J O U R N A L
OF SYNAGOGUE MUSIC
APRIL 1972/ NISSAN 5732
About This Issue The Editor 3
Synagogue Music — Traditional and Modern (1948) Chemjo Vinaver 4
Dr. Kurt List
Changing Concepts of HAZZANUT (1949) Adolph Katchko 13
An Interpretation of the Sabbath Eve Liturgy (1950)
Dr. Leon Liebreich 20
The Musical BASIS of Nusach Hatefillah (1952) Lieb Glantz 31
The HISTORY of the Musical Modes of the
ASHKENAZIK SYNAGOGUE and their Usage (1954) Max Wohlberg 46
The Task of the HAZZAN (1957) DF. Abraham J. Heschel 62
Creating SYNAGOGUE Music FOR America (1961) Dr. A. W. Binder 69
A Forum on Synagogue Music (1963) Dr. Herman Berlinski 81
Dr. Joseph Freudenthal
The Wonder of the Psalms (1965) Maurice Samuel 99
Epitaph FOR Jewish Music? (1968) Samuel Rosenbaum 107
journal of synagogue music, Volume IV , N umber 1-2
April 1972/Nissan 5732
Published by Cantors Assembly
editor: Morton Shames
itor: Samuel Rosenbaum
ird: Joseph Bach, Gerald H. Hanig, Saul Meisels, David J.
Putterman, Moses J. Silverman, Pinchas Spiro, Dr. Max Wohlberg.
associate members: Ivan Perlman, Chairman; Reuven Frankel, Solomon
Gisser, Irving Kischel, Joseph Kohn, Karl S. Kritz, Leon S. Lissek, Ephraim
F. Rosenberg, Abraham B. Shapiro, Harry Weinberg.
officers of the cantors assembly: Yehuda Mandel, President; Gregor
Shelkan, Vice President; Kurt Silbermann, Treasurer; Morton Shames, Sec-
retary; Samuel Rosenbaum, Executive Vice President.
journal of synagogue music is a quarterly publication, The subscription
fee is $5.00 per year; $10.00 per year for patrons. Second-class postage paid
at New York, New York. All articles, communications and subscriptions
should be addressed to Journal of Synagogue Music, Cantors Assembly, 150
Fifth Avenue, New York 10011.
Copyright © 1972, Cantors Assembly
ABOUT THIS ISSUE
The convention of the Cantors Assembly, since its establishment twenty-five years ago,
have produced a wealth of scholarly papers presented by some of the foremost personalities
in the field of Jewish music, as well as in general Jewish study. For this anniversary issue
of the Journal of Synagogue Music, the Editorial Board has selected some of the most
interesting articles which we felt have had an impact on our lives as hazzanim and on the
Jewish community. The great amount of material we had to choose from presented a
problem for us since so many fine papers were delivered. Realizing that it would be
impossible to publish them all in one issue, we bring you in this issue a comprehensive
sampling of the most outstanding papers and lectures. It is our intention to publish
additional items from this cultural treasure in future issues of the Journal of Synagogue
Many of the colleagues who delivered these papers are no longer with us. May this
publication serve as a memorial to them. For those whom the Almighty has spared, may
it serve as an inspiration for future creative endeavors.
The Editorial Board of the Journal is proud of and thankful to all the distinguished
colleagues and friends who have contributed so willingly of their talents and time over
I express my thanks to our Managing Editor, Samuel Rosenbaum, without whose
efforts this Journal could never exist, and to the Editorial Board for its assistance.
SYNAGOGUE MUSIC-TRADITIONAL AND MODERN
TRADITIONAL - Mr. Chemjo Vinaver, Composer
I have been asked to speak on traditional synagogue music; but before I enter into my
discussion, I must tell this honorable assemlage that those who expect to hear a very learned
paper will be disappointed. The learned papers I shall leave to my friends, the musicologists.
I shall speak only as a musician and Jew. What I shall present will not be a profound lecture,
but merely some integrated thoughts on the subject of traditional synagogue music. What I
have to say may provide some material for discussion, in which my colleagues are, of course,
invited to criticize my position completely. Still, I feel, the differences of opinion may help
us all to recognize where we stand and where the right way lies for the musicians who want to
compose for the synagogue. This will, therefore, not be a lecture, but will rather remain in
the style of the synagogue-a sort of improvisation on a theme assigned to me for this after-
To speak truthfully, it is rather difficult to talk about traditional synagogue music. After
all, what is and what is not traditional in synagogue music? The term 'traditional' itself, has
been so extended and interpreted, in the past and even more so at the present time, that it
has become almost unintelligible. It embraces, in fact, a number of traditions, some few of
which are genuine, and many of which, unfortunately, are spurious and unworthy of the name.
This fact is most understandable. A people wandering over the face of the earth for so many
centuries will inevitably absorb many foreign and extraneous elements, good and bad. And
just as this process finds expression in physical terms-so that, for example, a Ukranian Jew
looks different from s Spanish Jew, and a Yemenite Jew different from a German Jew-so it
affected the people's cultural life. Whereas the genuine element in the people's tradition,
wherever it is preserved, is common to all Jewish communities in the Diaspora, most of the
local accretions, which after a while became the local 'traditions', are rather questionable as
to their authenticity.
For example, for the fanatically orthodox Jews of Frankfurt-am-Main, in the past cen-
tury, 'traditional synagogue music' meant Lewandowsky, and not always the best Lewandowsky.
And if, for instance, such observant Jews failed to hear at their Sabbath service Lewandowsky's
"Lechu Neraneno", which is an illegitimate offspring of a typical German march, they had a
'verstorten Shabbes' (a spoiled Sabbath). Here we see how an entirely non-Jewish and un-
Jewish melody became Jewish liturgical 'tradition'. Scores of examples could be given to
show how foreign elements that were dragged into our synagogue music later acquired the
status of 'tradition'. Ignorance and a cavalier attitude toward Nusach helped to make this so
called tradition popular among those who knew no better-to such an extent, that if one day
the genuine synagogue Nusach were substituted for the German march, the community felt
that something akin to 'sacrilege' had been perpetrated.
As a further indication of the extent of such ignorance, I must tell you the classic story
of 'Al Chef . .In a German town, so the story goes, it was a well-established local
tradition on Yom Kippur, for the Hazzan to sing the "Al chet shechotonu lefonecho b'yezer
hora" to which the community would repond with a jubilant: "Hora.... Hora Hora ! "
Delivered at the 1st Annual Convention, February 1948
However, this type of cultural assimilation was not restricted to German Jewry. Many
extraneous elements found their way into the Nusach of the East European synagogue as well.
But here the danger was not so great. East European Jews had preserved their Jewishness so
well, traditional synagogue music was so alive in them, that they were able to incorporate
foreign elements into the Jewish melodic line and place the mark of Jewish individuality on
them, so that they actually took on Jewish characteristics. Chassidim, especially, were famous
for their ability to trasmute non- Jewish melodies by instilling into them the traditional 'steiger'
and the unique Chassidic spirit, so that they became not merely Jewish, but specifically
Chassidic melodies, characterized by their own definite way of interpretation.
Chassidim considered it a mitzvah to take secular melodies and sanctify them by re-shaping
and re-working them in order to make them fit for devotional purposes. They called this
"zurickfiehren a nigun tzu zein shoiresh", to return a melody to its origin. A legend is told
of the Kaliver Rebbe who, on his strolls through the fields, one day heard a shepherd sing a
tune to the words of a love song, as follows:
"Woods, woods, how large you are,
Beloved, beloved, how far you are,
If the woods were not so large,
My beloved would not be so far."
The Rebbe then sang the same melody to his own words:
"Golus, Golus, how large you are,
Shechina, Shechina, how far you are."
And when the Rebbe sang this song, the shepherd no longer recognized it as his own and could
not sing it any more-since he had forgotten it.
This story symbolizes how thoroughly Chassidic individuality and spirit filled the 'new
vessel' with 'old wine'. One does not have to be either a Chassid or a Kabbalist to realize
that this method of absorbing extraneous material is far different from that of borrowing
from a German march, which remained a foreign element and is out of place in the synagogue.
For East European Jews, the traditional Nusach remained the backbone, which outside ele-
ments might bend, but not break. That is why-in spite of all the accretions and sometime even
vulgar 'embellishments' -there is still so much genuine beautiful Nusach left in the musical
heritage we have received from East European Jewry.
For many American Jews, living in a rather diluted Jewish tradition, and accustomed to
a synagogue service that is often an indiscriminate potpourri, a traditional Sabbath Service,
as it was conducted in the synagogues and Chassidim-Klaus of Eastern Europe, is barely ima-
ginable. Each prayer and response of the Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv was full of unadul-
terated Nusach-steiger, rich with ancient oriental elements that were handed down from father
to son as a matter of course, These Nuschaot were so alive in each Jew, that there simply was
no need to write them down. Their oral transmission was just as natural as the oral trans-
mission of intimate family traditions.
For those who never experienced it, words will never convey the full meaning of tradition
in the synagogue. We, today, are far removed not only from the tradition of synagogue music,
but also from the entire tradition of synagogue life, from the Jewish 'steiger'. Tradition, in
the synagogue, at one time, did not begin with the 'Opening of the Service'. It began with the
entrance to the Shul. Indeed, there was a 'steiger' for entering the Shul; there was a 'steiger'
in the way Jews would assemble for the washing of the hands after entering the shul; there
was 'steiger' in the way the Baal Tefilah threw his talis over his head and shoulders; there
was 'steiger' in the way he intoned the Nusach of the 'wochedige' Minchah, into which every-
one would join spontaneously-for it was in all of them.
There was too much genuine Jewish tradition alive in all of these Jews to make it dan-
gerous to add something to the ancestral melodic material. They could afford to listen to
foreign elements. And even when they failed, as they sometimes did, to stamp the foreign
element with their own individuality, the borrowed tune could not actually harm the Nusach-
it could only conceal it. That is why it is possible for one who knows, to separate the wheat
from the chaff.
Of course, this entire way of life, this Jewish 'steiger', no longer exists, especially here
in America. Not even in the orthodox synagogues can we find today the old 'steiger' of
'davnen'. We have Services, but no 'davnen'; the Baal Tefilah has had to give way to the modern
cantor. And I hope that this assembly of cantors will forgive me for expressing a sad truth:
our hazzanut is no longer what it used to be.
I suspect that the more serious among our hazzanim have discovered this truth before my
"revelation" and I hope that some among them are even concerned about it. The early
hazzanut of Eastern Europe created beautiful chants based on traditional nusach. But the
old-time hazzan, who was deeply rooted in Jewish knowledge and in the musical tradition
of the synagogue, disappeared long before the tragic destruction of East European Jewry.
Deterioration began considerably before our time. It may surprise many to learn that
hazzanut was not very popular among the very pious Jews of Eastern Europe, even in the
good old days, although the people at large loved hazzanut and crowded the synagogues
to hear a good hazzan. But when hazzanim began touring the country, like famous concert
artists making guest appearances, the old-time pious Jews saw the beginning of the decadence
of synagogue tradition. They feared that the pulpit might some day degenerate into a
stage. They denounced the striving for cheap effects that might imperil traditional nusach.
On being reproached for such a cool attitude toward hazzanut, one of these old Jews once
replied: "You may be right. Hazzones in really wonderful. Ober beim davnen stert es."
Of course, we cannot go back to this old way of life even if we wanted to. To recover
fully the old synagogue tradition would probably require making Jews 'daven' again-an un-
attainable ideal, as things stand. If Jews could daven with 'kavvanah' again, then our synagogue
music would be traditional-for our nusach is a nusach born of 'Kawanah'. But we cannot
bring 'kawanah' into our worship by decrees and conferences.
But in our music we must keep alive and revive our tradition. As a musician, I know
that there must be a close bond between the man who wants to create music for the syna-
gogue and the spirit of its traditional nusach. There is a Jewish musical heritage to draw upon-
our old prayer modes. Much of what the Jew once brought with him from the Orient has
been lost-this is one further reason that we should try to preserve what is still left to us. Of
course, I cannot recommend to every man who wants to compose synagogue music any short-
cuts to the mastering of trope and nusach. Such quick study would not avail him much. It
would enable him perhaps, to dash off a couple of 'numbers', but never to write a synagogue
composition of lasting value. To be able to create a significant work for the synagogue, the
compose must be rooted in Jewish tradition; he must be steeped in the spirit of nusach and
must know the melodic material intimately, in order to distinguish between the genuine and
The time to compose freely for the synagogue has not yet come. Before we can afford
to introduce 'free composition' into our liturgy, elementary spadework must be done-to re-
introduce our traditional music into the synagogues. This may sound strange, but what we
call our traditional synagogue music needs cleansing; it requires the removal of accumulations
that conceal and obscure the original nusach. A lot of weeds have over-grown our synagogue
music in the last century; and the past fifty years have brought forth the richest crop.
Here, in America, where everything is a little bigger than anywhere else, the weeds grow
bigger too. Synagogue nusach has become 'hefker'. Every hazzan makes himself his own
'nusachl'-the way he likes it best, or perhaps the way his 'Gabbai' likes it. I have heard all
sorts of nusach in Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues throughout New York
City. I have even heard a choir sing the second Kedushah with Boogie-Woogie effects. - (Not
that I have anything against Boogie Woogie as such, chas veshalom. As a matter of fact, the
Boogie-Woogie composers usually know their technique perfectly-something that cannot be
said for the manufacturers of such Jewish compositions.) The trash that can be heard in our
synagogues nowadays is a sacrilege against nusach and a crime against music.
