Tag Archives: amidah

Rosh Hashanah notes, part II: Miriam and imahot

Some stuff I noticed during RH this year:

I was surprised to find Miriam appearing along with Moses here in the lead-up to Mi Chamocha. I must have noticed her lurking in here last year, but she still managed to take me aback again this year.

I also noticed their bracketed use of the mamas along with the un-bracketed papas. (Again, must have noticed it last year, but….) This is interesting, if we look at it the context of the Conservative movement’s history with the matriarchs. In the original release of Sim Shalom (and its forebears, it goes without saying), avot just had the avot. The second edition added a B-page, such that there are two versions of the first page of the Amidah, one with the imahot and one without. But the page that has them does not have it worded quite like Reform liturgy does. Whereas R-liturgy says, “…vElohei avoteinu ve’imoteinu…” and then lists them all, C-liturgy says leaves it alone, except for the list. So they don’t say ve’imoteinu is my point.

Between then and now, R-liturgy reoriented itself to include the imahot all over the place. In Mishkan T’fillah, every time is says “avoteinu” it aso says “ve’imoteinu.” In MLS, C-liturgy catches up. Kind of. On the first page of the Amidah, we get both options. And the ve’imahot option not only lists their names, but it now says “vElohei avoteinu [ve’imoteinu].” That continues throughout the siddur. Every time it says something about the avot, we get a bracketed word for the imahot.

Now that the Rabbinical Assembly has announced that they’re working on a new siddur, it’s interesting to notice the new stuff that’s already crept into this machzor. I have to wonder how much Reform and Conservative liturgy is going to continue to converge. I assume the line will be drawn at least at Musaf, but I wonder how much else will be the same. How long before C-liturgy doesn’t give us the avot-only option at all?


Rosh Hashanah notes, part I

Hineni. More on that below.


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.

New year, new edition of the Hillel machzor

The new fully transliterated edition of 'Wings' (red) and the original 1985 edition (blue)

In case you don’t obsessively read the publication that I honcho, I thought I’d give y’all an excerpt from an interview I did for New Voices Magazine recently with Rabbi Richard Levy, editor of both editions of the Hillel machzor, “On Wings of Awe.”

Here’s about half of it:

Groundbreaking in its Initial 1985 Release, ‘Wings of Awe’ Gets New Edition

The High Holidays are upon us, and so is a newly updated and expanded edition of the Hillel machzor (High Holidays prayer book), “On Wings of Awe.” The original 1985 edition was ground-breaking in its inclusion of transliterations for many prayers, which was then a rarity even among liberal Jewish prayer books; the new edition’s cover boldly proclaims itself “A Fully Transliterated Machzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”

While Bernard Scharfstein, vice president of “On Wings of Awe” publisher Ktav, told me, “We sold maybe 1,000 a year; it’s not a bestseller,” it has been a constant presence in many Hillels and in a handful of congregations for many years.

I spoke on the phone recently with the editor of both editions, Rabbi Richard Levy, about what makes “Wings” a Hillel machzor, what has changed in the new edition and how worship has changed over the last quarter-century.

New Voices: Why a new version now?

Rabbi Richard N. Levy: It was a suggestion of Bernard Scharfsetin at Ktav who felt that a fully transliterated version might be attracting to a new generation of students at Hillel and also independent congregations that had used to the older version.

NV: What makes this a Hillel machzor?

Levy: I think that fact that it incorporates a lot of features of many non-Orthodox services, that it includes, for example, [all] three paragraphs of the Shema that are still lacking in Reform worship, but are present in others. In the middle of the book there is a full silent Amidah with inserts for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for people who don’t want to use alt prayers as is suggested in some parts of the book can use the full traditional one.

There are some references to being a teacher and a student, including some reflection questions for Yom Kippur that are directed at teachers and students. There is one piece that reflects the perceived reality of single people who are yet unsure of how or when they will be loved by someone.

There was a time when some of these things could only be done in Hillel foundations that are now commonplace.

NV: What changes can people look for in the new edition versus the original one?

Here’s the rest of it.

What if I did one-day yom tov, but went to shul on day two anyway?

Reports of my complete departure from the Reform ideological fold have been greatly exaggerated. I’m not backing away from doing one-day yom tov this year, though I’m tempted to test drive two-day yom tov sooner or later. But I have been thinking about how to attend a second-day RH service and participating as fully as I can–all without compromising my one-day values.

