Abandonment of Nussach

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  • #588512
    cantoresq
    Member

    An article appeared in the Spring issue of the OU’s Jewish Action decrying the abandonment of nusach and chazzanut in our schuls. The article called the current state of davening in Orthodox schuls a “Romper Room sing along.” The author provided a number reasons why this ahs happened, and along with expressing his disdain for the way davening is now presented, expressed his hope that things should improve.

    There is no doubt that we have abadoned the way we used to daven. Schuls no longer ahve chazanim and choirs, and the melodies sung are taken from the current “Jewish top 40” without much thought to the meaning of the words of the siddur. The question is why has this happened and what can be done to reverse this trend and restore proper nussach.

    #631141
    Feif Un
    Participant

    I daven for the ammud a decent amount, and try not to sing too much. I use mainly nusach, not tunes that I’m attaching to words.

    I’ve actually gotten complaints at times that I should sing more, but I refuse.

    The only times I’ll use songs are for Lecha Dodi, Kel Adon, and during Hallel, for Hodu and Pischu Li. For other things, I’ll use the proper nusach.

    I daven for the amud somewhere on Yomim Noraim, and I don’t sing too much. I sing some, because my Rosh Yeshiva once said that you should. He said he asked his Rebbe, R’ Shmuel Berenbaum zt”l about it when he started having a minyan in his yeshiva for Yomom Noraim. In the Mir, they don’t sing at all, as far as I know – just nusach.

    R’ Shmuel zt”l told him that he should sing, because people today wouldn’t be able to handle the davening without it, they’d just lose their minds.

    Because of that, I sing a little bit, during a piece – but almost never the whole piece. Nusach is there for a reason.

    #631142
    Yanky55
    Member

    It’s sad that the next generation will have almost no clue as to proper nussach.

    Perhaps if yeshivos recognized the importance of it, they would spend some time teaching it. Unfortunately, they won’t. I teach Bar Mitzvah kids and very few of them can read fluently. I spend a good deal of time getting them to read a pasuk correctly before I can teach them to layn it.

    The problem is pervasive in all the yeshivos. Modern Orthodox to Yeshivish……..

    #631143
    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    As someone who has spent quite a few years teaching Bar Mitzvah boys to lain, Yanky, I have to say that I agree with you 100%.

    The Wolf

    #631144
    cantoresq
    Member

    FeifUn, the issue is not singing, but rather what gets sung. Music is a very powerful force, and when applied properly to davening, it adds multiple layers of interpretation to the liturgy.

    Yanky55 is right, the problem is all pervasive within Orthodoxy.

    #631145

    Question: what exactly would “proper nussach” be?

    #631146
    Joseph
    Participant

    cantoresq, do you find this issue as relevant with the Chasidim?

    #631147
    Yanky55
    Member

    Proper nussach is the mesorah for the way a particular tefilah should be recited.

    The best example would be Kol Nidre, which thankfully, most people still know.

    But the proper nussach for many of the other tefilos on Yomim Nora’im is being diluted (and convoluted)more and more as the years go by.

    Many of these tunes go back hundreds of years.

    #631148
    Yanky55
    Member

    Joseph- I believe chasidim generally have a better grip on nussach than others.

    The problem they face is that the next generation will not know how to layn, as most Bar Mitzvah boys are not taught to layn. They already don’t have a clue as to how to say a Haftorah.

    #631149
    cantoresq
    Member

    I don’t often daven among chassidim, but my limited experience tells met hat nussach is somewhat not better preserved among chassidim. One very prominent “superstar” cantor, who happens to be chassidic, does not know nussach. I heard him once daven on a Pesach, and his Mussaf was completely devoid of real use of prayer motifs, and indeed his “bnei Beischa” was completely off. I have met amny aspiring cantors, many of this chassidic. They are ignorant of the finer points of nussach. Some of them confuse Tal/Geshem and Neilah. Others don’t know the difference between Malchuyot and Shofarot.