To be sure, a few decent services for the synagogue have been written, but rarely heard.
The lack of dignity, the horrible music, the substitution of so-called 'new' ceremonials in every
type of synagogue, including the orthodox who are supposed to be the sternest guardians of
tradition, are truly startling. Recently, on a visit to a Conservative synagogue, I saw the hazzan
come marching in from the entrance up to the pulpit. While strutting through the synagogue,
he sang like an opera star, giving forth with "Mah Tovu". In an orthodox synagogue, I once
saw a hazzan, at Selihot march from the 'pulish' singing 'Ashre'. Such ceremonials are abso-
lutely against Jewish tradition and improper in a synagogue service. This is where synagogue
tradition must begin-by teaching the hazzan, the composer, and anyone who wants to create
for the synagogue the essentials. Otherwise, we shall never be able to raise the standard of our
Since this is how things stand, I personally feel that before we can start experimenting
with the new, we must collect the old. Our synagogue music needs 'kinnus'-just as Bialik
demanded it for medieval Hebrew poetry-collecting and making accessible the old, rather
than creating new works, at least for the present. To salvage scattered manuscripts that may
contain valuable material is one task. To cleanse the music of our synagogue and restore its
traditional melodic line to its purity, to clothe it in harmonies and counterpoint that will
convey dignity and meaning to the modern worshipper-these are the primary tasks for the
composer of synagogue music in our day. To do these things the composer will have to be
both an expert musician and a master of synagogue tradition.
This does not mean that it is impossible for a composer brought up in a different environ-
ment to compose freely. Every musician has a right to say-"So what if I don't know trope
or nusach. I will compose just as I feel." And if he is a great artist, he may indeed create
something so great and powerful that it will equal the power of nusach. This can be done-
by a genius. But experience has taught us that geniuses are rather rare these days. In the past
at least, they stubbornly preferred to compose for the church rather than for the synagogue.
For the Jewish composer who is seriously interested in composing for the synagogue
there is, to my mind, no other way, but to acquaint himself as thoroughly as possible with
trope and nusach, with the Jewish musical heritage of ancient days and of the more recent
past. This is not a matter for a quick 'course'. It requires patience and expert guidance. It
requires study and listening to authentic interpreation-for much of our nusach is brought
out only in actual performance. The score or the manuscript-even if there be authentic ones-
will not yield all the secrets.
The superior hazzan of the past was so steeped in nusach that he could afford to impro-
vise on it. He excelled in this art of improvisation, which required him to adhere to the dis-
tinct modes of a chant while embellishing its ancient motifs. He was thus able to express his
artistic individuality without corrupting the ancestral heritage. Much like the old hazzan, the
modern Jewish composer will be able to improvise without corrupting the style of synagogue
music only if he will have absorbed what the traditional prayer modes and the Biblical cantil-
iation have to say. To write his variations, the composer must know his theme-traditional
synagogue music. There is tradition even in the free counterpoints of the Renaissance masters.
A genius like Palestrina might compose freely, but even he was deeply rooted in early church
chant. It is possible to compose 'freely' for the synagogue, but not free from knowledge.
We have a long way to go until the synagogue finds its own Palestrina. In the meantime,
our young composers will have to be patient and try to acquaint themselves with the style of
synagogue, with the style that can be discerned after the extraneous layers are removed.
"Style is the man". But to have one's own style one must be someone. In this case, it means
that our young composers would be themselves- genuine Jews. This in itself is not an
easy task. The Chassidic master, Reb Meir of Apt, used to say: "When I come before the
Heavenly Gate, I shall not be afraid if they ask me-why were you not Moshe Rabbenu, or why
were you not Avrohom Avinu? I am only afraid they will ask me: why were you not Reb
Meir of Apt?" Before closing, I should like merely to mention some practical suggestions to
implement the above requirements. It is necessary that funds be set aside for the establish-
ment of such institutions as an Academy for cantors, a school for Jewish musicologists, a
library and archives for the collection and study of Jewish music. One important task for
such a school would be research that would result in a full authoritative bibliography of Jewish
music as far as this is possible. Equally important would be the creation of a Model Choir
to teach the authentic, traditional interpretation of synagogue music to choir-directors and
cantors. Just as the Catholic church has been supporting such model choirs as a reservoir
for experts to perpetuate the traditional style of church chant, so we also need such an insti-
All these projects require money. But, although the budget represents a problem, it is by
far not the most difficult problem in the American Jewish community.
I should like to quote a friend of mine who was recently interviewed by a prominent
American rabbi on Jewish culture in America. Asked what to his mind, were the main dif-
ficulties in developing Jewish culture in America, his reply was:
"...In the Old World, the Rebbe was a Rebbe, the hazzan was a hazzan, and the commu-
nity was a community. The only thing that was a fiction was the budget.
- In the New World, - the Rebbe is not a Rebbe, the hazzan is not a hazzan, and the c(
munity is not a community. The only reality is - the budget."
Only if we will establish our "communal realities" in the proper way, will we succeed i
MODERN - Dr. Kurt List, Composer
The question of whether means and textures of contemporary music can and should be
utilized in the liturgy goes beyond the narrow reaches of music. No doubt, every leader of
a congregation desires to make religion part of the community's living experience. How then
can he neglect the demands modern sensibility makes? When the rabbi deals with questions
of a social or political nature his decisions may derive from the wisdom terms. The glib
answer to our question would be - naturally, liturgical service is in need of a music ouvertly
forged here and now.
But glib answers do not solve a problem, especially not a problem which is so involved
as ours. No matter how modernized the liturgical service may be in the individual instance,
it necessarily retains archaic features which stand in contradiction to contemporary expres-
sivity. If the service is conducted in Hebrew the disparity between this language and modern
music will be felt either as historical, or in the case of nationalistic worshipper, at least as
geographical contradiction. And even if the service is conducted in modern English its myth
and procedure are still rooted deeply in centuries-old practices.
Still, this is very possibly an extraneous dilemma, since the principle of the liturgical
formula cannot conceivably be reconciled with the volcanic flux of the modern scene. More-
over, it can be argued that precisely in this formula lies the stability which religion gives to the
Nevertheless, such stability as proffered by the mode of the service is felt effectively
only if the link between tradition and modem feeling is established. To do this it seems essen-
tial to use modem musical means which in their fundamental aspects, however, must still
display the residues of liturgical tradition.
The lack of an evolutionary tradition of Jewish music- that is, an evolution which has
kept pace with the development of Western music, - poses our first problem. In all forms
Jewish sacred music is a hybrid. True, it has accepted numerous devices from the music
of the surrounding world. But it has also gone its own, private way, and is mired in a pseudo-
authentic language which has little, if anything, to do with Western practices. Occasional
attempts to invite composers foreign to the synagogue to write for it have made matters
worse rather than better. The result of these instances was a sudden intrusion of a style that
in no way attacked the problem and in no way furthered the development of sacred music.
Today the worshipper is confronted with a fossilized usage of music, part of which is
certainly rooted in specifically Jewish modality and chant, but part of which is nothing but an
eclectic conglomeration of cliches skimmed off Slavic or Central-European secular practices.
Outside the synagogue, however, this very same worshrpper is acquainted with an entirely dif-
ferent type of music - that of the contemporary scene. Thus when entering the synagogue he
finds himself suddenly in an atmosphere which sets religion apart from his other life.
The composer, of course, faces here the grave problem of reconciling fossilized synagogue
music with a much more advanced and evolved modern style. And the question is whether
he can suddenly bypass centuries and plunge into modern usage. And even if he can do so,
how is he to preserve that traditional element which, for the worshipper, represents some sort
of familiarity within the service.
But this is not where the problem stops. We have talked so far in general terms of "con-
temporary" music. Anybody acquainted with the modem music world realizes at once that
"contemporary" has almost as many different meanings as there are composers. If we speak
of the adaptation of the contemporary style to synagogue music are we referring to the
populist music of Copland, the neo Romanticism of Virgil Thomson, the neo-Classicism of
Stravinsky, the fauvism of Prokofieff, the realism of Shostakovitch, the neo- Baroque of
Hindemith, the expressionism of Schoenberg or to any other style that can be heard in our
concert halls? And if we are referring to all of them how then is the composer to proceed in
adapting all these styles to sacred music? Indeed, this again would be inviting the super-im-
psition of a stylistic hodgepodge on a music which, in itself, is already characterized by im-
purity and eclecticism.
Now the obvious answer would be that each composer has already made his choice of
style before he approaches the problem of composition for the synagogue and that his prob-
lem is to integrate his style into the sacred mode of composing. But what if such a composer
adheres to the tenets of neoclassicism? Obviously, such an aesthetic would result again in
the conjuring up of a picture of the past. This then would melt with traditional synagogue
music to give us once more that feeling of archaicism which has alienated synagogue music
from modern life.
There are further difficulties. Quite naturally, institutional religion looks at music from
an utilitarian point of view. Music in the synagogue is largely Gebrauchsmusik; but music as
written by the serious composer is first music, and its use is to him, of secondary nature.
How can this gap between abstract and concrete expression be bridged?
Certainly not by employing composers who stand outside the orbit of religious feeling.
It has become fashionable in recent years - as it always is during a strong need for emanci-
pation - to commissionnon-Jewish composers with the writing of liturgical music. Sulzer did
it with Schubert and it is done today again with Roy Harris. There may be a noble gesture in
such fraternal enterprises but hardly anything worthwhile to contribute to the solution of the
problem. Neither is the activity of those Jewish composers who see in writing liturgical music
a political or nationalistic rather than a religious task of benefit. For in order to fuse the
utilitarian and easthetic aspects of religious music a composer of the type of Bach is needed
who sees no difference between the music he writes and the use to which it is put. Only com-
posers who write as a matter of their nature ad majorem gloriam d& can fulfill the task with
which the liturgy confronts them.
I believe this is the crux of the question and we shall see presently how it serves to clear
up the other contradictions. It is a commmonplace which one is ashamed to say loudly that
a composer can only create valid music out of his own experience. Yet how many liturgical
composers are there who write out of their oneness with religion? It is not true that for most
composers the creation of the liturgy is just a job or at best a political, nationalistic issue?
Obviously, the main concern at this juncture is not contemporary versus traditional music,
but where to find the deeply religious composer who knows his metier and is a great artist.
If the synagogue fails to find or produce such a composer the case for religion is truly in bad
On the other hand, if such a composer is to be found the question of tradition versus
modernity will at once be clarified. As I understand religious service - and as I believe the
great sacred writers and composers from Notker Balbulus to Palestrina and Bach have under-
stood it - it demands the very best, the utmost effort in behalf of God. Such an effort
requires the highest aesthetic expenditure on the part of the composer. It impels responsibi-
lity not only to piety but also to music. It is clear by now that in asking for a religious com-
poser to write religious music I do not refer to a general atmosphere, a Jewish climate, which
some contemporary writers consider fashionable to attribute to works written by Jews but
not necessarily of Jewish form and content. I fail to see how such an intricate problem can be
solved by such vague milieu descriptions or tradtitional quotations as we find them in the
novels of Kafka or the compositions of Bloch. For whatever other merit they may have -
and despite the fact that they demonstrate numerous Jewish traits - they represent possibly
a minority facet in Western art, but not a Jewish and certainly not a religious aspect as far as
liturgy is concerned.
When I look for the religious Jewish composer of competence I am simultaneously asking
for one who is aware of the challenges and responses, - the true spiritual and easthetic values
which the development of music has presented to the Western composer. I believe such a
composer will recognize that the warming over of any of the neo-isms, be they Gregorian,
Baroque or Classical, does no service to himself, his music and his religion.
It may be an accident that the most provocative challenge in modern music has come
from Arnold Schoenberg, a Jewish composer. But if it was only an accident, as I am disin-
clined to believe, it certainly was a lucky one for the Jewish composer. For here it is proved
that one can cope with the problem in such a manner that both music and religion are served.
Possibly the way is shown here already by Schoenberg 's deep religious conviction that has led
him to write a new Kol Nidrd. That this work has as yet not been heard in any synagogue
throws significant light on the sad state of affairs. It certainly explains why none of Schoen-
berg 's followers has attempted a modern reconstruction of the service.
Naturally, such a road does not exclude the preservation of authentic traditional chant.
But that is hardly the problem of the composer, more that of the music director. Music does
not operate in a historical vacuum. And for this reason a modicum of tradition will always
be welcome and necessary. Neither am I so naive as to believe that the efforts of a religious
Schoenberg follower will solve all problems. I am quite aware of the many difficulties and
contradictions which such a choice would involve. To mention only two: Schoenberg's
expressionism is essentially polyphonic - the exigencies of the service demand a more homo-
phonic texture. Then too, expressionism, though evolved traditionally, is by now notably ad-
vanced beyond anything that can be grasped as tradition by the average listener. How can the
traditional essence of the Temple chant be incorporated into this style?
I am neither religious nor experienced enough to give a ready made recipe for solutions.
Neither do I believe that such an overall recipe can possibly exist. But I do know that unless
the highest human efforts are enlisted in the service to religion, liturgy will be an empty formula
and its music a worthless and uninteresting rehash of ideas which, in their failure to evolve, have
already proved their fundamental weakness in the past.
In view of this, it seems useless to make demands of the composers who are now engaged
professionally in writing liturgical music. No doubt, they are doing their best. And if this
best is not good enough, - as it apparently is not judging from the results, - it in part ref-
lects on the old-fashioned, turgid attitude institutional religion has taken toward the liturgy
and its music. Unless this attitude changes to one which recognizes the true values on every
field no fundamental aesthetic outlook on sacred music will be forthcoming. And without
such an outlook, there can be no great liturgical music.