(Some background on an approach to two-day yom tov that I’m particularly fond of can’t hurt, so here’s BZ’s material on it: Israelis are lazy, “ONE DAY ONLY!” parts 1a, 1b and 2, “Ontology of yom tov” and “Hilchot Pluralism, Part VIII: Simchat Torah.”)

Anyway, I’m writing this as I figure out how to do this. Here’s my thinking so far: On day two I could go to shul and the only two things I’d really have to do differently is say a weekday Amidah while everyone else does their RH Amidah and recuse myself from Musaf.

And since any piyutim and whatnot are just that, I could play along with those just fine.

Right? Does that make sense?

Shabbat notes, 7/23/11: My Foot in Mouth is cured; More on last week’s Kaddish situation; Daf Yomi on the 7:51 to Penn Station

First, the good news: It seems I have rid myself of my Beth El-induced flareup of Foot in Mouth Disease. I haven’t done it in like two weeks.

More on last week’s Kaddish Yatom quandry: Pesukei and Shacharit were led this morning by a fellow who uses Koren Sacks when he isn’t leading. We had a great chat after services about our mutual love of Koren.

Anyway, I was surprised that he did Ps. 92 during Pesukei. Of course, as we discussed last week, we did it again after the Amidah when we did that whole Kaddish Yatom thing.

I was also amused this morning when I noticed that in the Koren Talpiot siddur, Ps. 92 actually follows the Kaddish Yatom at the end of the service. Which isn’t confusing–it’s just funny.

More from “Orthodox By Design”: I’m still reading “Orthodox By Design: Judaism, Print Politics and The ArtScroll Revolution.” Today, I was reading a bit in which it explains the popularity of Daf Yomi, the practice of studying on page of Talmud every day to complete the entire thing in seven years. And this passage struck me as a description of a wonderful textural element of reality:

One rather famous study circle, led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, consists of a group of lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who have been meeting daily since the early 1990s on the 7:51 a.m. commuter train from Far Rockaway [outer Queens] to Penn Station in New York City.

That’s all for now. Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat notes, 7/16/11: Saying Kaddish in a weird place; A correction; A joke at ArtScroll’s expense

In this post: an piece of liturgical minutiae, a correction and ArtScroll’s instructions for chickens who are crossing the road.

A piece of liturgical minutiae:

Every week at Beth El, we finish the Amidah, say Kaddish Shalem and then something weird happens–we flip back to the psalm for Shabbat and say the Mourner’s Kaddish. I finally asked Rabbi Roston about it this morning.

Here’s what I learned: Kaddish Yatom’s standard location is at the end of the service, after Aleinu. Nothing special needs to happen to make it appear there–it’s just there. This I already knew. But, I learned, you can also say Kaddish Yatom at any time in the service, but only if you say a psalm immediately before.

As I already knew, each day has its own psalm. Shabbat’s psalm is Ps. 92: “Mizmor shir leyom haShabbat. Tov lehodot la’Adonai etc….” This psalm usually makes its appearance early in the service, somewhere in Birchot Hashachar or Pesukei Dezimrah. For example, in Siddur Sim Shalom, which is the siddur in regular use on Shabbat mornings at Beth El, it appears at the end of Birchot Hashachar, where it follows Kaddish Derabbanan (the one for the thing in SSS that replaces Korbanot) and precedes the first Kaddish Yatom in the service.

What I did not know is that the psalm of the day can appear anywhere in the service. What is important is that it is said, not when in the service it is said. So in SSS–and others–it is placed at the end of Birchot Hashachar to facilitate the first of the two Mourners’ Kaddishes.

At Beth El, despite Ps. 92 and Kaddish Yatom appearing where they do in SSS, we don’t get around to doing them until the end of the Amidah, when we are all invited to turn back to page 72 of SSS for Ps. 92. Then we flip past the rest of the psalms of the day for Kaddish Yatom. The reason is that there is frequently not a minyan yet at the end of Birchot Hashachar at Beth El. To enable people to say Kaddish, we simply relocate the whole shebang to a place later in the service when there is sure to be a minyan.

Which, if the location of the first Kaddish Yatom in the service and the psalm of the day that enables us to say it–though it seems that any old psalm would technically do–is irrelevant, makes fine sense. To a point.

