Let’s do Stage 3 in the morning; P’sukei D’zimrah; Etc.

Crossposted to Jewschool

Fellow Jewschooler BZ over at Mah Rabu has put up the long-awaited Part VIII of his Hilchot Pluralism series. HP is a series of case studies in what BZ calls Stage 3 Jewish pluralism. In Part VIII, he covers a novel solution to the issue of one and two-day yom tov observances. Tikkun Leil Shabbat, a DC group, celebrated Simchat Torah this year in such a way that people who believed it to be chag and people who believed it to be a weekday could participate equally within their own frameworks. It’s fascinating. You should read Hilchot Pluralism.

All of this had me re-reading all of HP. Re-reading it, combined with my slightly unsatisfactory recent experiences in a couple of different New York City prayer communities had me giving serious consideration to a big new project. I’ve also been thinking about less than a year from now when my NJ chavurah is not going to be an option for me every week. (And yes, Larry, I’ve also been thinking about your admonishments about creating vs. criticizing).

HP paints such a perfect picture for me. The only place I’ve ever been (not that I don’t know of others) that lives up to BZ’s vision of Stage 3 pluralism is Kol Zimrah. KZ meets once a month and only on Friday nights. But I want what is on offer at KZ every Friday night. And then I want it again in the morning. And I want it in a daily minyan. And I want it on holidays. This is a tall order.

So this week, I began starting to think toward creating one more element of this.

For some, like me, what draws them to KZ is the pluralism. I like the singing, but I like the ideas more. However, most of the people who come are probably more drawn in by the singing and spirited atmosphere. The spirited singing is thanks to two liturgical developments. First, we can thank some Medieval Kabbalists for giving us Kabbalat Shabbat. And second, we can thank Shlomo Carelbach for giving us some great tunes to make Kabbalat Shabbat a fun, engaging prayer experience. In essence, KZ without a Carelbach Kabbalat Shabbat would be a shell of itself.

So maybe what we need to create is the same kind of big singing, big fun prayer experience on Shabbat morning.

Luckily, much like Kabbalat Shabbat, we have hefty section of psalms to sing in the morning too! P’sukei D’zimrah usually gets shafted in shul. Most people don’t even show up until its over. It’s also long, so if we actually sang all of it, we wouldn’t be done with services until it’s time for Minchah.

We’ve got tunes for all of these psalms, but some may not work for the kind of spirited experience I’m talking about here. Especially if Carlebach (or Carlebach-esque) music is what is needed, we’re in trouble. For Psalm 150 and for 92 and a few others, we’ve got no problem.

But for some pslams, this will take some work. I chatted with Russ, our chazan (OK, our JTS student chazan, but he’s our chazan) at Chavurat Lamdeinu here in Jersey, about it this morning. I’m a bit melodically-challenged sometimes, so the obvious hadn’t occurred to me. Russ pointed out that Carlebach (and others) have a gazillion nigunim out there that could be laid on top of some of these psalms. This will take some work, but it’s doable.

Of course, as others have pointed out to me as I’ve rambled about this idea off and on this week, there are also some significant practical challenges here. Getting a minyan together on a Shabbat morning is harder than on a Shabbat evening because you need a Torah. You also need people to read Torah. This stuff is infinitely surmountable, but it’s there nonetheless.

The biggest challenge would be time. At its fullest, by my count, P’sukei D’zimrah includes 16 full psalms, the entire Song of the Sea, two prayers and a whole host of ancillary biblical passages. This is a more than twice as much material as Kabbalat Shabbat, which only has 8 psalms and a few extra piyutim/songs (usually between one and three songs, though it depends on who you talk to).

So there would probably need to be cuts. Personally, I’d probably start with the ancillary biblical passages, but I wouldn’t want to make these decisions alone anyway.

There would also have to be some discussion of how to do the rest of the service, with very careful attention paid to the requirements of Stage 3.  Issues like the number of aliyot and the triennial cycle would certainly be up for discussion. Other parts of the service would need discussion too, such as the Amidah, where a Heiche Kedushah (leader does Amidah aloud through the Kedushah, everyone continues silently on their own, no leader’s repetition after) would probably merit discussion. And Birkot Hashacar etc, despite being a favorite of mine, would probably be right out because that can all be done at home before arriving or individually by people who arrive early.

That’s about as far as my thinking on this has taken me so far. Thoughts, anyone? Who’s with me?


11 responses to “Let’s do Stage 3 in the morning; P’sukei D’zimrah; Etc.