CHEMJO VINAVER was born in Warsaw, July 10, 1900, a direct descendent of a famous hassidic and
rabbinic family. He directed his musical talents at the very source of the rich culture and musical tradition
of the Jewish people. Vinaver studied in Berlin with Professor Hugo Ruedel and Siegfried Ochs where his
musical gifts were soon recognized and he became an important choral director. In 1926, he made his
debut at the State Academy in Berlin, conducting a choral concert of Jewish liturgical music. In 1928, was
appointed Music Director of the Habimah Theater. In 1933, he organized the famous chorus "Ha-Niggun".
After coming to the United States in 1938, he organized the Vinaver Chorus which soon achieved great
popularity. Vinaver is also a gifted composer. Among his compositions are "The Seventh Day", a Friday
evening service; stage music for the production of "Jeremiah" by Stefan Zweig, and numerous choral works.
His "Anthology of Jewish Music" is a work of the first magnitude. This comprehensive collection contains
synagogue chants and religious folk tunes of Eastern European Jews authentically notated by Vinaver.
KURT LIST, born in Vienna in 1913, was a student of Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Under their in-
fluence he became a strict adherent of the twelve-tone system. Of his considerable works, a woodwind
quintet and an opera, "The Wise and the Foolish", deserve special n
CHANGING CONCEPTIONS OF HAZZANUT
Just as all art - painting, sculpture and general music - have undergone all sorts of evo-
lutions and changes, so did hazzanut take on different forms and changes in Jewish life.
Before we analyze the musical approach of hazzanut, how the old hazzan-zoger was creative
in his field a hundred years ago, as contrasted with what we know of it approximately fifty
years ago and with the contemporary Hazzan-Cantor, we must take into account the media
which he uses at present to express his cantorial art. When we consider hazzanut from its
vocal-singing aspect and when we compare it to the operatic and concert singer, we can see
that the hazzan has a much more difficult task than the latter, because the operatic singer
deals with a work which is already fully created. The same is true of the lieder-singer who
renders the works of Schubert, Schumann or Brahms. All that these artists need are a fine
voice and musical and singing abilities. The Hazzan, however, in addition to the above-men-
tioned equipment, must also be highly creative musically. The Hazzan drives inspiration from
the meaningful content of the prayers and creates the music spontaneously as he stands at
the Amud. And here the opera and Lieder-composer is in a more furtunate position than
the Hazzan, because the former creates music for a text with a definite rhythm which is
already by itself a beginning of music. The theme is a definite one, whether it be a prayer
or a love declaration the music is strongly rhythmic, the melodies are composed of long
The Hazzan, however, who is obliged to create music to words which do not always
express a single sustained thought, but rather short ones, which follow one after the other,
and this occurs mostly in texts which deal with historical themes; for example, the V'ne-
e-mars in the Amidah of the Rosh Hashonah Service - N'ne-e-mar lo hee-bit aw-ven-b' ya-
a-kow, v'ne-e-mar va-y-hee be- Y'shurun melech, V'ne-e-mar ha-shem ma-lach, v'ne-e-mar s'oo
she-a-rim ro-shay-them. All these represent phrases, each one of which has a different nusach.
To give them each a separate identity, the tonation must be different at each of those phrases.
Now despite the fact that the Hazzan has freedom, as he is not obliged to adhere to a defi-
nite rhythm and he sings recitatively, it should be observed, nevertheless, that if it is difficult
to compose a choral or any other musical composition, a recitative is perhaps much more
difficult to compose. The difficulty lies not so much in the form of the recitative but
rather in its formlessness, because the ear of the listener demands in the very absence of
rhythm also something rhythmic. We hazzanim, most certainly are familiar with the ex-
pression of the Jew, "Der Hazzan fargeht zich", that is, when the hazzan holds a long tone
which almost leaves him and the listener breathless. Why does the hazzan do this? He does
this mostly to get balance and rhythm-symmetry in the phrases; as for example, va-ta-bayt
ay-nee b' shoo-roi, which is composed of but three words and ba-ko-mim o-kd m-mi-im
tish-ma-no oz-noi, which is composed of but five words, or, conversely, when the first phrase
is a longer one and the following phrase has fewer words. The Hazzan with greater musical
knowledge does not have to depend on the longer tone to achieve balance. He can sing:
Delivered at the 2nd A nnual Convention February, 1949
(As we can see, the second phrase, which has five words, is not longer musically than
the first, which has only three words.)
The old hazzan-zoger was not largely confronted with this problem because the old
zoger did not fit the music to a whole phrase, but he drew musically a meaningful con-
ception for each separate word. He did not sing:
2'- 0' . rf»> " 1°' fl^l ^ r J' ,, '*<>- t W°5 V»5M-
The old zoger did not do this. When he sang L'el he took a high tone, because God
is really on high; Baruch he sang in a dignified tone like the Kohen Godol; N'ee-mos
he sang sweetly, etc. With the great zoger the motifs of one word could not rhythmically
be repeated with the next word, otherwise he would not have been at all creative. The
motif of the second word, also had to lead to an entirely different chord that the first and
not to move on sequentially.
It is to be obeserved, however, that despite the fact that there was a separate motif
for each word, we could see, nevertheless, a unified structure at the end of each phrase.
In order to be brilliant, to be the great creator, the hazzan-zoger often brought to each
word a number of motifs, as we see it evidence in Weintraub's "Ki K' shim-cho":
And as we see, Weintraub did really have in some of his recitative pieces a certain
definite form. They started recitatively and finished in a definite rhythm, as we see it in
Weintraub's "Yizk'rem". He begins:
«*- Pi - KA1- ©
AL K£H i*-Att* - AoSH
This form is still followed with certain hazzanim. We find them often in Rosenblatt's
recitatives as in his Elohai N'sho-mo. He begins recitatively:
rto-jus a -rii- ^'-fo-He-dh "»-J* *-H'-*.-fc-u#-c*
Here we see a certain change from the old from as it was used by the zoger-oystaicher
who created a notif for each separate word. These zogers have almost entirely disappeared.
It is possible that the zoger will again find his former place in the new State of Israel where
the common language is Hebrew, because in order to appreciate the individually-musically-
illustrated word, it is essential that the iistener understand every word that the hazzan is
Approximately fifty years ago, hazzanut took on a more and more singing form. The
short motifs became longer singing phrases, as we can observe from Vilna's Hazzan
The same phrase transposed:
eIl *A-wn *w/> -riJH-
e - tew fl~PA~1r* v -
The same phrase expanded
it from Schlossberg's "R'tzei":
JFf hH l J,ili ^| J J| '
~ t 1 -L-^ • ! - '
Here we have a combination of recitative and singing.
Here we see how the longer singing phrase which was fitted to a few words began
to replace the motif which fitted each individual word separately, according to the meaning
of the word.
I have come across a record almost fifty years old which was sung by a world renowned
cantor, which has the same singing form. Who the composer was, I do not know. The
music, however, is absolutely incorrect. It goes as follows:
fllH- Jfa- C*J. - MAt- Jfcf
The question is what is the meaning of Mimkomcho malkenu without sofiah?
The second phrase composed goes as follows:
fl/iriWMv- 1° F* — &
Now the question arises once mo
mimkomcho? Since the birth of the s
itself in hazzanut.
; what is the meaning of malkenu sofiah without
iging form, the major musical problem presented
The longer singing phrase as it was used by Bernstein in his Adonai, Adonai, and the
combination of recitative and singing, as in Schlossberg's R'tzei now become the most
used forms of hazzanut in our day.
This music form, if it is used correctly and according to the nusach of the prayer,
which the hazzan sings, gives the listener (even though he may not understand the language
which the hazzan sings), the atmosphere and feeling of the prayer, which is also true of the
person who, although he does not understand Italian, is inspired by the aria sung by a great
The new singing form, however, brought along with it many evils. Many hazzanim
began singing from La Juive, Pearl Fisher, etc., and introduced a theatrical atmosphere into
the synagogue. The nusach of En Komocho and Vv'nucho Yomar rapidly deteriorated. In
its place anything in a march or a waltz tempo, is substituted for En Komocho; for Vv'nucho
Yomar they sing in the gypsy romance style. This happens mostly with those prayers which
were given to the hazzan with the freedom to develop his cantorial fantasies. The prayers
of congregation and hazzan or hazzan and congregation were those that were largely left
according to nusach, where the congregation recited the prayer before the hazzan as in
Y'hi Rotzon of Shabbos m'vorchim hachodesh or Shma Kolenu, where the congregation
recites following the hazzan, there the hazzan was forced to retain the nusach.
In this instance it must be said, however, that the whole blame of neglecting nusach does
not fall on the shoulders of the hazzan, but the Baal Tetilah is also at fault. The Baal
Tefilah at times has been guilty of not taking seriously and of considering lightly those
prayers which express "praise". Although our Jewish worshipper recited the Tefilah prayer
with great Kavanah, his attitude towards prayers of "praise" was altogether different.
In prayers of "praise", he was confronted with just a nigun or a military march, such as is
heard often in the hasidim shtibl. For this reason, the nusach of the Tefilah came down to us
fully developed, and the nusach of "praise" was neglected. This led to the practice where the
Baal Tetilah gives us a mere suggestion of nusach in Ein Komo cho and Vv'nucho Yomar,
Kiddush for Friday Evening, and other prayers of this nature, and the Cantor neglected it
entirely. But truthfully speaking, every prayer, regardless of its character, whether it was a
Tefilah or praise, has a definite specific nusach.
It is of special importance in the modern conservative and reform congregation that the
Hazzan-Cantor make an effort to utilize the correct nusach because while in those houses of
worship where the Jew is in the habit of praying out loud, b'kol rom, the prayer has already
been prayed and perhaps sung before the hazzan gets to it; the same, however, is not true
in those synagogues where the service is largely a silent one, where the praying is done
bilachash. In such places of worship where there is missing a vociferious, ecstatic religious
spirit, it becomes the duty of the hazzan to examine the weaknesses in our nuschaot, and
bring them to light; otherwise there is the risk that many of our beautiful traditional melodies
may be forgotten because of disuse.
A beautiful voice and great talented singing are by themselves not sufficient to arouse
a spark of religious emotion of which we just spoke. This could be done only by the Hazzan
with the beautiful voice, but who also makes use of the correct nusach. The correct nusach,
- that is very important; because deep down even in the most reformed Jew there glimmer
sparks of a nigum here and there of our traditional nuschaot, which only the hazzan who
uses the correct nusach can once more revive.
Truly and really, there is no such thing as Orthodox, Conservative or Reform hazzanut.
There is only good and bad hazzanut. The long-phrase form in the correct nusach is the
most acceptable in all our synagogues. Of course, the modem form is reduced from the
Orthodox form. And if a Cantor sings the El Molt R achamim with innumerable modulations,
and with uncountable arpeggio-like coloraturas, the result is not aesthetically tasteful no
matter in which type synagogue it is rendered.
In every synagogue, and it does not matter which one of the groups it belongs to, the
combination of contemporary hazzanut consists of recitative and long phrases. The difference
only is that in the modern synagogue, the intervals in the recitative are consecutive. For
each note, as many words as possible are fitted as the content of the text allows, until
we arrive at the point which is sufficiently high in tessatura, and then the same thing is
done in reverse, as we go down the scale, as for instance:
M* i '■ ftp- Vk] »'• Mi'- <#$ f- - Ml-fiv V-JiW-a-IHgS feSjf-/)| —
This ascent continues to the limitation of the cantors range and then begins to descend
PU* * * 1" . • m 1 »' /. » Ji J u \i
j-^-.- f> v — i L - .' ^7 t l— _«L- .:-,
A - Port jm. rti/f -
We have made an effort to point out three forms of hazzanut, namely: The motif,
Singing, and the Combination singing and recitative. We have seen that hazzanut has a
distinct form and on the basis of this form, it is possible to build for further progress and to
preserve our hazzanic tradition. For many prayers would have long been forgotten if it
were not for the nuschaot in which they are rendered.
ADOLPH KATCHKO was born in Varta Kalisz, Russia in 1896, Katchko, like most of the world's great
cantors, was a child prodigy. At the age of six, he began singing in the choir of Jonah Shochet. As a
young man he studied composition in Berlin. Arriving in the United States in 1921, he served for six
years with various congregations, and was finally elected cantor of Anshe Chesed Synagogue, New York,
where he remained for 24 years until his retirement. He was a teacher of many famous American cantors.
He himself, was the possessor of a beautiful flexible baritone voice. He was an Honorary Trustee of the
Sacred School of Music where many of his compositions were used as classroom texts.
AN INTERPRETATION OF
THE SABBATH EVE LITURGY
Dr. Leon J. Liebreich
THE DEVELOPMENT OF KABBALAT SHABBAT
One of the Genizah fragments of the Palestinian Order of Service indicates that during
the Geonic period (about 640-1 100 CE.) Ps. 12 g followed by Genesis 2.1-3 (Wayekullu),
served as prelude to Bareku of the Evening Service for Sabbaths. Apparently, this Psalm
must have been regarded as a fitting companion to Wayekullu, since the latter states that
'the heaven and the earth were finished,' and the former refers to God 'Who made heaven
and earth,' No trace, however, is to be detected in any of the known rituals of the practice
of the recital of Ps. 121 and Wayekullu before Bareku.