It stops making sense when you realize that there’s no need for two iterations of Kaddish Yatom in the service. So I asked why it’s important to, as Rabbi Roston put it, have a Mourner’s Kaddish “before the Torah service.” She did not know why it’s important to have to version of Mourner’s Kaddish. Though she did state as precedent that this is a standard thing that they teach at JTS and that people frequently tack a second Kaddish Yatom onto the service at the end of a shiva minyan in a similar fashion.

If anyone knows anything about this, I’m eager to hear about it.

A correction:

The interest of Beth El’s congregants in the blog continues to astound me. One pointed out something in need of correction this morning. Well, kind of.

In this post, I quoted a JTA article that said that Beth El had 575 families in 2005 when Rabbi Roston was hired. The point of the article was that this was a glass ceiling-breaking event for female rabbis in the Conservative movement.

The correction (kind of) is that the glass ceiling in this case was the 500 member families mark and that Beth El did not have 575 families in 2005. This guy, a member of the membership committee in those days, said that they never had more than 510 families.

So it’s really more of a correction to JTA.

ArtScroll’s instructions for chickens who are crossing the road:

This joke appears in a book that I’m reading right now called “Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution” by Jeremy Stolow.

Stolow begins:

For some, ArtScroll’s voice is anodyne, a helpful and unwavering guide to the perplexed. For others, it is the shrill voice of demagoguery and intolerance to difference. And for others still, Art Scroll’s characteristic tone is an object of humor.

Indeed. He further prefaces the joke by describing it as “a rich parody of the punctilious style of religious instruction associated with ArtScroll books.” Here’s the joke:

Bend once when the chicken goes into the road (bending first at the knees, bending fully as it takes its second step); bend again as it reached the middle of the road (only a half bow0; bend a third time as it nears the other side. If it gets across without being run over, say also a shehecheyanu [a blessing for new and unusual experiences] (p. 358); unless the congregation is also saying brochos [blessings] before and after the shema [the basic prayer in affirmation of the one God], in which case no interruption, even for a brocha, is permitted. No brocha is said in yontef [holy day], rosh chodesh [first day of the month] or during the entire month of nissan [March-April].

Shabbat Shalom.

Kaddish Shalem: “Kadam Avuhon… ve’Imahon?”

I’m in the middle of finally writing up the Shabbat morning service I went to at Romemu a month ago. The full write-up will be up later this afternoon, but I found something in my notes that deserved its own post. So here we go.

Rabbi David Ingber, when reciting Kaddish Shalem at the end of the Amidah, did a bit of egalitarian theological liturgizing (y’all like that word?) that is new to me.

Kaddish Shalem reads, in part:

Titkabel tzelotehon uva’utehon dechol (beit) Yisra’el kadam Avuhon di vishmaya.

Keep in mind that Kaddish Shalem is in Aramaic, so my translation skills are limited here, but here’s a translation:

May the prayers and supplications of the entire (Family of) Israel be accepted by their Father Who is in Heaven.

Ingber added one word, saying not just “Avuhon,” but “Avuhon ve’Imahon.”

I assumed at the time–and, honestly, until just now when I went to look up a translation–that this was an “Avot ve’Imahot” sort of thing. In other words, I thought he was adding the matriarchs to a mention of the patriarchs.

In fact, he was saying not just, “their Father Who is in Heaven,” but “their Father and Mother who is in Heaven.”

Which seems theologically odd. Thoughts, anyone?

Would you read this if I made it available for download?

As noted here, I just got a couple of papers back from last semester. Among them was the 20-page “Commentary on the Weekday Morning Amidah” I wrote by way of writing a final paper for my Jewish Spirituality course.

If I made this available for download or online viewing or something, would any of y’all want to read it?

Mincha x2: My afternoon adventure

There’s a bunch of photos in this post. If you’re viewing in a reader, I recommend going out to the post to see it properly.

I’m currently staying with some friends in Astoria, Queens. They go to work all day. So I went on an adventure today. And ended up hitting to different minyans for mincha!

You can’t see it here, but if you look up, you can see the spire of the Empire State Building above J. Levine.

My first stop was J. Levine. The store has been family-operated for five generations and has thrived in recent years by diversifying its offerings. The siddur shelves–which I’m know kicking myself for not taking pictures of today–have everything from multiple editions of Mishkan Tefilah to a full line of ArtScroll siddurim.