  1. 1. Thanks for letting me know that some of what I write resonates.
    2. As I have said before, being unabashedly Reform, I’m impatient with some of the stretches being made in the name of pluralism, which I see as concessions to those with a more rigid standard of observance. Any suggestions I might make towards overcoming the problems you’ve identified in creating your ideal Shabbat morning experience would founder because they would be too Reform for some of your daveners, including possibly you.
    3. I say this because of your insistence on the accuracy of the Reform label for yourself — despite the fact that (totally aside from the deficiencies of Mishkan T’filah) you deplore the Reform approach to liturgy.
    4. I would probably enjoy Kol Zimrah as a one-time visitor — but aside from a probably demographic misfit, it would be unlikely to be my community, because Shabbat comes every week, not just once a month, and I would find the intermittency problematic.
    5. While your aspirations are noble, a daily and yom tov minyan are likely to be problematic, wherever you are a year from now. But Shabbat morning should be do-able with a lot of persistence and a little flexibility. Go for it!

    • 4. I would probably enjoy Kol Zimrah as a one-time visitor — but aside from a probably demographic misfit, it would be unlikely to be my community, because Shabbat comes every week, not just once a month, and I would find the intermittency problematic.

      Shabbat comes every week for most people at Kol Zimrah also; they just spend Shabbat with other communities. Remember that KZ is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where there are zillions of Jewish options, so it was created to fit into that ecosystem. If it were in a location where it was the only game in town, it would probably meet more often.

  2. 2. Larry, do me a favor and go read BZ’s Taxonomy of Jewish Pluralism. At what he calls Stage 1 and Stage 2 Jewish Pluralism, there are attempts made to make concessions. But by Stage 3, no one makes concessions to anyone. I am talking here about Stage 3. http://mahrabu.blogspot.com/2005/07/taxonomy-of-jewish-pluralism.html

    3. Remember that time when we talked at here about defining Reform and we all (including you) agreed that there is a difference between Reform Jews, the Reform Movement and Reform Judaism? MT is a product of the Reform Movement, and it is not incumbent upon all Reform Jews, in our set of definitions, to use MT. And what does it mean that I “deplore THE Reform approach to liturgy?” MT does not have a monopoly on approaches to Reform liturgy. There are other approaches that are just as intellectually Reform, while arriving at different conclusions in terms of form and substance. This is like our friend Bert’s insistence that anything less that UPB, choir and organ is Orthodox.

    4. I do indeed find the intermittency problematic. I would much rather have it ever week.

    5. I know. But this is a first step.

  3. I had previously read the BZ essay you suggested, and there are many places I am prepared to live with the frummest common denominator — e.g., dietary laws observed at community dinners (which was not the norm when I first got involved in the Jewish philanthropic world). And when I go to services in a synagogue of another stream, I follow their practices, although I hate the typical first-words, mumble, last-words Orthodox davening style, also to be found in some Conservative synagogues. And I have no problem if someone can’t daven with me because a woman might lead, or there’s no mechitza, or whatever — his problem, not mine.

    I agree that it is not incumbent on all Reform Jews to use Mishkan T’filah. And although not all self-identified Reform Jews may follow the Reform approach to liturgy, there is a fairly universal Reform approach to liturgy, regardless of siddur — 1 chatzi kaddish and a mourners’ kaddish, no musaph has been the practice I’ve seen followed in North America, Europe, the FSU, the Pacific Rim, and Israel (and although I haven’t been in South Africa, South America, or Australia, I have worshipped with people from all those places, who articulated no distress with the structure of the service). Whatever the other intellectually Reform approaches may be, show me the congregation that identifies as Reform and is following them, and then maybe I’ll concede that I overstated.

    • You’re missing my point re:Taxonomy of Jewish Pluralism. When you say frummest common denominator, you are NOT talking about the same thing I am. I am talking about Stage 3 pluralism, which is very much NOT frummest common denominator pluralism.

      You’re also missing my point about Reform approaches to liturgy, when you say, ” show me the congregation that identifies as Reform and is following them, and then maybe I’ll concede that I overstated.” My point is that Reform organizations are NOT the be all and end all of Reform.

      There are some forms which Reform liturgy has taken with little variation, including as you say, no Musaf, though not, as you say only kaddishes yatom and chatzi. To use your example of MT, d’rabbanan is back. If it can come back, I see no reason why shalem couldn’t come back too.

      Further, these are what we might call Reform minhagim, but not Reform halachah, while I would argue that imahot has become Reform halachah, meaning that it is essential to Reform liturgy in a way that excluding certain portions of the service are not.

      Further, if R’tzeih never went away, but gathered changes instead, why is there a zero possibility that Musaf will ever come back? Musaf is nothing but R’tzeih writ large, is it not?

