Ask the Rabbi

Rabbi Carla Freedman
August 2021 QUESTION:

Recently it was announced that we are implementing some changes in our services and our service schedule. Can you explain why this is happening, and how I should use this information?

August ANSWER:


In March of 2020, Covid-19 forced us to close down our building, and relatively quickly, we began to “broadcast” services via Zoom. That platform allows lots of interactivity (it was created for meetings attended by people in various locations) but requires all participants to be sitting at their computers. It proved to be terrible for communal singing. So I learned to borrow music from YouTube, and our amazing tech crew learned how to put the prayers and readings on the screen, to eliminate the need for prayerbooks at home.

And most congregants loved the music, for its variety, for the creativity of the composers, and the excellence of the singers and musicians. Some find the new music difficult to follow, and others just want the old, familiar tunes all the time.

To accommodate such a diversity of preferences, we have created a schedule of different formats, in the hope that you and others will pick and choose which styles you like and take full advantage of them. We also hope that you will try out the other formats as well.
So, at all services, the critical elements will continue to be done in the way they were done BC (Before Covid): candle lighting, Kiddush, Hatzi Kaddish, the Barchu (call to worship), Shema and v’Ahavta, Amidah, and Aleynu.
On the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (where possible) Fridays of the month, the service will feature some of the imported music. That means that prayers such as V’shamru and Oseh Shalom will be shown on screen, with melodies written by contemporary cantors and other musicians. These weeks will also feature a complete Torah service, using traditional melodies.

On the 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, there will be no Torah service; that will allow for the inclusion of a few more musical pieces from current sources. On such weekends, there will be a Shabbat morning service, which will not include any recorded music. There will be a full Torah service, those mornings.

Bottom line: The most traditional of our services will be Shabat mornings. The most traditional Friday evening services will be on the 1st, 3rd, (and 5th) Fridays of the month. The most innovative music will be offered on the 2nd and 4th Fridays. All Friday evening services will be livestreamed; the Shabbat morning services will not be livestreamed.

You pick what you prefer. At the same time, we encourage you to experience the services that may be outside your comfort zone, at least once in a while.
And consider this: Jewish musical styles have changed many times over the life of our people. That process is unstoppable.

And finally, please note: many of the melodies we use regularly in services were not part of the practice here until I introduced them, over the past eight years. These include the melody we use on Friday evenings for the Barchu, the melody for Hashkveinu, the melody for Adonai, S’fatai tiftach (at the beginning of the Amidah), melodies for Yismechu and V’shamru, and melodies for Oseh Shalom. When people say they want to use the same melodies as always, that is, BC (Before Covid), they are referring to a very brief and recent “always”.

In looking for music on YouTube, I give priority to melodies that can be sung by our congregation. There are new settings for Lecha Dodi, for Hashkiveinu, Mi Chamocha, etc., and now we can learn them from real singers…instead of me!
As always, I hope to see you soon at temple.

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