Monday, September 25, 2017

Rosh Hashana 5778

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

The NF attended the Great Synagogue for mid-night mass Selichot. The Choir: Polished. The Chazzan: Professional. BottomLine: Selichot at the Great were kind of like a bowl of prunes on the 2nd day of Pesach. You've had worse, you've had better but it gets the job done. Seriously, both the choir and chazzan were adequate but yawn, really boring! The only highlight: A child soloist (name?) accompanying the chazzan and choir.

Rosh Hashana
First Day, Dr. Spiritual led a very good shacharit with accurate nusach using melodies that hadn't really been heard in our famous South Jerusalem Synagogue. Surprisingly, people sang along. Musaf was led by Velvet who did his usual Grade A job. On a personal level, the NF did not enjoy musaf - although Velvet's nusach is pretty perfect and he has a great voice, musaf was predictable and even  a bit boring.

The only thing that made RH Day 1 interesting is the fact that there was a brit --- the NF recently joined the shul's Gabbai Corps and  was therefore  included on all the email/whassup discussions between the family, the Rav, the gabbaim and the mohel as to when to do the brit. Apparently, there is an ancient Ashkenazi minhag to do the brit immediately before tekiot and the mohel is not supposed to wipe his mouth after doing metziza b'peh (if you don't know what that is - google it or better yet, don't) and then blow the shofar with the blood of the brit still on his lips so that the blood of brit Avraham mixes with the the shofar of Akeidat Yitzhak. Narsty! Anyway, the mohel was happy to do the brit before tekiot but let us know that the ancient minhag of mixing blood with the shofar  has gone the way of eating p'tcha and molesting little boys in the mikveh. Sure you can find those who still still do it but the mainstream has abandoned the practice.

Second Day, the NF led Shacharit and Dr. D led musaf. It all went perfectly fine although it can be said that chazzaning on the High Holy Days in the main minyan of  our famous South Jerusalem Synagogue is becoming more and more challenging. Most of the 'young' crowd (age 35 and younger) goes to the vatikin minyan leaving the main minyan heavy on the alta kocker side. While the room doesn't quite have the feel of an old age home (and most of the alta kockers don't have the old person smell --- yet), getting the room going can be a challenge!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Last year, one of the baalEi mussaf in the NF's famous South Jerusalem shul decided to focus on his own nostalgia rather than picking melodies that would engage and uplift the kahal. The NF, among others, were rather critical of this focus on nostalgia. Following an uproar from a number of members (NF not included!), the shul va'ad as well as our Internationally famous Rav decided to avoid such a repeat situation all baalei tefilla this year would have to first present game plans to a forum of the gabbaim, baalei tefilla and rabbanim for discussion and approval. Not such a terrible idea given that the shul is made up of many native Israelis as well as olim from 10+ countries (with a heavy concentration on the UK, US, France, Switzerland and Australia) --- there are many ideas of what constitutes good davening!

Both the NF (Baal Shacharit - RH 2) and Dr D (Baal Mussaf - RH 2) were simultaneously annoyed and amused by this development. But the RH meeting, which occurred 2 weeks ago, was a real hoot. The 4 RH baalei tefilla bounced ideas off one another and came up with one cohesive style for the chag. Meanwhile, the old Yekkish Don also attended --- for every major part of the RH davening he kept throwing out what he viewed as necessary/uplifting/engaging. As this included mostly Lewandowski (or similar) or Shabbat zemirot popular in the 1960s --- we politely declined. (For the record, some Lewandowski is a must such as Zacharti Lach even for our modern pallets). As almost all of us had sung with choirs (or had davened in very formal shuls), when the Naumborg Seu Shearim was recommended by the Yekkish Don, we all broke into spontaneous rendition ending with a lot of giggles.  Let's just say ---- it did not make the cut.

For the record, let me state that Nostalgia is not bad ---- It has it's time and place. Two days ago while looking for something to listen to on youtube (while working through a rather tricky private equity investment model), I hit upon a set of recordings by Shlomi Honig --- Shlomi recorded a number of old yekkish nusach pieces found in an Encyclopedia brought from pre-war Germany at his grandparent's house in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim. I literally got goose bumps as I heard a number of melodies that I hadn't heard since my childhood:

Lecha dodi for the three weeks
Titbarach for Shabbat morning (exactly as I remembered the German baaeli tefilla doing every Shabbat morning)
Brach Dodi (Pesach)
Lmaan Amitach (Sukkot) (a variation of what I knew as a kid)

Definitely worth a listen --- although I wouldn't dare use any of these melodies in shul (other than maybe Titbarach)!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

It's so sad!

In recent days the NF attended a family wedding here in the Holyland. The kallah, a cousin of Mrs. NF, was marrying a son of a rather well known Hesder (National Religious) Rosh Yeshiva. While the bride and groom were your typical, run of the mill, national religious couple,  the greater family of the groom (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings) was rather religiously intense/chardal.

One former co-worker used to refer to such people as Tzurels (צורל ) -
צדיק ורע לו
 or "Righteous and everything is terrible in life" meaning a pained or constipated look is always required.  I'm not a very judgmental person (ok, I am) so I just assumed the entire family needs a bit more fibre in its diet.

Anyway,  a yeshivish (dati leumi of course) looking family member was called up for the 7th Sheva Bracha ---- he proceeded to enunciate every word in a kvetchy, pained and sad voice all while shuckling like the (proverbial) Rebbe. The NF would like to assume that this heavily bearded, huge Kipa wearing dude (he was even wearing a suit!) was aware of the words he was saying:

" אשר ברא ששון ושמחה חתן וכלה, גילה רינה דיצה וחדוה אהבה ואחוה ושלום ורעות"

So in that phrase alone we have 10 words that reference sad concepts such as happiness, love and peace. Since when did religious intensity/seriousness get replaced with sorrow?

So this past Friday night, we make our way to shul and lo and behold Mr Spirituality is asked to lead Kabbalat Shabbat. Mr Spirituality spent 5+ years in a hesder yeshiva, holds a PhD in Jewish Thought and is currently a professor at a major Israeli University so I can only assume he understands basic Hebrew. Mr. Spirituality slowly made his way to the shulchan draped the talit over his head, shuckled a few hundred times (like the rebbe), closed his eyes like he had just seen his Grandma naked and said the joyful words 

 'לכו נרננה לה

....while sounding like his best friend had just died!

The NF sighed heavily, gonged to himself and started reviewing the parsha.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Baruch Dayan HaGong