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The difference between davening Shacharit and Mussaf on R"h and Y"k

After leading Musaf on 2nd Day R"h last year in the main minyan, the gabbaim have rotated the NF to Shacharit Y"k. While the NF doesn't really mind, other baalei tefilla really don't like doing a shacharit and much prefer mussaf. The NF, who led shacharit this past Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh, tried to explain why to one of the gabbaim ---

My logic, Shacharit on the yamim noraim is like אל אדון while mussaf is hallel. The gabbai didn't get it. So the NF continued --- at אל אדון  the shul is only 60% full, no one is awake yet and no is in the mood to sing so the chazzan has a lot of work to do. In contrast, by הלל, the shul is 95% full and as long as you sing something normal, it is very easy to get the crowd going.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A review of last Shabbat's mussaf

As a new co-worker "Making Tzaddikim Great Again" has recently discovered the now defunct blog, he has asked me why I don't get back to writing.

After this past Shabbat's mussaf, I could safely say that material had made itself available.

A bit of background: In our famous south Jerusalem synagogue, our internationally famous Rav has placed a number of baalei tefilla (if you want to call them that) on a black list for, well, sucking or just plain irritating the hell out of the kahal.  Only when the Rav is away, do the gabbaim ask the black-listed chazzanim to daven before the amud.  Appearing on the list:

  • Guiseppe the WOP - an Italian-born neighborhood guy with an operatic voice who likes to sing kedusha to Verdi
  • Cravat man - an older man with a rotten voice who likes to lead Kabbalat shabbat, nusach Carlebach, at the slowest possible speed all while wearing a cravat.
  • Pepe Le Pew - A Frenchman who enjoys schlepping out the davening every opportunity he gets. In truth, Pepe (named after the famous French cartoon skunk) doesn't have a bad voice....he just regularly starts in a  bad register so that he cracks as he tries to go high. Pepe has become quite predictable in what he will sing. Kedusha of  Shacharit is always this.  Anyway, this past year Pepe was asked to daven mincha on Yom Kippur and although he was allocated an a hour and 10 minutes, he decided he would show everyone that he deserved a mussaf. He sang everything he could. At the hour and half point, oblivious to the late hour and the growing annoyance of the kahal, he began to sing רצה - our famous Rav banged on the shtender and yelled nu....Pepe had been placed on the blacklist.
With out Rav away this past Shabbat, the gabbaim asked Pepe to daven mussaf. While baal shacharit  had inoffensive (if not boring) nusach, he took his time. Leining was long as well (Pinchas is a lengthy parsha). And then Pepe got up there. And he schlepped. But what made mussaf special was Pepe's predictable kedusha:
First, פרוק ית for נעריצך and קדוש (which he said 4 times), תנצל נפשי (or at lease part of it) for כבודו, then אודך (from Hallel!) for ממקומו and finally, כבקרת רועה עדרו  for שמע ישראל.  As usual, no one was singing along (other than Dr. D and the NF adding "gong" in the appropriate places). Some may disagree with me, but I am a firm believer that certain melodies (such as כבקרת רועה עדרו and other yamim noraim melodies) should be left for, well, the yamim noraim. Would you ever consider singing part of davening to chamol or kol nidrei  on a regular shabbat?