    Quite frankly though in virtually all the schuls I’ve seen in the recnt past, nussach has been eviscerated. Even those who adhere to it’s basic components, do so mindlessly and without ever stopping to consider the text. I’m sorry but while both Vchulom Mekablim and Hamechadeish b’tuvo are sung in the Ahava Rabbah mode, they should not sound the same. Tikanta Shabbos should be sung identically to Yismach Moshe. Arbaim Shannah is a vaslt different text from Shomah Vatismach Tzion. There is no justification for singing them exactly the same way. Davening for the amud has become little more than mindless prattling admixed with some feel good songs. Rarely, if ever, do I encounter anything intelelctually stimulating from people at the amud.

    #631150
    lesschumras
    Participant

    My experience with chazzanus has generally been negative and something to be avoided. It makes the davening take forever, it makes it difficult to concentrate since it interrupts the flow as you wait for the chazzan to stop repeating himself over and over. Generally ,you get the chazzan couldn’t care less that the olam is gertting antsy

    #631151
    cantoresq
    Member

    lesschumras, and I address myself to a wider audience than to you in particular, perhaps if you put your reflexive anti-cantorial bias aside, and put forth some effort to try and understand what a chazzan does and what chazznut is about, you would find the experience of hearing a trained cantor more fulfilling.

    #631152
    Joseph
    Participant

    cantoresq, how many of your congregants are appreciative of the experience of hearing a trained cantor, and how many are appreciative of the experience of making Kiddush quick?

    #631153
    SJSinNYC
    Member

    Cantoresq – I’m not much of a musical type person, so I lack a lot of the understanding of why chazzanut is so nice. Although, I do have to say, a well chanted Kol Nidre really stars my Yom Kippur off well.

    #631154
    cantoresq
    Member

    Joseph, at the outset, I am not a full time chazzan. Sadly there aren’t enough Orthodox schuls around looking for chazzanim, and certainly none where I live. I response to your question, irnically, the less religious people tend to appreciate the efforts of a cantor than do more religious Jews. It seems that real frum Jews go to schul to perfunctorily fulfill the technical requirements of davening with a minyan and then to socialize at kiddush. They have no interest in artistsic exprerssion of the liturgy. Less frum Jews are more sensitive to such things and open to it.

    #631155
    Feif Un
    Participant

    Knowing nusach doesn’t necessarily mean a long, schlepped out davening. Yes, some cantors do tend to go very long, but many others don’t. Nusach for Shabbos and Yom Tov davening definitely doesn’t make it take any longer – in fact, it’s often quicker than singing everything.

    #631156
    mariner
    Member

    cantoresq: as they say, chazzonim love to hear themselves ;-). i cant stand chazzonim. i like baalei teffiloh. but i definitely see their need. keep up the good work, reminding people that davening actually has a set tune.

    #631157

    In our shul it’s nusach, nusach, nusach all the way. Taken straight from Europe. Tal, Geshem & Neilah, although similar…. are different. And, true, most Bar Mitzvah boys do not know how to layn… but the few who do… can do it well if they want to. By the way…. does anybody know if there exists anywhere in the world the proper niggun for EMES? (Iyov, Mishlei, Tehillim). There was an older Yid (in his 90’s) in Haifa, about 20 years ago who knew it well. But I don’t think it was recorded.

    #631158
    noitallmr
    Participant

    I think it’s appropriate to voice a joke I just heard recently which is so true…

    A Shadchan suggested a boy to the parents of a girl and he started singing his praises:

    Bal Middos, Masmid, Handsome you name it but he does have a big problem, he can’t sing. “Nu Nu, said the father if he has all Malos then why is the fact that he can’t sing so bad?” “Because he thinks he can sing,” replied the Shadchan.

    There is nothing worse then a Chazzan getting up and thinking he’s on key and knows the Nusach and Niggun when he’s really as musical as a horse. Agree?

    #631159

    Hey everyone – CHAZZANUT???? CHAZZANUS!!!!!