In another Genizah fragment, Ps. 92 which, according to Mishnah Tamid 7.4, was re-
cited by the Levites in the Temple of Jerusalem on the Sabbath, is the introduction to
Bareku on Sabbath Evening. Two considerations seem to have suggested the appropriate-
ness of the recital of this Psalm on the Sabbath. First, its superscription contains the
phrase 'for the Sabbath Day.' Secondly, the words be-maase in verse 5 and maaseka in
verse 6 are suggestive of the very purpose of the Sabbath, which is zeker le-maaseh be-reshit
('a reminder of the work of creation').
Whereas in the Yemenite Siddur, as in a Responsum of Moses Maimonides (1135-1 204),
only Ps 92 occurs before Bareku in the Sabbath Evening Service; in all other rituals it is
followed by Ps. 93. The addition of the latter to Ps. 92 is understandable in the light of
Aggadic influence. For, according to the Midrash, Adam had occasion to recite both these
Psalms: Ps. 93 upon his entrance into the Garden of Eden and before his sin; and Ps. 92
upon repenting after his sin (the consonants of ha-shabbat are also contained in the word
teshubah). Furthermore, according to Babli Rosh ha-Shanah 31a, the recital on Fridays
of Ps. 93, which opens with the significant words 'The Lord reigneth,' is due to the fact
that, upon the completion of His work on the sixth day, God assumed the Kingship over
the world. In other words, the advent of the Sabbath marked the culmination of creation,
namely, God's assumption of the Kingship. Accordingly, Ps. 93 was deemed a suitable
Psalm not only for Friday, but also for the Sabbath. That the concept of the Kingship
of God was considered a timely theme for Sabbaths is evident from the fact that a con-
temporary of Maimonides, R. Abraham b. Nathan ha-Yarhi (of Lunel), observes that it is
particularly timely 'to proclaim the Unity of God's Kingship on the Sabbath,' and to hope
'that the glory of His Kingship might once again be made manifest unto us by virtue of
Delivered at the 3rd Annual Convention, February 1950
When toward the end of the sixteenth century, owing to the influence of the Kabbalistic
school of Safed, Ps. 95-99 (and Lekah Ddoi) were made to precede Ps. 92-93, one of the
factors which undoubtedly helped to determine the choice of these additional Psalms was
the concept that the Sabbath was an especially suitable occasion for giving prominence to the
idea of God's Kingship. Ps. 93, a so-called 'Royal' Psalm, served as guide in the selection
of more Psalms. Not being a 'Royal' Psalm, Ps. 94 was passed over. Following it, how-
ever, was a group of five consecutive 'Royal' Psalms, two of which, viz. Ps. 97 and 99,
opened, like Ps. 93, with the words 'The Lord reigneth.' That Ps, 95, 96 and 98 also belong
to the category of 'Royal' Psalms is evident from-the following verses:
Ps. 95.3: For the Lord is a great God,
And a great King above all gods;
Ps. 96.10: Say among the nations: 'The Lord reigneth;'
Ps. 98.6: Shout ye before the King, the Lord.
The desire to add a sixth 'Royal' Psalm to correspond to the six days of the week which
precede the Sabbath appears to have prompted the still further addition of Ps. 29, in which
we read: 'Yea, the Lord sitteth as King forever.' That this particular 'Royal' Psalm should
have been chosen may have been due to two Aggadic concepts. First, Ps. 29 is associated
in the domain of the Midrash with the Revelation on Mt. Sinai. Accordingly, in Masseket
Soferim and in the Genizah fragments it is the special Psalm for the Festival of Shabuot.
Secondly, according to Babli Shabbat 86b, the Torah was given to Israel on a Sabbath.
Viewed in this light, the Sabbath day commemorates the Sabbath of the Giving of the
Torah on Sinai. Hence Ps. 29 qualified as a Psalm for the Sabbath both in the Evening
Service, as well as upon the return of the Torah scroll to the Ark on Sabbath morning.
THE TWO PARAGRAPHS PRECEDING THE
RECITAL OF THE SHEMA
The invocation to prayer (Bareku et ha-Shem ha-Meborak) is based on Nehemiah 9.5,
in which it is related: 'Then the Levites said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God from
everlasting to everlasting (Bareku et ha-Shem Elokekem min ha-Olam ad ha-Olam).' The
shorter form, Bareku et ha-Shem, occurs in Ps. 134.1-2 (Bareku ha-Shem in Ps. 103.20-22).
In the opinion of R. Akiba in Mishnah Berakot 7.3, the liturgical invocation should follow
scriptural precedent in consisting of only Bareku et ha-Shem. The accepted form Bareku
et ha-Shem ha-Meborak is in accordance with the view of R. Ishmael.
There is evidence to the effect that either Baruk Shem Kebod Malkuto le-Olam Vaed
(in use in the Jerusalem Temple during the Day of Atonement Service) or Yehe Shemeh
Rabba Mebarak le-Alam u-le-AlmeAlmaya, was at one time the response to the invocation
to prayer (Bareku). Baruk ha-Shem ha-Meborak le-Olam Vaed, on the other hand, was
reserved for the response to Bareku at the Reading of the Torah. In the course of time,
however, neither Baruk Shem Kebod Malkuto nor Yehe Shemeh Rabba any longer constituted
the response to the invocation to prayer. The former was inserted between Shema and
Ve-Ahabta, the latter was reserved for the Kaddish, and the response to Bareku at the
Reading of the Torah (Baruk ha-Shem ha-Meborak le-Olam Vaed) became also the response
to Bareku as a call to prayer. All the responses mentioned revert essentially to Ps. 113.2
and Daniel 2.20.
The invocation to prayer and the response thereto are followed by two paragraphs,
each concluding with a benediction, The first deals with God as revealed in the laws of
Nature, the second, with God as revealed in the Moral Law. This sequence is reminiscent
of Ps. 19, which consists of two distinct parts, the theme of the first being the manifes-
tation of God in Nature, and that of the second, the manifestation of God in Torah.
Ahabat Olam the second of the two paragraphs, serves as a direct introduction to the
Recital of the Shema (Deut. 6.4-9, 11.13-21, Num. 15.37-41). It opens with the theme
of God's love for Israel, for which the locus classicus in Deuteronomy 7.6-8; 'For thou
art a holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be His
own treasure, out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not
set His love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people
. . ..but because the Lord loved you.' The concept of God's love for Israel is, therefore,
closely related to that of the election of Israel. 'The peculiar love of God for Israel is the
ground of His choice of Israel to be their God and they His people.' For, 'to love means in
fact, to choose or to elect.' In the light of these observations, it is clear that the conclud-
ing benediction 'Blessed art Thou, Lord, who lovest Thy people Israel' is essentially the
same as its counterpart in Ahabah Kabbah of the Morning Service, which is 'Blessed art
Thou, Lord, who hast chosen Thy people Israel in love.' Cf. Attah behartanu in the
Amidot for the Festivals and Holy Days: 'Thou hast chosen us from all peoples, Thou hast
The concepts of God's love for Israel and the election of Israel are, in turn, related
to Torah. For, as a token of His love and choice, God gave the Torah to Israel. The passage
'With everlasting love Thou hast loved the house of Israel, Thy people; Torah and Mitzvot
. . ..hast Thou taught us' means, therefore, that by teaching them the Torah, God has demon-
strated His love for Israel (Cf. Rabbinical Assembly-United Synagogue Sabbath and Festival
Prayer Book). Cf. the benediction over the Reading of the Torah: 'Blessed art Thou,
Lord our God.... who hast chosen us from all peoples, and hast given us Thy Torah.'
In short, idelogically the following three benedictions are interrelated:
(1) Blessed art Thou, Lord, who lovest Thy people Israel;
(2) Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hast chosen Thy people Israel in love; and
(3) Blessed art Thou, Lord, who givest the Torah.
Ahabat Olam furnishes an excellent example of the dependence of the liturgy on the
Bible, and of the influence of Aggadic interpretations of Scripture on the Prayer Book. The
biblical allusions with which this liturgical composition is replete may be listed as follows:
(1) 'With everlasting love Thou hast loved the house of Israel, Thy people' - Jeremiah
31.3: Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;
(2) 'Torah and commandments, statutes and judgments hast Thou taught us' - Deute-
ronomy 6.1: the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord
your God commanded to teach you;
(3) 'When we lie down and when we rise up' - Deut. 6.7 and 11.19: and when thou
liest down, and when thou risest up;
(4) 'We will meditate on Thy statutes' - Ps. 119.48: And I will meditate on Thy
(5) 'For they are our life and the length of our days' - (a) Deut. 6.2: to keep all His
statutes and His commandments.. ..all the days of thy life, and that thy days may
be prolonged; (b) Deut. 30.20: to love the Lord thy God.. ..for that is thy life, and
the length of thy days; and
(6) 'And we will meditate on them day and night' - (a) Joshua 1.8 (at the beginning of
the second division of Scripture -Nebiim): This book of the Torah shall not depart
out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night; (b) Ps. 1.2 (at
the beginning of Ketubim): But his delight is in the Torah of the Lord, and in
His Torah doth he meditate day and night.
The third and last allusions are particularly significant. The former serves to establish
a verbal link between AhabatO/am and the first two sections of Keriat Shema (Deut.
6.4-9 and 11.13-21). The latter casts light on the original aim of the Recital of the Shema
twice daily. For, implicit in the allusion to Joshua 1.8 is the Aggadic association of this
verse with the Recital of the Shema as the equivalent of the study of Torah. The following
Midrash makes this perfectly clear: 'Why did our Sages institute the Recital of the Shema
twice daily, morning and evening? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel,
This book of the Torah shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein
day and night (Josh. 1.8). At the same time, God also directed, Six days shalt thou labor,
and do all thy work (Exodus 20.9). How are these two seemingly contradictory precepts
to be reconciled in actual practice? By the Recital of the Shema twice daily, morning and
evening. A person who has recited the Shema is regarded as though he had read the entire
Torah.' Babli Menahot 99b, Yerushalmi Berakot 3c (ed. Krotoschin) and Midrash Tehillim
Chapter 1 similarly connect Josh. 1.8 and Ps. 1.2 with the Recital of the Shema. Keriat
Shema thus constituted originally the minimum requirement for the proper observance of
the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, in which every Jew was expected to engage twice daily.
From which it followed that an unlettered or ignorant person (Am ha-Aretz) was one who
did not possess sufficient knowledge to enable him to recite the Shema morning and
evening (Babli Berakot 47b).
In contrast to Ahabat Olam, whose sole theme is Talmud Torah, Ahabah Rabbah in
the Morning Service exhibits two separate parts, the first of which, like its parallel in the
Evening Service, treats of Talmud Torah, and the second, opening with the words 'and
unite our hearts to love and fear Thy name' and closing with 'and proclaim Thy Unity in
love,' serves as an introduction to the Recital of the Shema as a proclamation of the unity
of God. The passage 'and unite our hearts to love and fear Thy name' is an adaptation of
Ps. 86.11 b ('unite my heart to fear Thy name'), in which yahed and shemeka are suggestive
of Yihud ha-Shem, a concept which recurs in the liturgy toward the end of Tahanum for
Mondays and Thursdays, and in the Kedushah of Musuf for Sabbaths.
In sum, while Ahabat Olam is restricted to the theme of Talmud Torah, Ahabah
Rabbah includes, besides, a reference to the Recital of the Shema as an affirmation of the
Unity of God. Both these liturgical compositions, however, are basically the equivalent of
Birkatha-Torah (Benediction preceding a reading from the Torah), their respective concluding
benedictions being related as has been observed, to one theme and one theme only, namely,
KER1A T SHEMA: A TRILOGY
Besides constituting a token of Torah study and an affirmation of the unity of God,
the Recital of the Shema came, in time, to be regarded also as a declaration of allegiance
to the Kingship of God (Kabbalat 01 Malkut Shamayim). For the origin of the association
of the Shema with the Kingship of God we must go back to 40-70 C.E. and 117-135 C.E.,
when trying conditions in Palestine made it imperative 'to emphasize the belief in the sole
sovereignty of God as against the.... tendency to admit the sovereignty of the Caesars who
also claimed divine honors.' Accordingly, the Shema was interpreted to contain implicitly,
though not explicitly, the idea of the Kingship of God. As one scholar puts it: 'The
Shema not only contains a metaphysical statement about the unity of God, but expresses
a hope and belief.... in the ultimate universal kingdom of God.'
To compensate for the lack of any specific reference in the three sections of the
Shema to the Kingship of God, the verse 'Hear Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is
One' is preceded by El Melek Neeman (God, faithful King!) and followed by Raruk Shem
Kebod Malkuto le-Olam Vaed (Blessed be His name whose glorious kingdom is for ever and
ever). As for the first of these insertions, it has been suggested that it is a substitute for
an original benediction recited prior to the Shema which read as follows: 'Blessed art Thou,
Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments, and
hast commanded us to recite the Shema whereby to declare Thy Kingship with a perfect
heart, to affirm Thy unity with a good heart, and to serve Thee with a willing mind.' As
regards Baruk Shem Kebod Malkuto le-Ohm Vaed, it is obvious that it is an adaption of
the biblical (U-) Baruk Shem Kabodo le-Oalm (Ps. 72.19) and that Malkuto was inserted
advisedly for the express purpose of stressing the idea of the Kingship of God.