    • And although not all self-identified Reform Jews may follow the Reform approach to liturgy, there is a fairly universal Reform approach to liturgy, regardless of siddur — 1 chatzi kaddish and a mourners’ kaddish, no musaph has been the practice I’ve seen followed in North America, Europe, the FSU, the Pacific Rim, and Israel

      I wouldn’t call this an “approach to liturgy” — you’re describing something much more fine-grained and specific than that. In the trichotomy I tried to set up among Reform halachah, aggadah, and minhag, you’re describing minhag (albeit very widespread minhag), whereas “the Reform approach to liturgy” suggests the halachah and aggadah that underlie the development of these minhagim. And one principle of this approach is that minhagim are not set in stone, and can evolve!

      Furthermore, there are exceptions even to the specific examples you bring up. Gates of Repentance has a kaddish shaleim at the end of ne’ilah. Does this mean that the editors of GOR were not following a Reform approach to liturgy? IIRC, Kavanat HaLev (the Israeli Reform high holiday mahzor) includes musaf. Same question.

  4. Yes, Reform liturgy evolves, and I should know better than to engage in generalities when dealing with pilpulists like BZ and DAMW. But trying to exchange opinions rather than to score debating points, I stand by everything I said.

    At this time, and in most places, Reform congregations pretty generally follow the liturgy of Reform siddurim typically published through local rabbinic associations, whether the CCAR in North America, or MARAM in Israel, or their equivalents elsewhere. And most people who attend services at Reform congregations are davening in concert with the congregation, not on their own in the same room.

    Yes, the liturgy evolves, as g’dolim like Stanley Dreyfus and Chaim Stern and Peter Knobel and Elyse Frishman take the temperature of their colleagues, who perhaps have been taking the temperature of their congregations. And contemporary technology facilitates the production of congregational siddurim that may differ in detail from the establishment siddur — but none of the half-dozen or so that I have seen vary in approach.

    The distinction between Reform minhagim and Reform halacha is cute, but not terribly meaningful. I know of one rabbi who excluded the imahot on the Yamim Noraim for several years, long after they had become standard on Shabbat in this same congregation — because they used a cut-and-paste on Shabbat and thus had the ladies on the printed page — but until he figured out how to put them into a handout sheet, he was too much of a yekke to have the congregation hear, much less sing, words they couldn’t see printed on the pages of GOR.

    But if you’re really bothered by my term of the Reform approach to liturgy, change it to read Reform liturgy as utilized for the past 100 year in most Reform congregations and institutions. Specific prayers may have been added or deleted, the language and style of worship may have changed, but the halacha, if you want to call it that, of the UPB has remained the halacha of the movement worldwide. Reform Judaism, for good or ill, happens in congregations, even as it sanctions in the name of autonomy all kinds of deviations — most of which take place outside the confines of the synagogue. For all practical purposes, even if not for all self-identified Reform Jews, Reform institutions ARE the be all and end all.

  5. I guess there is an assumption here that I don’t understand — most Jews in the US have a wide range of different synagogues that they can attend. Why do we need to make a common-denominator service? Why can’t the different congregations support a range of different liturgies? (Thus, we are completely comfortable with the idea of having different Ashkenazi and Sephardic liturgies — I don’t know anyone who maintains that Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews are not “real Jews” or do not pray properly.)

    • Once again, Jewish pluralism is NOT common denominator Judaism. I highly recommend reading over the posts by BZ that I’ve been referencing.

      And there are two answers to the question of why pluralism. One is that it’s good for its own sake to be around and learn from/with Jews of different backgrounds and streams. The second is that some of us are always gonna be a little off from the choices on offer at the more monolithic congregations, so it’s nice to have a place where people expect differences, rather than expecting everyone to pray the same.

      • Gee, and I always thought independent minyan meant independent of a congregation or of a movement. Now it appears to mean that the individual davener is independent of the minyan!

        Without going back and reviewing, it seems to me that Theophrastus and I aren’t generally on the same page, but here we clearly are. Pluralism means that Jews of different backgrounds and streams get together and form communities reflecting their own consensus, which is just as valid for them as the consensus formed by other communities, and one such consensus is no more or no less valid than the other.

        BZ’s Stage III pluralism appears to be an effort to find a way for Jews with differing beliefs or standards to come together in a single prayer community. May they prosper in their endeavor! My own beliefs and standards allow me to go with the flow in whatever Jewish worship community I find myself. (In Christian settings, I tend to listen rather than recite, and to stand with the congregation but not kneel with them.)

        Somewhere there is a line of demarcation between Reform autonomy and egocentricity. The whole concept of minyan, and all of our liturgy that is expressed as Us, not Me, reinforce the idea that we pray as a community, not as individuals. Are we truly looking at communities that expect differences, or only at communities that tolerate them?

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