    😉

    #631160
    cantoresq
    Member

    Mariner, I while abck, on a different forum I had a long debate with several “mevinim” of chazzanut about the distinction between a “chazzan” and a “baal tefillah” Each participant had a different point of demarcation. I maintained that there is no difference, other than the fact that the word “cantor” or “Chazzan” is now, sadly, a pejorative, while the terms “baal tefillah” is a compliment. Thus cantors we like are called baalei tefiloh and baalei tefiloh we dislike are called cantors. Seriously though, all there is, in proper davening, is the klalei hanusach. Some individual applications of them are more florid than others. But it’s all “chazzanut” when you take the word at its purest meaning.

    #631161
    cantoresq
    Member

    Queen of Persia, Tal/Geshem and Neilah are not similar. Neilah is set in the mixolydian while Tel/Geshem are in pure minor.

    #631162

    cantoresq: mixolydian?????? oh my! I guess I’ll have to do some more research and get back to you. hmmmmm…… mixolydian…….something must have come over me that I’ve forgotten my simple English. Oy vey…..

    #631163

    Oh… Baruch Hashem…. my memory seems to be returning. Mixolydian, if I recall, is a mode of sound which uses the same tones as the major scales, except for the seventh. How could I ever have forgotten? 🙂

    Bottom line: Neilah is in a major scale, whereas Tal/Geshem are in minor.

    By the way…. talking about nusach…. what’s most frustrating are the errors people make in the nusach of Kaddish.

    #631164
    cantoresq
    Member

    Actually Queen the “Jewish myxolidian” has some other unique characteristics. The upper third (i.e. in a c-c scale, the e above the high c) is also diminished, and the seventh below the tonic is natural and not diminished, creating a thirteen note scale. It has to do with the joining of two overlapping tetrahords to the pentatonic major scale in creating the mode. Chazzan Leib Glantz z”l wrote extensively about this.

    #631165
    Mayan_Dvash
    Participant

    I heard a prominent Rav in Brooklyn say that Chazanus was created centuries ago to get people interested in coming to shul i.e. hear a good performance. I’d like to think that the rest of us don’t need to hear a good performance to get inspired for Tefilah.

    #631166
    feivel
    Participant

    “It seems that real frum Jews go to schul to perfunctorily fulfill the technical requirements of davening with a minyan and then to socialize at kiddush. They have no interest in artistsic exprerssion of the liturgy. Less frum Jews are more sensitive to such things and open to it. “

    that’s your perspective of course.

    my perspective is that generally more frum Jews go to Shul to daven to the Ribbono Shel Olam (and socialize as well)

    less frum Jews prefer to be entertained, like going to a concert in Shul.

    #631167
    cantoresq
    Member

    Mayan-Dvash please ask that rav for the source of his assertion. In response to you and feivel, I ask you to please explain the necessity for the detailed rules and policies regarding who was fit to be part of the choir in the Beit Hamikdash, the long training involved in singing in that choir, and the detailed “rules” regarding how to sing the Shira. Further please explain why the Maharil went to such great lengths to establish the nusach.

    #631168
    feivel
    Participant

    cantor

    im not exactly sure what point you are attempting to make. i dont think we have a Bais HaMikdosh at the current time, it should be built again mehayra. i dont think the L’veyim sing anymore to accompany the Korbonos. i dont believe they play instruments anymore. although Shuls today are a tiny tiny hint of what the Bais HaMikdosh was, i think any parallels you wish to draw, must be drawn by bigger heads than you and me.

    the Maharal, again im not sure what that has to do with anything i said

    i know why i go to Shul, and it most definitely is not to hear a concert or any other type of entertainment, CvS.

    there are plenty of Temples that do enjoy that, i have no argument against it.

    #631169
    cantoresq
    Member

    feivel you miss my point entirely. The exacting detail involved in the Shira and the Maharil’s punctilious work in establishing nusach were because Halacha recognizes that music is a very powerful artistic source. It speaks to our souls. Great chazzanut is not about entertainment. Great chazzanut is about interpretting the text of the davening and rendering it meanigful to the worshipper. Great chazzanim give shiurim in the music of tefilla and in the peirush hamillot when they daven for the amud. It is the music of the davening that provides intellectual stimulation as a backdrop to davening that might otherwise be rendered rote and meaningless by virtue of its constant repetition in our lives. Great chazzanut also enrobes our noble liturgy in grandeur befitting praise of G-d and supplications before Him. It’s very sad that yeshiva educated people, who are the most familiar with davening, to whom it should mean the most, completely ignore this crucial facet of Avodat haBoreh.