We now turn to a consideration of the three biblical passages (Parashiyot) which were
selected to comprise Keriat Shema, namely, Deut. 6.4-9, 11.13-21 and Num. 15.37-41. As
has been indicated, the original motive in back of the institution of Keriat Shema was the
desire to make the study of Torah wide-spread, or, to instill in every Jew a keen awareness
of his religious duty to devote set periods each day to the study of Torah. Accordingly,
the individual could be said to have discharged his obligation, if he read any Parashah of
his choice in the morning, and another in the evening. The Rabbis, however, saw good
reason, as will be shown subsequently, to single out and to fix the particular selections to
be read. At first, only Deut. 6.4-9 and 11.13-21 constituted Keriat Shema. To these Num.
15.37-41 was added later for recital in the morning only. In the evening, only the last
verse of this passage, which contains a reference to the Exodus from Egypt, was included.
Eventually, Num. 13.37-41 in its entirety became an integral part of Keriat Shema in the
evening as well.
Inasmuch as Keriat Shema was originally intended to be in lieu of Talmud Torah, it
was natural that selections should be drawn from the Book of Deuteronomy. For, this
book, named also Mishneh Torah (cf. Deut. 17.18), offered, in a sense, a digest of the other
books of the Torah. Once Deuteronomy was determined upon, there could be no question
as to which passage in it should take priority. It could be none other than the extract
from Chapter 6 which contains superb utterances relating to God and His Torah. With
majestic grandeur. Verse 4 (Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One) sounds 'the
keynote of all Judaism;' and Verses 67 which bid us discourse daily on the words of the
Tor ah the Jew's supreme duty.
Study of Torah, however, was not meant to be a mere intellectual exercise. At the core
of Torah lie the Mitzvot. Torah and Mitzvot are inseparable. Study of Torah, consequently,
should be conducive to observance of the Mitzuot. And yet, the word Mitzvot does not
occur in the first selection from Scripture in Keriat Shema. Hence Deut. 11.13-21, the
second selection, complements Deut. 6.4-9, containing as it does explicit mention of Mitzuot
(v. 13: if ye shall hearken diligently unto my Mitzvot which I command you). The second
scriptural selection in Keriat Shema was thus interpreted to represent a declaration of alle-
giance to the Mitzvot (Kabbalat 01 Mitzvot).
Like Deut. 11.13-21, Num. 15.37-41 (Parashat Tzitzit): the third scriptural selection in
Keriat Shema refers expressly to Mitzvot. The particular Mitzvah with which this passage
deals is a specimen of ceremonial Mitzuot (Mitzvot Maasiyot). The sight of the Tzitzit was
to remind the individual of all the Mitzvot, including those which belong to the category of
ceremonial law. It has been conjectured that an anti-sectarian motive was the underlying
reason for making Parashat Tzitzit the third member of Keriat Shema, eyen before the rise
of Christianity there were sects in existence which carried on propaganda against the Mitzuot
Maasiyot. Laxity among Jews in the observance of such Mitzuot as Tzitzit (and Tefillin)
was the result. The inclusion of Parashat Tzitzit in Keriat Shema was intended, therfore,
to counteract sectarian influence by stressing the importance of the observance of the Mitzuot
A further point should be noted with regard to the section of Keriat Shema. Verse
39 is to the effect that 'it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and
remember all the Mitzvot of the Lord, and do them; and the verse which follows reads:
'that ye may remember and do all My Mitzuot.' In contrast to the second selection in
Keriat Shema whose opening verse states in general terms 'if ye shall hearken diligently
unto my Mitzuot,' the last selection speaks specifically of the performance of the Mitzvot.
With penetrating insight Babli Menahot 43b makes the following striking comment on the
sequence of the verbs in Verse 39 of the last section of the Shema: 'Seeing is remembering;
remembering is doing. ' In the last analysis, therfore, knowledge or study of the Torah and
Mitzvot, to be of any worth, must lead directly to the supreme goal which is action expres-
sed through obeservance of the Mitzuot.
Taken together, the biblical selections constituting Keriat Shema form a trilogy whose
purpose is three-fold. Its first member stresses the duty to study the text of the Torah
(ve-dibbarta barn); the second emphasize the importance of teaching the Torah and Mitzuot
(ve-limmadtam is more specific than its parallel ue-shinnantam in the first part); and the
third and last member sets observance or performance of the Mitzuot (va-asitem et kol
mitzvotay) as the ultimate objective of all learning and teaching of Torah.
This three-fold aim of the trilogy of Keriat Shema is clearly reflected in the words of
the introduction thereto in the Morning Service (Ahabah Rabbah) words which already at
an early period (cf. Sifre Numbers 115) were part of this liturgical composition, namely:
'0 put it into our hearts to.... learn and teach, to heed, to do and to fulfill in love all the
words of instruction in Thy Torah.
THE TWO PARAGRAPHS FOLLOWING THE
RECITAL OF THE SHEMA
Of the three significances attached to Keriat Shema, namely, Talmud Torah, Yihud
ha-Shem and Kabbalat 01 Malkut Shamayim, the first is the theme of Ahabat Olam; and
the first two constitute the principal themes of Ahabah Rabbah. Neither Ahabat Olam nor
Ahabah Rabbah has any reference in its contents to Kabbalat 01 Malkut Shamayim. In
contrast to these liturgical compositions which precede the Shema, the first selection which
follows it in the Evening Service (Emet ve-Emunah) deals with Yihud ha-Shem and Kabbalat
01 Malkut Shamayim, and is not concerned at all with Talmud Torah.
Having proclaimed the unity of God at the very beginning of his Recital of the Shema,
the worshipper, upon completing it, places his stamp of approval, as it were, upon that
proclamation, by asserting: 'True and trustworthy is all this, and it is an established fact
for us, namely, that He is the Lord our God, and there is none beside Him.' The opening
words of Emet ve-Emunah thus represent the individual's assent to the affirmation of the
unity of God.
That the idea of God's Kingship is implicit in the opening verse of Keriat Shema has
already been noted. It is also contained implicitly in the closing verse of Keriat Shema,
which reads: T am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be
your God.' As an isolated historical fact, the Exodus from Egypt was of little, if any,
consequence. Viewed, however, in relation to the sequel thereto, it proved to be a memo-
rable event, indeed, in Israel's history. For, in its wake, came the episode of the Crossing
of the Red Sea which, in turn, was followed by Israel's great paean of triumph, the Song
at the Red Sea. At that juncture the Exodus at last achieved its divinely ordained purpose.
For, when Israel reached the Song's climax with the concluding words 'The Lord shall
reign for ever and ever,' God supposedly said, according to the Midrash: 'For the first
time Israel as a people declared its allegiance to My Kingship.' At the beginning of its
career as a people, Israel achieved, therfore, its destiny by its voluntary 'acceptance of the
yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.' Hence, the end of Keriat Shema, which recalls Israel's
first proclamation of God as King, is linked up with the beginning of Keriat Shema, which
is a declaration of allegiance to God's Kingship.
In the light of these observations, let us analyze the contents of Emet ve-Emunah. The
verb used in connection with the Exodus in the last verse of Keriat Shema is hotzi among
whose synonyms are padah and goal From the latter root this liturgical composition
derived the name Geullah. After the expression of assent to the affirmation of the unity
of God, the composition proceeds, from the general to the particular, to portray God as
the Redeemer, as follows: (1) In general:-From 'It is He who redeemed us from the hand
of kings' to 'and exalted our horn over all our enemies (two scriptural citations - Job 9.10
and Ps. 66.9 - are interspersed);' (2) In particular: -From 'Who wrought for us miracles and
vengeance upon Pharaoh' to 'they praised and gave thanks unto His Name (at the Red Sea).'
At this point it is stated that in singing the Song at the Red Sea the children of Israel
'willingly accepted God's Kingship'. Whereupon Verse 11 of the Song is cited ('Who is like
unto Thee etc.'). A repetition of the thought follows, namely, 'Thy children beheld Thy
Kingship, as Thou didst cleave the sea before Moses and Israel exclaimed.... 'The Lord shall
reign for ever and ever.' In conclusion, a citation from the Book of Jeremiah is adduced
(31.10: For the Lord hath delivered Jacob, and redeemed him etc.), which is followed by
benediction (Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hast redeemed Israel.
It is worth noting that there is no reference in this liturgical composition to the re-
demption of the future. The verbs employed (gaal, and padah in the quotation) are in
the perfect tense (Contrast with ' Goel Yisrael' in the Amidah for Week Days).
In fact, evidence is not wanting that not only Emet ve-Emunah, which is a confirmation
of the worshipper's belief in the Unity and Kingship of God, but also the two paragraphs
preceding the Recital of the Shema originally contained no reference to the future. The
latter were prayers in praise of the majesty of God revealed in Nature and in the Torah,
respectively. It is not surprising, therefore, that neither Siddur R. Saadia Gaon nor the
Yemenite and Sefardic rituals include the plea toward the end of the first paragraph pre-
ceding the Shema, namely: 'a God living and enduring continually, mayest Thou reign
over us for ever and ever.' At the same time, the principle of restricting the liturgical
material prior to the Shema to prayers of praise could not be rigidly ahered to. Thus,
after extolling, in Ahabat 01am, God's love for Israel, it was only natural to conclude:
'Mayest Thou never take away Thy love from us.'
Upon the completion of Keriat Shema, preceded by Maarib Arabim and Ahabat 01am
and followed by Emet ve-Emunah or Geullah, a place was assigned to prayer in the strict
sense of the term, that of petition. Before the institution of the fixed prayer par excellence,
designated as Tefillah, Amidah, or Shemoneh Esreh (Barakot), the custom in vogue after
the Shema was for each individual to offer private prayer in conformity to his personal
needs and desires. Once the Amidah, however, became fixed, the Rabbis ruled that it
should be recited directly after Keriat Shema, and if the individual wished, in addition, to
offer private prayer, he was at liberty to do so, but not until after the Amidah. This
accounts for the practice in the Morning Service of the Reader's recital in a whisper of
the benediction 'Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hast redeemed Israel.' Nothing whatso-
ever must be allowed to intervene between the Shema which concludes with Geullah and
the beginning of the Amidah, not even the usual congregational response 'Amen' after a
Inasmuch as the Amidah of the Evening Service, unlike that of the Morning Service,
was at first not obligatory, Hashkibenu, the second paragraph following the Shema,
marked the conclusion of the Evening Service. It is reminiscent of the type of private
prayer which the individual would naturally be prompted to offer at the end of his devo
tions in the evening. When one considers the distressing fear of 'the terror by night' which
filled the hearts of men of an earlier age, then Hashkibenu, a prayer for safety and protection
from the dnagers which lurk in the night, certainly filled a vital need.
Corresponding to the body of prayer which refers several times to peace, the con-
cluding benediction of Hashkibenu reads: 'Blessed art Thou, Lord, who spreadest the
tabernacle of peace etc' Apropos of this, it is interesting to note that several Midrashim
of Palestinian provenance observe that Keriat Shema (i.e. inclusive of Geullah), Birkat
Kohanim and the Amidah have one feature in common, namely, an ending with Shalom.
The first was concluded in Palestine both on Sabbaths as well as week days with 'Blessed
art Thou, Lord, who spreadest the tabernacle of peace....;' the second, with ' and give
thee peace;' and the last, with: 'Blessed art Thou, Lord, who blessest Thy people Israel
The current practice of reciting Ha-Pores Sukkat Shalom on Sabbaths and Shomer A mo
Yisraei Laud on week days is illustrative of an important principle in the history of the
Jewish liturgy. The co-existence of two centers of learning, one in Palestine and the other in
Babylonia, quite naturally resulted in difference in usage. Though the fundamental prayers
were the same in both communities, variations in their textual formulation are what one would
expect, particularly at a time when all the prayers were recited by heart. Furthermore,
within each of these communities no absolute uniformity prevailed in liturgical practice.
The interesting fact to be borne in mind is that the various liturgical versions which were
in circulation at one time or another, whether in Palestine or Babylonia, were not per-
mitted, so far as possible, to disappear entirely from the Siddur. Both Palestinian and
Babylonian variants were preserved by being incorporated into the litirgy. Hashkibenu is
a case in point. 'The Palestinian conclusion was Pores Sukkat Shalom etc In Babylon,
however, the conclusion for week days was Shomer A mo Yisraei Laud whereas for Sabbaths
and Festivals the influence of the Palestinian eulogy made itself felt in the academy of Sura
where the eulogy was Pores Sukkat Shalom etc. But in other synagogues (evidently in
Babylon) no distinction was made, the usual form Shomer A mo Ysrael Laad being retained.'
Other illustrations of the operation of this principle are:
(1) Geullah in the Evening Service for the Festivals (when Piyyut is included ) closes with
the Palestinian version of the concluding benediction, namely, Tzur Yisraei Ve-Goalo,
whereas otherwise it is Gaul Yisraei;
(2) The Siddur has retained three different versions of the third benediction of the
Amidah: (a) the Babylonian Attah Kadosh ue-Shimka Kadosh etc.; (b) the Palestinian
Kadosh Attah ve-Nora Shemeka etc., recited only on Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur;
and (c) another Babylonian version, Ledor va-Dor Naggid etc., recited only by the
Reader in the Repetition of the Amidah;
(3) The first of the three concluding benedictions of the Amidah is Hamahazir Shekinato
le-Tziyyon. In Palestine, however, it was always She-Oteka le-Badeka Be-Yimh Naabod
(or She- Oteka Nira ve- Naabod). We have retained the latter for the Dukan ceremony
performed by the Kohanim;
(4) For the second of the three concluding benedictions of the Amidah two versions were
current in Palestine: (a) Ha-Tob Leka le-Hodot, similar to our Ha-Tob Shimka U-Leka
le-Hodot; and (b) El ha-Hodaot. When Modim de-Rabbanan was introduced, (b) was
relegated to it (without Shem u-Malkut, and (a) remained the sole concluding bene-
(5) Oseh ha- Shalom, which we reserve for the Ten Days of Penitence was in Palestine the
conclusion of the last benediction of the Amidah throughout the year. Our version
Hamebarek et Amo Ra-Shalom is Babylonian.
