Wednesday, November 09, 2005

High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 5: A singer learns the other half of it, literally

[I apologize to my readers for the lateness of this post—'tis, admittedly, a bit after the fact. Unfortunately, Blogger and I have been involved in a long-running dispute—I've been trying to post this since last Tuesday. This is roughly my eighth attempt. I've given up trying to post this where it belongs, which is after "Decaffeinating copy-editor," in the sincere but probably vain hope that it won't get deleted, this time.

Update: Splitting post into two parts—I hope that works, because I’m running out of ideas.]

It’s late on Sunday afternoon when we rush out of the subway station at 72nd Street and Broadway in Manhattan and hit the ground running—we have only about 20 minutes to get past West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, all the way across Riverside Park and down to the Hudson River to do Tashlich while it’s still light enough for us to be able to read the designated passages out of my pocket Birnbaum siddur (prayerbook) by daylight.

We make it by the skin of our teeth, symbolically casting our sins into the depths of the Hudson. As the sun sets slowly in the west, we divvie up the remaining psalms so that neither of us has to do too much teeth-cracking on the Hebrew (though I must say that my husband’s ability to read any Hebrew text without prior practice is considerably better than mine.) Since the Hebrew in Psalm 33 doesn’t look completely beyond my capabilities, I decide to go for it, and start reading. I get to the second to last sentence in the psalm—

—and stop dead in my tracks.“Ki vo yismach libeinu, ki v’shem kodsho batachnu. Y’hi chasdecha Hashem aleinu, ka-asher yichalnu lach, For in Him will our hearts be glad, for in His Holy Name we trusted. May Your kindness be upon us, just as we awaited You.”“Holy Moses,” I practically yell in my husband’s ear, “those are the same words that I found a few weeks ago in P'sukei D'Zimra! THIS IS THE SOURCE! PSALM 33 IS THE SOURCE!”

The next morning, our friend the currently-between-jobs cantor serves as the baalat tefillah (prayer leader) and baalat koreh (Torah reader) for the Hoshanah Rabbah service. It’s the most beautiful Hoshanah Rabbah service I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I tell her so.

I don’t know whether this is the typical minhag (custom), but, at our shul (synagogue), we use the Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (Festival) version of P’sukei D’Zimrah for Shacharit (the morning service) on Hoshanah Rabbah. And I notice that Psalm 33 is included, right after the so-called Hallel HaGadol, or Great Hallel (Hodu LaShem ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo, Give thanks to the L-rd, for Him is good, for eternal is His kindness), which is, ironically enough, the shorter version. (Go figure.) So in it goes, to be added to my P’sukei D’Zimra from then on.It’s been my custom, for just about a year now, to davven (pray) at least the Birkot HaShachar (Morning Blessings) and the P’sukei D’Zimra (Verses of Song) sections at home, before going to shul, to enable me to add prayers that I wouldn’t have time to davven if I were trying to keep up with our speed-davvening rabbi and/or to pray whatever prayers I choose to pray with more kavannah (intention, focus). So, still in my apartment, I start davvening Psalm 33 for the first time as a part of what I include in my own personal version of P’sukei D’Zimra, get as far as the third sentence—

—and stop dead in my tracks again.“Shiru lo shir chadash, heytiyvu nagen bi-t’ruah. Ki yashar d’var Hashem, v’chol ma-aseihu b’emunah, Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully amid shouts of joy. For upright is the word of the L-rd; and all His work is done in faithfulness.”Holy Moses, Mark , so this is where you’ve been hiding this—I’ve been looking for the words to "Shiru Lo" since last May!

And so it came to pass that a singer who, two months ago, didn’t know even the half of it now knows both halves—Mark's "Shiru Lo," beginning with the third verse of Psalm 33, and his "Ki Vo Yismach Libeinu," beginning with the second to last.

To be continued.


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