    #631170
    Mayan_Dvash
    Participant

    sounds like what one of my professors in college explained as the reason we “sway to and fro” during davening: “..it kind of puts them in a trance…”

    #631171
    feivel
    Participant

    “Halacha recognizes that music is a very powerful artistic source. It speaks to our souls.”

    that’s true

    in its place

    “Great chazzanut is not about entertainment.”

    yes it is, spiritual entertainment as well as musical entertainment, but entertainment.

    “Great chazzanut is about interpretting the text of the davening and rendering it meanigful to the worshipper. Great chazzanim give shiurim in the music of tefilla and in the peirush hamillot when they daven for the amud. It is the music of the davening that provides intellectual stimulation as a backdrop to davening that might otherwise be rendered rote and meaningless by virtue of its constant repetition in our lives.”

    yes, it can be a great refuah for the sickness of apathetic meaningless Tefillah.

    i prefer to daven elsewhere

    if a sick congregation needs such medicine, im all for it

    “Great chazzanut also enrobes our noble liturgy in grandeur befitting praise of G-d and supplications before Him.”

    beautiful poetic words

    church choirs also “enrobes our noble liturgy, etc, etc.”

    shakespeare also “enobles our spirits, etc, etc

    it’s still entertainment

    davening is something else entirely

    #631172
    feivel
    Participant

    cantor

    look

    we can go back and forth all day on this

    you love chazzunus, a lot of people do

    im sure you have inspired countless Jews with it.

    for whatever reasons, i personally dont like it.

    nothing more i need to say.

    #631173
    cantoresq
    Member

    feivel, the condescending tone of your posts bespeaks your real attitude and feelings.

    #631174
    Feif Un
    Participant

    I have to agree with cantoresq. Music is something which speaks to the soul, and the right tune can really transform a davening.

    The nusach was established to do just that. Of course, you need a chazzan who is really trying to daven a meaningful davening, not just someone who is trying to make himself sound good, and enjoys listening to himself. It takes a special person to do that, but ultimately, the nusach, when used properly, does have an effect on the davening.

    Imagine Kol Nidrei without the nusach for it, and how it would change the davening.

    #631175
    feivel
    Participant

    i dont agree that it was condescending at all, it was a disagreement.

    your interpretation of it as condescending might have something to do with the fact that im fairly sure you have over the years heard a lot of people make fun of your profession. easy to develop a feeling of inferiority after a while, and interpret negative statements as condescending. if you so interpret my comments, thats up to you.

    if the tone of my posts bespeaks my real attitude and feelings, well i hope so, i wouldnt want to post anything else but.

    i imagine you took this as sarcastic: “im sure you have inspired countless Jews with it.” it could have been meant sarcastically, but it wasnt. believe it or not

    i tried to end this on a pleasant note, unsuccessfully apparently.

    for me the discussion is over

    #631176
    feivel
    Participant

    feif un

    i also agree

    i wasnt talking about Nusach

    #631177
    cantoresq
    Member

    Actually feivel it was you references to a “sick congregation” and “church choirs” as well as your labeling a sacred calling “entertainment” that tipped me off to your true feelings.

    #631178
    feivel
    Participant

    “Actually feivel it was you references to a “sick congregation” and “church choirs” as well as your labeling a sacred calling “entertainment” that tipped me off to your true feelings.”

    tipped you off?!

    what are you talking about?

    you didnt need to be tipped off!

    i thought i was pretty explicit

    it was obvious and clear as a bell what my thoughts were, as your quotes demonstrate.

    i repeat

    you were meant to know my true feelings

    obviously

    my words were clear and unadulterated by fake flattery

    maybe some people werent as clever as you and didnt get tipped off, they probably think i love chazzanus…..unless one gets tipped off, i guess my posts could fool you into thinking that.

    im glad you got tipped off.

    over and out

    #631179
    cantoresq
    Member

    Oh feivel feivel, now you add intellectual dishonesty to your list of flaws. Your true feelings in this discussion have nothing to do with your feelings about davening styles or synagogue music. Your real true feelings are the condescension and snotty disdain you have for Jews of a stripe different than your own. Thus your use of terms like “sick congregation,” “church choirs” and “entertainment.” The topic of chazzanut was but a backdrop for you to give air to the deep, dark and ugly recesses of your spleen.