In conclusion, it may be noted that there is no mention of Shalom Rub in the Evening
Service in place of Sim Shalom before the eleventh century, although R. Amram Gaon is
authority for its occurrence in the Minha Service.
WESHAMER \i,A TTAH KIDDASHTA, MA GEN ABOT
AND THE KIDDUSH
As was observed previously, Hushkibenu constituted the concluding prayer, before the
recitation of the Amidah in the Evening Service became obligatory. When the Amidah
became an integral part of the Evening Service, Hushkibenu retained its position after Geullah.
The result was that while in the Morning Service the Geullah benediction was immediately
followed by the Amidah, in the Evening Service Hushkibenu intervened between Geullah
and the Amidah. In order to show that the principle which is operative in the Morning
Service applies to the Evening Service as well, the Talmud (Babli Berakot 4b, 9b) designates
Hushkibenu as Geullah Ariktu. Which is tantamount to saying, that, theoretically at any
rate, Hushkibenu is not an intruder between Geullah and the Amidah of the Evening Service,
since it is not to be regarded as a separate and independent benediction, but merely as an
extension or prolongation of Geullah. That in practice this view was not taken seriously
is evident from the consideration that in the Evening Service for Week Days Hushkibenu is
followed by a miscellany of scriptural verses which is concluded with Birkat ha-Molek.
The Talmudic designation of Hushkibenu as Geullah Ariktu accounts for the insertion
of Weshumeru (Exodus 31.1617) in the Evening Service for Sabbaths. Once again, the
juxtaposition of Hashkibenu (=Geullah Arikta) and Weshumeru presupposes the influence of
the Aggada on the liturgy. To quote R. David b. Joseph Abudraham (1340): 'It is customary
to recite Weshameru between Hushkibenu (=Geullah) and the Amidah in order to indicate
thereby that were Israel to observe (im yishmru) the Sabbath properly, they would forthwith
be redeemed (miyad nigalin) CCf. Babli Shabbat 118b; Yerushalmi Taanit 1, 1, 64a; Exodus
Rabba 25.12; and Leviticus Rabba 3. 1).' By virtue of the same token, since it could not be
placed between Geullah and the Amidah of the Sabbath Morning Service, Weshumeru was
inserted in the Amidah. In either place, whether outside or inside the Amidah, the Aggadic
idea is conveyed that Israel's Geullah is dependent on Shemirat Shubbut.
The suggestion has also been made that the recitation of Weshumeru before the Amidah
was in the nature of a reminder to the worshipper in the synagogue that the particular
Amidah required was that for Sabbath Evening. The customary recitation before the Amidah
of Leviticus 23.44 on the Festivals, Ps. 81.4-5 on Rosh ha-Shanah, and Leviticus 16.30 on
Yom Kippur, is explained in similar manner. This sort of reminder is readily understandable,
when it is borne in mind that before the invention of printing only a few worshippers had
the good fortune to own a copy of a Siddur, and since most individuals had perforce to
pray from memory, a reminder was most helpful. That such reminders have not altogether
outlived their usefulness in synagogue worship may be seen in the current practice for the
Reader to call out ' Yaaleh ve-Yubo' and 'Mashib ha-Ruuh. '
The middle part of the Amidah (Kedushut ha-Yom) the Evening Service for Sabbaths
opens with Attuh Kiddashtu which is an interpretive introduction to Wayekullu (Genesis
2.1-3), the first passage in the Bible relating to the Sabbath. This introduction dwells on
the central thought of Wayekullu, which is, the sanctification of the Sabbath by God. The
benediction which concludes Kedushut ha-Yom is in the same vein: 'Blessed art Thou,
Lord, who sanctifiest the Sabbath.' The latter is also the conclusion of the Kiddush on
Sabbath Evening as well as of the benedictions following the Haftarah or Sabbath.
In passing, it is worthy of note that the word Attah a favorite opening of liturgical
compositions in the various Amidot:
(1) In the Daily Amidah: Attah Gibbor, Attah Kadosh, Attah Honen (Attuh Honantanu);
(2) In the Sabbath Amidot: Attuh Kiddashta, Attuh Ehud
(3) In the Amidah of Shabbat Rosh Hodesh: Attuh Yutzarta;
(4) In the Festival Amidot: Attuh Behartanu;
(5) In the Musaf Amidah of Rosh Hashanah: Attuh Zoker Attuh Nigletu; and
(6) In the Yom Kippur Amidot: Attah Yodeu Raze Olan, Attach Noten Yud le-Poshcim,
A ttuh Hibdulta
For the Magen Abot prayer there are two designations. The first, Bemkuh Ahat Meen
Sheba, is descriptive of the structure of the composition, which is an artificial abridgment
of the seven benedictions constituting the Sabbath Amidah. In this respect, it is similar to
Hubinenu, the abridgment of the Daily Amidah. The second, Kedushtu She-Hi Meen Sheba
(so Seder R. Amram Gaon), is apparently suggestive of the relationship which obtains
between Magen Abot and the Kiddush. One thing is certain, that Magen Abot originated
in Palestine. For, le-Funuv Naabod be-Yimh corresponds to She-Oteka le-Buddeku be-
Yiruh Nuubod which, as has been observed, was the Palestinian version of the first of the
three concluding benedictions of the Amidah. In Palestine Magen Abot was recited as an
abridged Amidah in the evening as well as in the morning of the Sabbath by individuals who
for some reason could not recite the regular Amidah. When taken over in Babylonia, Magen
Abot was made obligatory and its use restricted to Sabbath Evening. At first, in the absence
of wine, it took the place of the Kiddush in the synagogue. Later, it was retained even when
wine was obtainable, serving as a sort of 'Repetition of the Amidah.' Incidentally, the
Yementie Siddur reads Meon ha-Berukot for the current Meen ha-Berakot, and the expression
thus refers to God as 'the Abode of Benedictions.'
The meaning of Sabre Maranan ve-Rabbanun ve-Rabbotuy which precedes the benediction
over wine before the Kiddush is: 'Gentlemen, may I have your attention, will you concent-
rate on (every word of) the benediction which I am about to pronounce?' Such a call to
attention and concentration was felt to be necessary on the principle of 'Ze-hotzi et ha-
The reading 'ki hu yom ' in the Kiddish for Sabbath Evening is attested by Rashi and
Nachmanides, as well as by the Ashkenazic and Sefardic (London and Amsterdam) rituals.
On the other hand, R. Amram Gaon, Maimonides (in the Mishneh Torah) and Abudraham,
as well as the Yemenite and Oriental-Sefardic Siddurim, do not contain these three words.
According to these authorities, therefore, the Kiddush reads: zikkaron le-maaseh be-reshit
tehillah le-mikrae kodesh zeker li-tziat mitzruyim. This reading is much smoother. As a re-
sult, the meaning is much clearer. What the passage does is to enumerate the three basic
purposes of the Sabbath in the order in which these appear in the Torah, as follows:
(1) zikkaron Ze-maaseh be-reshit, as indicated in Genesis 2.1-3, as well as in Exodus
(2) tehillah le-mikme kodesh; as implied in Leviticus 23; and
(3) zeker li-tziat mitzrayim, as indicated in Deuteronomy 5.15.
DR. LEON LIEB REICH, educator and rabbi was born in Brzervzany, Austria on July 4,1899. He came to
the United States in 1911 where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from City College of New York in
1921, a Master of Arts degree from Columbia in 1924; a Rabbinic degree, Master of Hebrew Letters from
the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1924, and finally, a Doctor of Philosophy degree from
Dropsie College in 1931. He was rabbi at Adath Israel Congregation in Trenton, New Jersey from 1927-
1945, and Professor at Graetz College from 1945-1957. Liebreich is a member of The Society of Biblical
a contributor of scientific articles to Hebrew and English publications.
THE MUSICAL BASIS OF NUSACH HATEFILLAH
Cantor Leib Glantz
When cantors ask themselves, "What is the musical basis of Nusach Ha-Tefillah,
they are seeking fist and foremost a viable method, a method which will enable them to
understand what they are doing in and with our musical tradition and which will help them
to do it with more assurance, more clarity and more confidence.
The day is past when the cantor lived in an environment in which the Jewish musical
heritage was an organic part of his being and when the musical tradition permeated every
moment of his life from the chanting of the "Modeh Ani" in the early morning to the
"Shema" he said before retiring. Today, the cantor must learn his art as a separate and
often an isolated element in his musical education. To do this, he cannot be satisfied merely
with knowing the historical basis or the archaelogical findings of scholars. These are im-
portant, interesting, significant, but we need something more specifically useful in our
If we are to retain the purity and beauty of our musical services where every prayer
has its traditional setting and every holiday its specific musical aroma, we must find a way to
transmit the knowledge of the subtleties and the differences between the nuschaot. We
cannot depend upon memory or mechanical imitation and repetition alone.
Our music has many subtle variations and it is only too easy for the cantor to get
lost in a labyrinth. Think for a moment of the similarity between the "Kaddish" of
"Neilah" and the "Kaddish" of "Tal" or "Geshem." They are both from the group called
"Mi-Sinai" nuschaot and some of their intervals are identical. Nevertheless, the diffe-
rences are significant. In a culture where every Jew was familiar with the appropriate nusach,
memory, habit, training and tradition kept the cantor within the proper framework, along
with his whole congregation. How few are today the worshippers who know the difference.
We must develop a system by which we may be able to teach the basic musical line
for each nusach with which the cantors work. I have been thinking along these lines for a
long time and I should like to present to you some of my observations. I have found them
very useful in providing me with a theoretical basis in terms of which I can understand and
differentiate the various nuschaot. I have not yet determined a satisfactory line for all
of them, but I believe that this line of inquiry has already brought into the light some of
the secrets of how the nuschaot are built. In certain of the nuschaot, where I was
able to work out complete and correct lines or scales, the similarities, the differences and
the confusions between them were clarified. Elements which formerly had to be described
as accidental, or capricious, found their place in a regular pattern.
Delivered at the 5th Annual Convention, May 1952
Before we begin our analysis of the nuschaot in terms of musical intervals, lines,
modes and scales, let us first briefly review the concept of nusach itself. The Jews used
this term in the same way as did other Oriental peoples, such as the Arabs and the Hindus.
They used it to describe a short musical line, a musical group or a musical phrase which
was the basis of their melodies. Once the performer knew these short musical lines he was
left to himself to improvise and elaborate upon that basic line.
The Jewish people developed two types or groups of nuschaot. The first type fits
the description as given above more exactly. It is a group of musical phrases built upon
the biblical cantillation modes. These nuschaot are used by the cantors as a basis for
their recitatives, improvisations or compositions. The improvisor or composer has full
freedom to elaborate, to develop, to introduce modulations, within the framework of the
particular musical line. Examples of such nuschaot are the "Adonoi moloch" nusach
on Friday night, which is identical with the "Y-kum Purkon" nusach of Saturday morning;
the "Mogen Ovos" nusach, the "Yishtabach" nusach of Saturday morning, the "Ahavah
Rabbah" nusach, among others.
There is a second type, also called nuschaot , which differs from the first group,
because it consists of a group of fixed prayer melodies which have been associated with
certain texts from time immemorial. These fixed melodies are not subject to improvisation,
elaboration or any kind of change. They are always sung in the definite crystallized form.
These are called "Mi-Sinai" melodies, or "melodies from Sinai" and they include some of
the most beloved and important prayers of the liturgy. Of course, even the fixed melodies
vary in different parts of the world. The Oriental, the Sephardic, the Ashkenazic com-
munities have crystallized different melodies for the same texts.
Poetic legend has it that God himself sang these melodies to Moses on Mt. Sinai, when
He gave him the Torah. To our forefathers it was unthinkable that God should not reveal
himself in music. How lofty an origin does our tradition ascribe to the music of our
Although legend and folk lore place the origin of the "Mi-Sinai" prayer melodies even
further back in the mists of history than the Biblical cantillations, musicological research
has demonstrated that these "Mi-Sinai" melodies developed later in the Diaspora. The first
group, the musical lines based upon the Biblical cantillation modes, has history that goes
back at least 2400 years. Both the Biblical modes and the "Mi-Sinai" melodies were ex-
posed to many different influences and to many different cultures in their long history, but
their main features have remained the basis of synagogue music to this day.
In any discussion of the origin of Jewish music, full recognition must be given to the
great musicologist, A. Z. Idelsohn, who in the short span of his life succeeded in proving
that the Biblical cantillation modes were well preserved in their raw state by the Oriental
Jewish communities. He also proved that the Byzantine and the Western Christian world
inherited and utilized the same modes in their Gregorian chants. There is also a contem-
porary musicologist, Shlomo Rosowsky, who is making tremendous contributions in the
study of Biblical cantillation. A few others are engaged in this field and we are beginning
to see light on all of these mysteries of the Jewish contribution to the art of music.
I do not belong to that school of thought which believes that the roots of a culture
are necessarily the same as the flowers and the fruits of a culture. It is very important to
know the roots and the sources It is just as important to cherish and to value the manifold
developments of a culture throughout its entire history.
There is a danger, it is true, that strange and illegitimate elements often make their
way into a culture. These must be discriminated against and eliminated wherever possible.