I happen to know the current Levine-in-Chief, Danny, who acts as conference bookseller during Limmud NY every year.

I was there to get a klaf for my current hosts’ mezuzah, which they hadn’t hung yet–call it a housewarming gift. But while I was there, I couldn’t resist wandering back through the narrow, cluttered store to the siddur shelves. And it took everything I had to resist the urge to buy any.

I noticed one woman–behind the counter–and maybe five or so men scattered throughout the store. I heard one of them walk past me muttering something about starting mincha soon.

Next thing I knew, one guy chant/calls out: “Ashrei! Yoshvei veite… mumble mumble selah mumble mumble mumble.” Ashrei had begun.

Oddly, when I looked up, I saw at least a dozen Orthodox men had materialized. One was shopping, flipping through a children’s book while muttering the words of the prayers to himself! Several of the new arrivals were full-on black hatters.

I got my klaf–the woman behind the counter had not stopped to daven–and got out before they were halfway through the Amidah.

I next made my way up to the Upper West Side to meet up with the Soferet, Jen Taylor-Friedman. Jen has a fun thing lying about that we’ve been to meet up so she can give me for ages. She said she’d be hanging around at Yeshivat Hadar this afternoon so I decided to meet her there. In the end, she couldn’t find the thing to bring it to me.

I arrived a little before she did, just as Mincha was starting! Ethan Tucker, one of the roshei yeshiva, was on his way and said hi to me. I told him I was looking for Jen and he said she hadn’t been in, but that one of the Hadar fellow was about to give a devar and that after that, the yeshiva becomes and open study space and that I was welcome to hang around.

So I decided to hang around for the devar, which, it turned out, was being given by a friend of mine, ASB. Here he is giving the devar:

ASB is the one in the middle, perched on the chair. One of the little heads to ASB’s left is my number one fan, Alex.

Anyway, Jen arrived just as ASB had finished up. Despite not being to find the thing she was gonna bring me, I had a good time checking out her latest project:

In a play on the tradition of a megilah where each column of text begins with hamelech, the king, Jen is creating a megilat Ester where each column begins with the word  hamalkah, the queen!

And now, a few words on the beautiful space that Yeshivat Hadar learns in. They study at the West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist shul, (though Hadar itself is far from Recon!).

In the photo of ASB giving his devar above, you can see their sanctuary. Apparently, WES used to be a public library, so there are still bookshelves all around, which makes for a nice atmosphere for the yeshiva. There are many more chairs stack at the back, which I assume the yeshiva unstacks at the end of the week when WES is preparing for Shabbat services. The funny thing is seeing the yeshiva fellows sitting around in these chairs, which all have pockets on the back with copies of Kol Haneshama, the Recon. siddur!

There is some great not-stained-but-textured glass at the back of the sanctuary:

The doorway at the far right is at the top of the stair that lead into the sanctuary/yeshiva. I think it’s a really nice space. I’m considering adding WES to my list of places to pop into one week for services.

Limmud NY Notes: Sunday musical Mincha-Maariv with BZ

I went to Limmud NY 2011 and wrote a lot of posts about it. Here’s a guide to them.

Limmud NY was enriched for me this year by the presence of “Musical Mincha-Maariv,” led by Jewschooler, Mah Rabu blogger and former Kol Zimrah/current Segulah leader BZ. Lest anyone think that this service review is nice because I know and like BZ, let me assure that I just really liked the service

Normally, at Limmud NY, there is a good effort made to provide a diverse set of service options for Shabbat evening and morning. After that, beginning with Shabbat Mincha and continuing through the end of the conference, we provide only a “Mechitza service led by men” and a “Traditional-Egalitarian” service option for each prayer time.

BZ, apparently having jumped on the bandwagon too late in the game to offer a Kol Zimrah-style service on Friday night ended up leading a similar Mincha-Maariv in the late afternoon-early evening on Sunday. It was great, not just as a service, but as a time. By that point in the conference, my brain always feels stretched pretty thing and I start feeling overwhelmed. So it was just the right time for a nice, long service with some guitar music.

