Sunday, January 29, 2023

The taming of “the” Sh’ma

Sh’ma, Yisrael . . .

Hear O Israel . . .

Many of us have heard and/or read that translation literally hundreds of times.  But tell me, where does the “O” come from?  For that matter, why do we talk about “the” Sh’ma—where does the “the” come from?  Check the original, in Parashat Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 6:4—neither word is there.

Sh’ma, in its original context, is a command from Moshe (Moses) to remember that HaShem is our only god.  The best translation I’ve ever literally seen is an American Sign Language interpretation that uses the sign for “Pay Attention!” as the translation of “Sh’ma!”.

I think that, by turning Sh’ma into “the” Sh’ma and adding the word O, we’ve reduced Moshe’s thunderous command to ritual baby food, simple enough for a child to say.  But the original text was aimed at parents—"Teach them [these words] to your children"!  In my opinion, we should take away the O and restore just plain Sh’ma to its original status as one of Moshe’s marching orders:  As Eliana Light translates it, “Listen up!”


Here's a version of Sh'ma in ASL.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A little shul music

Let me just say it—size matters.  😊  But in this case, I think smaller is better—while I enjoy hearing guitar or piano accompaniment to Kabbalat Shabbat, I, personally, feel that the service begins to sound more like a performance when more instruments are added.  On a similar note, I’m not fond of instrumental solos during a service—it’s not supposed to be a concert.

You may have noticed that I was discussing Kabbalat Shabbat above, and there’s a reason for that.  Kabbalat Shabbat consists largely of poems, parts or all of which have been set to Western-style music.  Maariv/Arvit/Evening Service, on the other hand, consists largely of nusach.  I know almost nothing about non-Ashkenazi synagogue music, and I’m not a trained musician, so I can only discuss Ashkenazi nusach, and not-necessarily in proper terminology—my impression is that Ashkenazi nusach is not entirely “Western.”  I say that mostly because Ashkenazi nusach does not always have a clearly-defined and predictable rhythm.  Consider the “Avot section,” the first paragraph of the Amidah prayer, as it appears in Shacharit/Morning Service.  It doesn’t seem to me that the nusach of either the weekday, the Shabbat (Sabbath), the Shalosh Regalim (Pilgrimage Festivals) or the Yamim Noraim (High Holydays) Avot Section has a sufficiently regular beat to be notated in standard European musical notation (at least, not easily!).  So why are we trying to force nusach into a Western musical mode by accompanying it with musical instruments?  Sure, you *can* accompany Chatzi Kaddish with a guitar, but is that necessarily a good idea?  I’m always delighted to see a baal/baalat tefillah (prayer leader) put down their guitar at the end of the last psalm of Kabbalat Shabbat and lead Maariv a cappella.

Several years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, singer/songwriter Elana Arian posted on Facebook that she was co-teaching a class with Cantor Jack Mendelson on integrating modern Jewish religious music with nusach.  I remember thinking that I would love to attend a class or two of that course.  I still would!  I’ve spent my entire life as a member of a cappella synagogues, and, to this day, there are some synagogues with wonderful rabbis, cantors, and music that I can’t attend because the instrumental accompaniment distracts me from praying.  Am I the only one?  How do we integrate traditional and modern Jewish religious music in the same service?  And what part should instrumental accompaniment play in that integration?  Your thoughts would be appreciated. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

We *paid* for Social Security & Medicare!

If anyone votes to take away or reduce our Social Security and/or Medicare, they'd better vote to give us refunds, or we'll vote their duffs out of office!!! This is how my husband, a retired CPA, describes these programs: Social Security is an annuity prepaid for by payroll deductions. Medicare is health insurance, the premiums for which are paid for by payroll deductions for Part A and deductions from one's Social Security income for Parts B and D.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

COVID, round 2

Yep, my husband finished his Paxlovid on Sunday and tested positive again today.  😢  I'm still negative, but this "generic" virus of mine isn't going anywhere fast.  It's gonna be a long week.  🙁

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Update from sick-bay

I got sick first, but my husband's the one with COVID.  I tested negative on both Tuesday's and Friday's PCR tests.  I also tested negative for the flu.  Go figure.  So while I started in the bedroom and my husband started in the living room, now *I'm* sleeping in the living room, while my husband is sleeping in our bedroom, where he can close the door.  We're walking around the apartment in N95 masks to keep from trading germs back and forth.  We're doing both our shul-hopping and our grocery shopping online for another week (or longer, if my husband gets a "Paxlovid rebound.")  But neither of us has had a fever for several days.  It could be worse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

“Praying When the World is At Stake: A Theology of Climate Change”

Thank goodness for multi-access programming! I had been planning to attend this lecture in person, but I'm a bit under the weather, as stated below. Thank you, Rabbi Avi Killip, for this thoughtful presentation.


0:20 / 59:32

Hadar was live.

"As we watch storms surge and fires burn, the changing climate has moved from an abstract fear to an ever-present reality. The enormity of this crisis demands a complex type of faith, a different kind of prayer, and a theological reckoning. How can we bring our fears and hopes to God? What might it look like to pray about climate change? At this year's Dr. Eddie Scharfman Memorial Lecture, join Rabbi Avi Killip to explore the wisdom that Jewish tradition has to offer for this time of global crisis.
Hadar is honored to hold this lecture in memory of Dr. Eddie Scharfman z"l, who was committed to learning and Torah. Thank you to the Scharfman Family for their support in making this lecture possible."

Monday, January 09, 2023

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer??? (Jan. 10 update: Rudolph probably has COVID--her husband does 🙁)

If my nose ran any faster, it might get an Olympic medal.  I need a tissue every time I bend down.  I have a scratchy throat, a dry cough, and a slight fever of 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2222 Celsius).  The only good news is that the COVID test I took this afternoon was negative.  My best guess is that I have a mild flu.  (My husband, our son, and I have all received two COVID vaccinations, three COVID boosters, and flu shots.)  I'll be taking another COVID test tomorrow.  If I'm still negative, maybe my poor husband can stop sleeping in the living-room.  Speaking of which, I should probably try to sleep, even though I slept most of the afternoon.  G'night.

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