Monday, October 12, 2020

Post-holiday round-up

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur

As a general rule, I have few kind words for our cantor.  His voice was never great--he only thinks he sounds like Yossele Rosenblatt--and it's gotten noticeably worse since he entered his seventies.  He was fine as our baal koreh (Torah reader) and chazzan sheini (assistant cantor), but the minute he was hired as our cantor, he changed overnight from someone who just stuck to nusach, which is a type of synagogue singing for which one doesn't necessarily need a great voice, to someone who now had "official permission" to show off his non-existent skills in chazanut (operatic-style synagogue music), and he's been inflicting this on us for more than 25 years.  He's also gotten faster and faster in leading services in recent years, causing some of our synagogue members to stop singing along with the prayers because they can't keep up.  His enunciation is atrocious--a serious sin in the eyes of this foreign-language graduate--and he has little interest in learning or teaching new Jewish music.

But this year, since our synagogue couldn't afford a high-holiday cantor, our "regular" cantor lead the High Holiday services with very little help. By the end of Yom Kippur, he looked decidedly the worse for wear.  That was quite a job, and I congratulated him for it. 


. . . was just plain strange.  Instead of trying to squash our entire congregation into a family-sized sukkah under the open skylight in the synagogue lobby to make kiddush, our shul had a tiny sukkah with only one chair and only one person allowed in at a time.  We were forbidden to eat in the sukkah, and the only way we could make a b'rachah in the sukkah was to walk over to the nearly-deserted synagogue building at whatever random time we could get there.  

Meanwhile, back at the apartment-house, I had to walk across the living-room and bring up the Zoom on my own computer just to avoid bonking my husband on the head with my lulav during Hallel.  As for the Hoshanot, where were we supposed to walk--around my husband's laptop?  Can it get any weirder?

Sh'mini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

These were the days on which we missed being in our synagogue building the most.  Normally, on Sh'mini Atzeret, we would distribute Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) booklets to enable our congregation to do our part--our minhag (custom) is for the cantor to chant the first and last chapters in Hebrew, while we congregants take turns reading the other chapters in English.  But only five people on the Zoom had copies of Kohelet at home, so we bored everyone by having just the five of us take turns reading.  On the plus side, at least our favorite 98-year-old was "there" to lead the English readings that she always reads during Yizkor.

We did the best we could to make Simchat Torah lively despite the current circumstances.  My husband (the acting rabbi) and I co-led our infamous "favorite hits" version of the P'sukei D'Zimrah section of the Morning Service.  We regaled the Zoom crew with such gems as the Torah-service version of Gad'lu LAdoshem Iti and the Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) version of  Yir'u et Adoshem in  Psalm 34, not to mention Psalm 136 sung to a lively version of Areshet S'fateinu from Rosh HaShanah, and many more beauties, from as much of Louis Lewandowski and Salamone Rossi as we could sing with only one tenor and one alto :) to Nava Tehila and Joey Weisenberg--you name it, we sang it.  :)  For Hallel, we forewarned the cantor that we were taking over Min Hameitzar, and sang a not-too-disastrous rendition of Deborah Sacks Mintz's version.  As for Hakafot, we sang Atah Horeita up to the point at which the Torah scrolls would be removed from the ark, then attempted to play Chava Mirel's new Ana in lieu of actual Hakafot.  And, of course, we ended the service with our annual Adon Olam to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," an idea borrowed from the years when we celebrated Simchat Torah with the West Side Minyan.

All told, we did pretty well over the holidays, under the current dubious circumstances.  We hope to be back in our synagogue building by this time next year, but if not, we now know that we can manage.

Here's wishing all of you good health!

P.S.  I wasn't sure whether my younger readers would know "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," so I asked a younger person, namely, our thirty-something son.  His response?  "Yeah, I know it--I just heard you sing it in Hebrew the other day."  I'm not sure how often he's heard it in English.  :)


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>