But in the dynamic life of a people, much is absorbed from the outside, assimilated and
transformed into the true image of that people and that culture.
In our enthusiasm for the tremendously important scientific researches into the mu-
sical origins of our nuschaot, we may tend to overestimate the importance today of
that part of our musical heritage that was frozen at a very primitive level by the Oriental
Jewish communities. There is a tendency among certain circles to minimize much of the
dynamic musical development of the Ashkenazic and Eastern European musical culture,
while overestimating the value of that portion of our musical heritage which was kept in
the "deepfreeze" of the primitive life and undeveloped culture of the Oriental Jewish com-
munities. If we had relied upon the Oriental Jewish communities alone for our music, we
would find ourselves today with only a few bare roots. I may be allowed to draw a parallel
- although no analogy is perfect - the Oriental Jewry played almost the same role in Jewish
music as the Karaite sect played in the freezing of Jewish "Halacha" on the basis of the
Five Books of Moses alone.
If the Biblical cantillation modes may be considered the "Torah shebichtav" of Jewish
music, then the later development of the nuschaot by the different communities, espe-
cially by Ashkenazic and Eastern European Jewries, may be likened to the "Torah she'
b'al peh", the oral commentary and interpretation of the raw material of the Biblical cantil-
The dynamic vitality of the Ashkenazic Jewry and later the Jewry of the Eastern
European countries, which created the Rabbinic literature, the Kabballa, the Chassidic
movement, the great modern Hebrew and Yiddish literatures, that same vitality flourished
also in the field of music. It continued to create and to recreate, change and interchange,
and also to weave-in new threads, new intervals, new musical lines, and even one great new
nusach, the Ahava Rabba nusach into the Jewish liturgy.
We must recognize that just as the time came for the Talmud to be exactly recorded
and published, so the time has come when Jewish music can no longer withstand the great
onslaughts of accidental singing. The time of "Geniza" for Jewish music has arrived. The
cantor and the composer must have the true musical line for each and every prayer. We
must stop the guesswork and substitute true understanding of the elements of cantorial
Let us now begin to look into the nature of our nuschaot. On the one hand, it is
clear that they cannot be understood in terms of the crystallized major and minor scales of
western music. On the other hand, an analysis of the nuschaot, in terms of the Biblical
cantillation modes alone, leads us into a labyrinth of such complexity that only the most
articulate and skillful of musical scholars can find his way around.
If I may be permitted to paraphrase a popular expression, "The Greeks had a line for
it." Although it may be historically true that the Greek modes themselves were shaped
upon the Biblical modes, there is no doubt in my mind that the Greek modes offer the
most useful lines for the understanding of our own musical formations.
The basic element of the Greek mode is the tetrachord, a line of four steps. Various
modes are different combinations of different tetrachords.
Certain Jewish prayers can be analyzed in terms of known and recognized Greek modes.
They can be understood by simply following the five-step, (pentachord) seven-step (heptachord)
or eight-step (octachord) lines of the Greek modes.
There are others, however, which remain incapable of being so easily described. These,
of course, are the ones which present the real problem to us. My observation is that the
Ashkenazic Jews created new scales based upon new combinations of the elements of the
Greek modes. We can find nuschaot based on a ten-step line, a twelve-step line, a thirteen-
step line, all of them new combinations of three or four tetrachords in varying sequence.
It would not be possible in a single lecture - it would really require a series of dis-
cussions - to analyze every important prayer in the liturgy. In this presentation, we will
have to limit ourselves only to a few examples.
On Sabbath morning the Baal Shachris, who usually precedes the cantor, sings the
"P'sukei D'zimrah" in a pure pentatonic or 5-step line. This nusach can definitely
be traced to the Biblical cantillation, but for all practical musical purposes it can be under-
stood by the modern musician as a nusach built on the pure and simple pentatonic line.
This portion of the Sabbath service was most often chanted by a layman rather than by a
professional cantor. Therefore, it retained the simplicity of the original, and was not sub-
jected to the musical development which other nuschaot experienced.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 1
The "Akdomut prayer of Shevuot can also be clearly understood through the
application of the plain and simple pentatonic line. It, too, has remained in an elementary
form, because it is considered to be a "Mi-sinai" nusach, and as such was not subject to
development. Of course, certain Baalei K'riah may add some western intervals to the
" Akdomut" , but the pentachord is so prominently dominating in it, that we can easily
discard those additions as accidentals and definitely ascertain the right line upon which it
is built. To mention at least one more type of a prominent prayer built on the pentatonic,
let us not forget the "Ovos" of the week-day "Amidah", which is definitely sung in the
pentatonic all over the world, although different communities sing the entire weekday
"Amidah" (which follows after the "Ovos") in a different musical line. The "Ovos" always
remains the same pentatonic almost in every place where Jews conduct services.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 2
Let us now look at the nusach of the "Adonoi Moloch" of Friday night, which
is identical with the "Yekum Purkon" nusach of Saturday morning. The name,
"Yekum Purkon", was used mostly by the Eastern European cantors. It is the most
typical major nusach of the Jewish liturgy. This nusach is used in almost every prayer
which is sung in the Jewish major scale. The most important of these are the "Ovos" of
Sabbath and festival mornings, and the "Naaritzcho" of the "Musaf service.
When we apply the Greek Mixolydian mode which consists of two conjunctive tetra-
chords, the last note of the first tetrachord forming the first note of the second tetrachord
of this mode forms a line of the following intervals:
one-tone, one-tone, one-half tone.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 3
But when we look deeper into the "Yekum Purkon" nusach, we find two prominent
peculiaritites. One is: when we proceed above the second tetrachord, we must use b-flat
instead of b-natural. The other is: the use of f-sharp instead of f-natural when we proceed
below the first tetrachord.
These two peculiarities have tormented my thoughts for a long time. I am happy to
present to you a solution of this problem.
The Jews added an identical tetrachord on top of the second tetrachord, and then
added another identical tetrachord below the first, The first addition creates a ten-step
line or a three-tetrachord line, upon which some of our "Mi-Sinai" nuschaot are built.
The second addition creates a thirteen-step line or four-tetrachord line, upon which other
"Mi-Sinai" nuschaot are built. We may compare it to a two-car train, to which a car was
added in front and another similar one added behind.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 4
The original "Yekum Purkon" prayer of Sabbath "Musaf', as well as the other basic
Sabbath tefillot, which are shaped in the "Yekum Purkon" nusach, contain in themselves
all of the features mentioned above. It is fascinating to observe that some of the "Mi-Sinai"
nuschaot, of fixed prayer melodies, contain only one feature or one variation of this "Yekum
Purkon" nusach -either the seven-step, ten-step, or thirteen-step line. As a striking example
of the most elementary type of major scale, namely: the original Mixolydian seven-step,
two tetrachord line, we can mention the famous "Neilah" Kaddish.
Please keep this in mind. This analysis refers only to the Kaddish of "Neilah". Although
the Kaddish for "Geshem" and "Tal" contains many elements of the same melody, it is
definitely built on another line which we shall discuss later.
If we start the "Neilah" Kaddish from the G - and we bear in mind the seven-step
line, and we work only within these seven steps, we can never lose the pattern of the "Neilah"
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 5
Another striking example of the seven-step major line is the nusach of the Haggadah
for Pesach. With the exception of "Mah Nishtannah", which I venture to call a "Mi-Sinai"
prayer melody, and is almost an exact imitation of the Biblical cantillation, the rest of the
Haggadah can be analyzed and understood much more easily in terms of the two-
tetrachord, seven-step major line.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 6
A unique demonstration of the ten-step line is the "Borechu" of the festival evening.
It is unique because the entire "Maariv" of the festival evening service is performed in a
minor key (by the Askenazic and Eastern European communities). The "Borechu", curiously
enough, starts with a major, and climbs up to the b-flat at the end of the third tetrachord.
This same three-tetrachord line runs through the festival morning "Amidah" nusach.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 7
An even more striking example of the three tetrachord line is the first part of the
"Vehakohanim" from the "Avoda" ceremony of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. This
is a fixed prayer melody, a "Mi-Sinai" nusach and is one of the most difficult for any cantor
to understand and to analyze. I am glad to say that since I discovered the two-fold "nusach"
of the "Vehakohanim", I find this prayer easier and more interesting to chant.
The secret of the "Vehakohanim" lies in the fact that it is built on two different
nuschaot. The first part is based on the ten- step "Yekum Purkon" nusach. However, it has
its own particular combination of tetrachords, in which the third tetrachord is added below
the first instead of above the second line. This gives us the following line from D to F
(above the octave).
If we start the "Vehakohanim" from G in the Jewish major scale, one might be misled
into thinking that this is the basic tonic of this musical scale. But we are amazed to learn,
in the course of chanting the nusach, that the tonic stems from the D below. Suddenly, in
the middle of the "Vehakohanim", we find a modulation from the major or the "Yekum
Purkon" nusach to the nusach of the "Ahava Rabba", which I shall discuss later.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 8
The last and most important illustration of the "Yekum Purkon" nusach in its entirety,
namely the thirteen step line, embracing all the four tetrachords, I found in one of the
greatest fixed prayer melodies, the "Ovos" of the High Holidays. I sometimes allude to this
nusach as an escalator melody, for the rising thirteen-step line makes it the most difficult
of all prayers.
As a child, I used to pity my grandfather and my father who were both cantors, when
they entangled themselves in that melody and had difficulty finding the way back to the
tonic. When I grew older, I begged every cantor and every Baal Tefilah to demonstrate the
"Ovos" for me in an effort to get at the mystery of its structure.
One of the oldest Baalei Tefillah, whom I met in a small town near Odessa, sang the
"Ovos" for me in a most peculiar fashion. He assured me that he had heard it from Bezalel
Odesser, the famous cantor and Baal Tefillah, who was considered the father of Nusach
Hatefillah for the Eastern European hazzanut of the 19th Century. (1790-1860)
When I was sent by my father to Kishinev in order to hear the famous cantor,
A. Kerkowitch (Avram Kalechnik), that great cantor again sang the "Ovos" in the same
manner as the old man mentioned above. On asking Reb Avram Kalechnik about the origin
of the "Ovos" which he sang, he told me that it was given to him as an authentic nusach from
the mouth of Bezalel Odesser. Lately while looking for an example of a "Mi-Sinai" nusach
in the thirteen-step line, I found in the "Ovos" version of those two people, the complete
thirteen-step "Yekum Purkon" line. In the "Ovos", as well as in the "Vehakohanim",
we discover that the major melody is suddenly cut off and modulates into the same "Ahava
Raba" nusach. If one knows the full thirteen-step line of the "Yekum Purkon" nusach and
the "Ahava Raba" line as well, he is always on solid ground when he treats that complicated
The "Ovos" always presents an additional difficulty to cantors vocally for its proper
presentation requires a voice of considerable range.
This is clear as soon as you realize that it is based on a line of thirteen steps, each
one playing an important role in the nusach. The cantor should know which is the lowest
of the thirteen steps in order to make it possible for him to climb up to those in the
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 9
I mentioned the "Ahava Raba" nusach in passing as being one of the parts of the
"Vehakohanim" and of the "Ovos" Let us look into its own structure for a moment.
Musicologists tell us that there is no trace of this nusach in the Biblical cantillation. There-
fore, it is looked upon by some people as being under the suspicion of illegitimate birth.
Some say it is a gypsy mode, others that is is a copy of the Hedjaz or the Tartaric music.
Still others think that the Jews took it over from the Ukrainians. Whatever its birth, I think
no one can deny that the "Ahava Raba" nusach has become a love child in the family of
Jewish nuschaot. We have molded and transformed it into our own true image.
It is generally considered that the tonic of this nusach is E. That is why it is also
called the Phrygian, or as the Eastern European cantors called it, Phrygish. The name pro-o-
bably was accepted because the medieval Phrygian mode also begins with the E. The most
important feature of this nusach is the fact that the second interval has an augmented
second. However, there is another feature in this nusach, which is even stranger than the
augmented second. This is the fact that when we go down below the E, we must sing
D and c-sharp instead of c-natural, which again creates the peculiar situation that within
one scale we have c-natural and c-sharp and D-natural and d-sharp as well.
My answer to this is the same. We, Jews, did something of our own to an existing
mode. We added a tetmchord of another type below the tonic. The original two tetra-
chords, both have the following intervals:
Vi 1-Vi Vi
Half-tone, tone and a half, half-tone. The connection between the tetrachords is a
disjunctive one. This means that the beginning of the second tetrachord does not start
with the last note of the first. The added tetrachord does not start with the last note of
the first. The added tetrachord, added down below the tonic is a major tetrachord. Its
intervals are: one-tone, one-tone, half a tone. This then gives us the following line of 12
tones: (A, B-natural, C-sharp, D) (E, F, Gsharp, A) (B, C-natural, D-sharp, E).
Anyone who is acquainted with the way that cantors treat the peculiar patterns of the
"Ahava Raba" nusach, will admit that the most interesting feature, beside the augmented
second, is that additional strange tetrachord which was hooked-on to the other two. It is
this which gives it the specific Jewish flavor which you cannot find in any other formation.
These features are easily recognizable in the "Bemotzoei" of the Slichos, and in many
other prayer - melodies of the weekday, Sabbath, High Holy Days, and festival services.
The entire Amidah of both Shachris and Musaf on Sabbath, is sung in the "Ahava Raba"
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 10
A specific example of the "Ahava Raba" is the "Yisgadal" of the High holiday Musaf.
