Rosh Hashanah notes, part I

Hineni. More on that below.

English

I was surprised by how much English we did. I’m used to the idea that Reform congregations amp up the English for the High Holidays, but I was surprised by how much we did at Beth El. (Usually Beth El is a standard Conservative shul when it comes to English. By which I mean that the only liturgical piece that occurs in English is the prayer for our country. (Which I hate, but that’s beside the point.) It was nowhere near as much English as you get at Reform shuls on RH, but it was surprising.

Is this normal at C-shuls? Is there an urge to add extra English for the two-day-a-year crowd across the liberal denominations?

The best thing about day two was…

…chanting Ve’ahavta to the HHD trope! One of the best things about this time of year is the Torah trope. The rough jumpiness of the regular trope gives way to the mellower, more melodic sound of the HHD trope. And on day two of RH, we chanted Ve’ahavta to it. It was glorious.

Unetaneh Tokef… sung by children

Doing Hineni up right

Cantor Perry Fine does delight in his chazanut. It seems he’s at his best with the high drama of this time of year. Hineni is prayer to be said by a prayer leader before beginning the service. In Lev Shalem, it’s presented between the Amidah and the repetition of the Amidah. (I don’t know much a bout Hineni so this may or may not be a normal place for it.)

Anyway, the way he did this was dramatically the highest of the high. It was a slow, mournful melody, sung as he entered the room from the back. Beth El has a multi-purpose room behind the sanctuary with a removable wall in between for this time of year. So to turn back and see him slowly walking up from the back singing Hineni was really something else.

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9 responses to “Rosh Hashanah notes, part I

  1. “Is this normal at C-shuls? Is there an urge to add extra English for the two-day-a-year crowd across the liberal denominations?”

    I’ve gone the last two years to a C-shul that is the same 99% Hebrew you mentioned for Saturday mornings, but does some English and some of the Sim Shalom interpretive blessings on Fridays. RH and YK are 99% Hebrew, with a few “meditations” and similar readings, but nearly all of the core is Hebrew.

    “It was a slow, mournful melody, sung as he entered the room from the back.”

    I haven’t seen that for about 8-9 years, but I remember that as being quite moving. The Cantor would repeat the Hineni 3 times, each time getting louder, IIRC, much like with Kol Nidre, and he would take very, very small and slow steps.

    Speaking of which, time for Kol Nidre. Gmar chatimah tovah. Please be mochel me for anything I may have said in comments this year to upset you.

  2. As the son of a Conservative rabbi and the secondary Shaliah Tsibbur at a Conservative shul, I find it relatively common that there’s a lot more English on the High Holidays–as you said, probably to accommodate the three day per year crowd, with a lot more skipping, responsive readings and meditations in a almost every otherwise traditional C shul where I’ve been on the HHD.
    regarding Hineni, most traditional mahzorim place it right before the hatzi Kaddish preceding mussaf

  3. Not sure of the rationale for moving it in Lev Shalem, though I can’t remember where Harlow put it.

    Shsna Tovah- I know we’ve never met, but as a fellow liturgy nerd I consistently thoroughly enjoy your blog!

    • Glad to hear it! Hope you had a good fast!

    • Not sure of the rationale for moving it in Lev Shalem, though I can’t remember where Harlow put it.

      I think it makes sense, since Hineni is the sha”tz personal prayer, so it makes sense that it happen at the beginning of the part of the service that the sha”tz prays on behalf of the community (similar to the piyyutim Yareiti Biftzoti, Atiti L’chanenach, and Eimecha Nasati, which serve a similar function).

      That said, for this reason I don’t really get the point of Hineni (or those other piyyutim) from the congregation’s perspective, since it’s all about the sha”tz, and focuses all the attention on him/her. Why doesn’t the sha”tz just say it to him/herself before going up there?

      At the Leader Minyan, they instead sing “If It Be Your Will” by Leonard Cohen (in English).

      • Maybe you need to think about it from the perspective of how the prayer service is a stand in for the avodah, and the chazan is by analogy the officiating kohen gadol (easier to do with YK, of course, when you might actually hear the avodah section itself). It that situation, it really IS all about the kohen gadol, as he seeks to atone for all of Israel.

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