    #631180
    feivel
    Participant

    “condescension and snotty disdain you have for Jews of a stripe different than your own.”

    i would say it’s more of an intolerance.

    #631181
    cantoresq
    Member

    Intolerance? Contempt seems more apt. But back to the topic, how do you justify the current dismal state davening?

    #631182
    feivel
    Participant

    ill accept “contempt”

    however “snotty disdain” is a bit childish.

    “arrogant disdain” is a bit more mature, as well as more focused.

    also the spleen doesnt have recesses, “bowels” would be more appropriate as well as a darker and more essential metaphor.

    you dont want to hear how i explain the current dismal state of davening. ive angered you enough already for my taste.

    #631183
    cantoresq
    Member

    So you admit to arrogance. I’ll meet you halfway and suggest that you are snotty and arrogant. Now please answer my question about the dismal way in which people daven for the amud. How do you justify it.

    #631184
    b1l
    Participant

    Dear cantoresq:

    To your question, I read an enlightening article about chazzonus a few weeks ago in – I believe – a Hamodia magazine.

    I think it was Bentzion Miller (I’m not 100% certain) who said that the decline and fall of

    adherence to nusach, appreciation of chazzonus, etc. *began* back in the 20s and 30s when

    the Young Israel organization was appealing to young Jews who would have otherwise been lost to Judaism

    and – with the best and noblest of intentions – made the

    tefillo more … I’ll say “accessible” or “hands-on” by organizing smaller minyonim without the

    pomp and formality of choirs and – yes – chazzonim. I am not making any judgments about this – just stating what I came across.

    I find this quite convincing, but I was not around then.

    (Notice I emphasize “began”. Where we are today vis-a-vis nusach ignorance has other causes, I’m sure.

    One being the churban Europa hanora and the ensuing breakage of the mesorah.)

    BTW – I also bemoan the state of nusach-adherence these days. I am musically ignorant,

    but I grew up hearing European chazzonim and knowledgeable baalei tefillo. There was chein and taam.

    However, I do admit that I am not a big fan of prolonged virtuosic demonstrations.

    Just “dovor be-ito mah tov.”

    Best regards.

    #631185
    cantoresq
    Member

    Indeed there were a combination of forces, some internal others external that brought us to this point. The Young Israels, the general shtibelization of American Jewry, the emegerging popularity of Carlebach and secular music trends, along with the Ba’al teshuva movement and the lack of music education in yeshivot, all contributed. The question is how to fix the problem.

    #631186
    noitallmr
    Participant

    cantoresq & feivel- cut the arguing this is no time for it. Kol yisroel areivim we need yeshuos min shomayim and we aint gonna get them like this…

    #631187
    bluechazzan
    Participant

    There are more factors that contributed towards the decline of the chazzanus. Many areas in art, whether it be music or otherwise, have suffered increasingly in past years. There are no composers like there were in yesteryear. It is generally accepted that contemporary opera singers do have the same skills that the ‘greats’ used to have. Sadly, ‘true,’ timeless art has taken a back seat to popular art and has sufferred accordingly. There was a day when opera houses were packed at each and every performance. I know someone who was asked to come into the Met on opening night this year in an effort to get a full crowd. It is a shame, but it is the reality we face. In a sense, the same way that many would prefer to hear a pop singer versus a well-trained singer – many Jews would rather hear one of their ‘friend singers’ in shul perform, over one who has honed his craft.

    #631188
    cantoresq
    Member

    Good to see you here blue.

    #631189
    Yanky55
    Member

    Cantor- You say that great chazzanut is interpreting the davening and making it meaningful for the people. I have to disagree on that point, as there were a number of chazzanim considered “great” for whom the words of davening had little meaning.

    Kwartin is a prime example.

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