As with all of my favorite services, there was some chaos. At first, we couldn’t track down siddurim, but I eventually located the bin of siddurim we needed and brought it up to the room. We were mostly using Gates of Prayer (Grey/Gender edition), but I used Koren Talpiot and also spotted one Siddur Eit Ratzon, one Koren Sacks, one RCA ArtScroll, one random little Orthodox siddur and two Birnbaums. Given the size of the crowd, that leaves about seven or eight GOGs in use.

Further chaos came from the fact that the service was moved twice, the second time right before it was set to begin. The place we ended up was in Ballroom C, which is a part of the ballroom at the hotel that can be partitioned off with a movable wall. Unfortunately, it was not partitioned off for much of the service so a lot of racket from hotel staff setting up dinner spilled over.

Rob Scheinberg, a Conservative Rabbi was there. When offered something other than GOG, he said, “When else do I get to use Gates of Prayer?” Caryn Roman, a former boss of mine at Kutz, and I looked at each other and said, “Get to?”

We began with a chant to of the first line of Ashrei, the Shefa Gold version I think. This went on for a while and set a nice mood. Then we read the rest of Ashrei silently to ourselves. We did the last line of Ashrei to a tune I’m not familiar with, but my notes say it’s a Debbie Friedman tune. I can’t recall if BZ said it was or if I was speculating. Oh well. the handout said it was another Debbie tune.

I’m pretty sure we did Chatzi Kaddish to “Lord Prepare Me.” Which I still can’t figure out if I object to. I think I only do if we use the original words. More on why one might object to such a thing here. One thing that I love about BZ’s style is that every time I attend a service he’s leading, he uses something creative for the various Kaddishes (not Yatom, though).

In the repetition of the Amidah, BZ was saying Retzeih and I was jarred to hear him say “lechol korav etc,” a GOGP original (or is it from the Union Prayer Book?) that I haven’t heard in a long time. It brought me back down to Earth and I realized that everyone around me was using GOG. It’s a good example of the fact that as much as I care about a good siddur, a good leader with a good plan can overcome a lackluster siddur.

The repetition of the Amidah proceeded at breakneck Ashekenazi nusach pace, but that ended abruptly when we hit Shalom Rav, which BZ slowed down to a Debbie Friedman tune for. (OK, so the tune isn’t actually by Friedman. More on that in the comments.) The combo was jarring, but good. Also, the pace of the repetition reminded me of the luxurious pace that we had proceeded at so far, odd for Mincha, but not bad.

To begin Maariv, BZ did Vehu Rachum to a tune that I am only familiar with for Barchi Nafshi from Chavurat Lamdeinu and Hadar. He continued this tune into Barchu. This mostly worked, but as usual, I find anything other than the standard Barchu clumsy because where call ends response begins starts to become musically unclear. It is the only misstep of any size I noticed in the service.

Maariv Aravim was ordinary, Ahavat Olam to Friedman’s tune.

We did Ve’ahavta to the Friedman tune, which I’m used to hearing with English words only. BZ, however, did it all in Hebrew, which made things interesting.

Strikingly, I don’t think the tune for Mi Chamocha wasn’t Friedman. Rather, it was Carlebach.

Somewhere around this time, a very funny thing happened. Ethan Tucker, one of the leaders of Yeshivat Hadar, whom I am used to only hearing very nusach-sounding things around, appeared with kids in tow. His wife, Ariella, had been at the service since the beginning. The sight of Tucker singing along to Craig Taubman’s Hashkiveinu, while attempting to get his son to follow long in GOG was one of the more incongruous things I’ve seen at Limmud NY, but part of what makes Limmud NY so unique and special.

Chatzi Kaddish was another novel experience this time–I’m pretty sure it was the gospel song, “Down to the River.” In my head we all sounded like the women who sing it on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack.

We wrapped up with a few more Debbie Friedman tunes and called it a day. It was good day of Limmud NY and a nice break in the middle for some good davening.

Interestingly, BZ used a handout to avoid the need for announcing page numbers and a few other things. The handout included some notes about how to use the handout, about Friedman and explaining that there would be no stage directions. Because GOG lacks Vehu Rachum at the beginning of Maariv, BZ included that on the sheet as well. It strikes me that Reform shuls could use this technique to remove a lot of the extra talking that tends to bog down Reform services, especially the now-ritualized explanation of how to use Mishkan T’filah that some have adopted.

||||| I give this service FIVE ballpoint pens!