Liturgical innovation. By being more traditional. I’ll explain.

It’s not secret that as time goes on, I’m less and less interested in litrugical “innovation” than in exploring tradition.

Yet, it seem that there are many old traditions we have lost that we can re-claim. These traditions are so old and so lost that we can feel downright innovative as we re-embrace them.

I blogged some time ago about prostration, which is something along these lines for us. 

Today I come bearing similar news, passed onto us by the latest Thursday Delving into T’filah edition of the URJ’s Ten Minutes of Torah.

Rabbi Richard Sarason, a regular contributor to TenMinTorah, not to mention a really nice guy, wrote there today about T’hilim 150, the final portion of the Book of Psalms and the final portion of P’sukei D’zimra (in Mishkan T’filah, that is).

He notes that t’hilim such as 150 or the construction of t’hilim we know as Ashrei are meant as the original responsive readings. They are to be chanted in a call and response patter, but not in a Line A, Line B pattern. Rather, the caller recites the first half of a line and the responders recite the second half.

So the intended call and response sounds like this:

Leader: Ashrei yosh’vei veitekha (Happy are those who dwell in Your house) 
Congregation: Od y’hal’lukha sela (They continually praise You!), etc.

Or, in Psalm 150:

Leader: Hal’lu el b’kodsho (Praise God in His sanctuary!) 
Congregation: Hal’luhu bir’kiya uzo (Praise Him in the sky, His stronghold!), etc.

Biblical Hebrew poetry is constructed on the basis of “idea-rhymes,” that is, the two halves of a verse basically say the same thing in different ways.

Rabbi Sarason notes that this is logic underlying call and response readings, a logic, which he notes, has been vastly undermined by Gates of Prayer-style readings, which are often no more than nice little texts, which have been “arbitrarily” chopped into call blocks and response blocks.

Try reading and singing psalms half-verse by half-verse in either Hebrew or English and see what a difference this makes!

Damn straight. I’m gung ho to try it next time I find myself leading shacharit!

Shabat Shalom. Amen. Selah.

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One response to “Liturgical innovation. By being more traditional. I’ll explain.

  1. Pingback: Rhymying our way through Ashrei «

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