It is another fixed "Mi-Sinai" prayer melody which is made up of a combination of two
basic nuschaot. The first one is definitely in the "Ahava Raba" nusach. The second part is
in the regular "Mogen Ovos" nusach which I shall analyze later.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 11
It is also interesting to note that the "Ahava Raba" has its different expressions and
formations. One of the most attractive of these is the kind of "Ahava Raba" nusach which
runs through the famous High Holiday prayer, "Ochiloh La'el". I therefore call this type
by the name "Ochiloh La'el" nusach. This prayer has a "Mi-sinai" melody which is both
strange and beautiful. Its peculiarity consists of two features; one is - that it drags the basic
tone down below the E, and it lands on the D. The second feature is - that the second tetra-
chord, going upward, omits the interval of the augmented second which it had in the first
tetrachord. It is obviously a different tetrachord which is a plain minor, with the following
(A B C D)
When we construct the entire mode from these two tetrachords going upward from D to
D, i/i/eget the full line of the "Ochiloh La'el" nusach, which has all the flavor and the
peculiarities of the "Ahava Raba" nusach. However, the augmented second interval appears
here not between the second and the third step, but between the third and fourth step,
since the basic tone here is not E, but D. And, of course, as I said before, that augmented
second interval appears only in the first tetrachord and disappears in the second one.
A similar "Ahava Raba" nusach is found in the latter part of the "Ovos", in the
"Ato gibor l'oloom Adonoi" which is also built on the D tonic instead of the E.
And also on the same "Ochilo Loeil" nusach principle.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 12
The "Ahava Raba" nusach in all of its manifestations has become so dear to the
Jewish people that it is an almost inescapable pattern in many folk songs and in many
Chassidic nigunim. Among these are "Eili Eili", and "Dem Rav's Nigun". It is interesting
to see that when Lewanduski succeeded in freeing himself entirely from German influences,
he created one of his best and most authentically Jewish compositions, "Ki Keshimcho" in
the purest "Ahava Raba" nusach.
One of the greatest of contemporary Jewish and universal composers, Ernest Bloch, also
could not escape its charm. His "Tzur Yisroel" is a real gem in that same nusach.
When we approach another basic nusach, the "Mogen Ovos" of Friday night, we know
that this one is definitely linked with the Biblical cantillation. It is generally treated as a
D mode with b-flat in it. But again and again, I must emphasize, that we can better under-
stand it by applying the Aeolian mode as its basic musical line. This line does not require
any accidentals (as the D line would) - requiring the use of the b flat. Of the "Mi-Sinai"
melodies built on the "Mogen Ovos", let me mention at least two; "Shema Yisroel" at the
opening of the Ark on the High Holidays, and the "P'sach Lonu Shaar" of the Neilah services.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 13
The original "Mogen Ovos" branched out into many, many variations. It created a
whole family of the Jewish minor scale. I shall illustrate briefly only five of the many members
of this family, namely; "Yishtabach" of Sabbath Shachris, "Misheberach" of Sabbath Musaf,
"Ato Zocher" of Rosh Hashonoh Musaf, Shachris of Rosh Hashonoh morning and the
The "Yishtabach" nusach can be easily understood when it is seen as an eight-step
line, from E to £, built upon two tetrachords of the plain Greek Dorian or the medieval
The East Europeans modulated very easily from the "Yishtabach" week-day nusach
to the "Ahava Rabba" even in the middle of the "Yishtabach" prayer itself.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 14
A really striking branch of the minor family is the great "Amida" nusach from Rosh
Hashonoh Musaf, the "Malchuyiot, Zichronot and Shofrot". I do not agree with the conten-
tion of some, that this nusach is identical with the "Misheverach" nusach of Sabbath Musaf.
The differences appear to be very slight but they are the result of two separate and distinct
musical lines. Furthermore, they each create a different mood and impression.
Both are built from D to D on the white keys of the piano. They both use the b-
natural on the sixth step. The difference lies in this:
The "Misheberach" has an augmented second between the F and the G -sharp and is
therefore likened to the Ukrainian Dorian. It is considered to be the result of Slavic inter-
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 15
The "Amida" nusach of Rosh Hashonoh, which some cantors call the "Ato Zocher"
nusach, is distinguished from the "Misheberach" by avoiding the augmented second and
also by frequent modulation into the major scale built on its third step.
There is another great feature of the "Ato Zocher" nusach. It is closely related to the
Schachris nusach of Rosh Hashonoh, also a prominent member of the minor scale family.
Each is built on two tetrachords with the following intervals -
one tone; half a tone; one tone.
The difference lies in the fact that in the Schachris nusach there is an additional tetrachord
placed below the basic D on the conjunctive principle, namely; that the beginning of the
second tetrachord is the last tone of the first tetrachord. This line is
(ABC D) (D E F G).
whereas in the "Ato Zocher" nusach, the same tetrachord is placed on top of the basic
tetrachord on the disjunctive principle, which give the line
(D E F G) PLUS (ABC D).
All three tetrachords are minor and have identical intervals.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 16
The last illustration for which we shall have time today and which will conclude the
description of the Jewish minor scale family is an analysis of the nusach of "Gesheim" and
"Tal" The pure Greek Phrygian mode, (otherwise known as the medieval Dorian) from
D to D gives us the clue to this nusach. The difference between the original "Mogen Ovos"
nusach and the "Geshem" or "Tal" nusach lies in one interval. This interval appears between
the fifth and the sixth step. If we build the "Mogen Ovos" from D to D, there must be a
b-flat on the sixth step.
When we build the same line for "Geshem" or "Tal" we notice a struggle between the
b-natural and the b-flat. I think that the b-natural is the prevailing feature of the "Geshem-
Tal" nusach. Years ago, when I recorded my composition "Tal" for the RCA Victor Co.
I dared to use the bnatural in a revolutionary way, although at that time I could not yet
explain theoretically why I did it.
Today I believe that I can give the full reasoning. The following illustration for the
"Af Brie" the "Piyut" which is a real "Mi-Sinai" "Geshem" nusach, shows clearly how the
b-natural pushes forward and struggles for its recognition.
SEE ILLUSTRATION NO. 17
As we could see from the above illustration, both the b-flat and the b-natural manage
to live together in this nusach. That is why, if we want to be true to its particular two
fold flavor, we must emphasize that double feature in the concluding phrase of the nusach:
B Flat, A, B Natural, G, A.
From this we can see the tremendous difference between the Kaddish of "Neilah" and
the Kaddish of "Tal." One only has to know that the "Neilah" Kaddish is based on the
elementary "Yekum Purkon" Jewish major, which is understood when we have in mind the
Mixolydian mode, and that the Geshem-Tal nusach is based on a minor scale and is a branching
out of the "Mogen Ovos" nusach.
In conclusion, I should like to make one general remark. I do not claim to know all
the secrets of all the nuschaot. All I can say is, that by knowing this much, we shall be
able to proceed further. The material is fascinating, the theme is so dear, the problem so
important, that we should try to study our wonderful nuschaot with patience, and love.
We were entrusted with the task of guarding our musical heritage, we must also carry
forward and develop it.
The future of Jewish music depends on us. It depends on the degree of our own
deepening of our studies, and also on our teaching it to the entire Jewish people.
(ILLUSTRATION NO. 1: See below)
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*••> ♦ ^rryt.i
LEIB GLANTZ was born in Russia in 1898. Even as a young boy of eight, he was already chanting the
Sabbath service. Possessor of a magnificent voice, he was acclaimed for his talents as a singer and hazzan
on many continents. He came to the United States in 1927. In 1953 he settled in Tel Aviv where he
became Chief Hazzan of the Tiferet Zvi Synagogue. Many critics wrote with great enthusiasm of hi
unusually interpretive hazzinic and vocal gifts. He developed a number of new theories on the synagogue
modes and produced a wealth of hazzanic and choral compositions for the synagogue. Of his work, Hazzan
Max Wohlberg has written, "In these records Glantz justified anew his fame as the Hazzan' s Hazzan, as the
"innovator par excellence", as the most original artist in the cantorial field of our generation. On Shabbat
Shira, 5724, he went to his eternal rest.
THE HISTORY OF THE MUSICAL MODES OF THE
ASHKENAZIC SYNAGOGUE, AND THEIR USAGE.
Hazzan Max Wohlberg
As far as the written record is concerned it is, I believe, Hirsh Weintraub who first be-
came aware of the existence of an underlying system in the music of the Synagogue. In the
introduction to his SHIREI BEIS ADONOY (1859), Weintraub notes the relation of certain
Synagogue melodies to the Church modes. While he does not name the Synagogue modes, he
observes that the YEKUM PURKON fits into the Mixolydian, the MI SHEBEIRACH into the
Aeolian and the EIL ODON into the Phrygian mode. These melodies he therefore calls
"URALTE." All others, including those in the more recent Ionian mode, he refers to as
Fifteen years later, Samuel Naumbourg in his essay, "Etude Historique sur la Musique
Des Hebreux" (1874), goes far beyond the cautious beginnings of Weintraub. He describes
the Dorain (D-D), Phrygian (E-E), Lydian (F-F), Mixolydian (G-G), Ionian (C-C), and Aeolian
(A-A) modes, and shows their relation to Synagogue music. He, incidentally, unlike Weintraub,
speaks correctly of the Phrygian scale and does not place an augmented second between the
second and third steps.
In analyzing the music of the Synagogue, Naumbourg notes a number of traditional tunes
embodying more than one of the Church modes. He refers to these as "Music of Undeter-
mined Tonality." A scale similar to the one we now call AHAVOH RABOH, and in which two
augmented steps occur, he leaves unnamed and attributes to the influence of Polish Jews and
Slavs. (Ex. 1)
While Naumbourg' s essay contains a few statements such as: "No musical phrase of
the Sephardim resembles that of the Ashkenazim," a view rendered obsolete by the work of
Idelsohn, it none the less represents the first serious effort by a competent Jewish musician
at a thorough analysis of Synagogue music.
A different method of classification was adopted by M. Marksohn and M. Wolf who, in
1875, published their "Auswahl Alter Hebraischer Synagogal Melodien," arranged for piano
and supplied with a preface on "The Character and History of Synagogue Song." They divide
Synagogue music into two groups: 1) Those being rhythmic and in Major, such as the
Shavues tune, AL HORISHONIM for Passover, the Kadish for Neilah and 2) those having no
distinct rhythm, being mostly in Minor, of strange melodic turns, possessing a flavor of anti-
quity and influenced by music of the Orient, the Slavs and the Magyars. One of the theories
(most of them unsupported) developed in this booklet, states that during the period 1700-
1850, approximately, there occurred a process of amalgamation of old and new in Synagogue
music. A new melodic line was blended with the old free-rhythmic style. While there is some
logical basis for this theory, a statement such as: "The A. M. mode is employed but once in
the Liturgy," is patently false.
Delivered at the 7th Annual Convention, June 1954
Five years later we, for the first time, hear of the various Steigers or Gattung (Kind). In
"Der Judische Kantor" of Feb. 12, 1880, Berlin Cantor L. I. Lachman of Hurben, in an article,
"Unsere Synagogale Nationalmusic," names and describes the AHAVOH RABOH Gattung
or Mode as containing the intervals C-Db-E-F-G-AbBb-C.
In the following issue (Feb. 19) Josef Singer, then Cantor in Nurnberg, in one of a series
of articles begun in January of the same year, mentions by name the OR CHODOSH, AHAVOH
RABOH, TIKANTO SHABOS and MIZMOR SHIR LEYOM HASHABOS Steigers.
In the same issue Lachman, continuing his series of articles, notes the existence of the
MI SHEBEIRACH or AV HORACHAMIM mode, consisting of the intervals E-F# -G-A-B-C-
DE. The YISHTABACH mode embodying intervals as the previous mode when going up the
scale, has an F natural while descending. Finally he cites the YEKUM PURKON mode which
is built on the following intervals: E-F#-G-A#-B-C#-D-E. Although I take it the notation of
these modes as well as their appellations will not satisfy the Jewish musician of today, never-
theless to these two men belongs the credit of giving Hebrew names to the musical modes of
Evidently Singer was not altogether content with his theory as propounded in 1880. He
subsequently reformulated and refined it and, in the Jan. 1886 issue of the " Oesterreich-
Ungarische Cantoren Zeitung" (Wien), he announces the forthcoming appearance of his new
work under the title, "Die Tonarten Des Traditionellen Synagogengesanges (Steiger), Ihr
Verhaltniss Zu Der Kirchentonarten Und Den Tonarten Der Vor-Christlichen Musikperiode."
This booklet, with musical illustrations, appeared in March, 1886. Here Singer set out to
prove that almost the whole gamut of Synagogue music belongs to one of three main Steigers.
These are the
MOGEN OVOS C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C and
ADONOY MOLOCH C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
Some tunes utilize more than one of these modes. Those melodies that do not conform to
these modes are obviously, says Singer, of more recent origin. He equates the MOGEN OVOS
mode with the Greek Aeolian and with the Newa scale, and the ADONOY MOLOCH mode
with the Uschak scale; the latter two are Arab-Persian scales as transcribed by Abdul Kadir.
Of the collateral theories of the author the following may be of interest: Those compo
sitions that do not conform to the modern major and minor scales (established circa 1650)
surely precede that date. "Polnisch-Singen" (here he refers to the style of East-European
Hazzanim) deviates from proper "Steigers." The current mode for the reading of the Torah on
Sabbath is not older than 17th century, as it fits the modern major mode. The YISHTABACH
mode is exclusively Jewish for it is similar to no other old or new scale.
Obviously, valid arguments can be raised against each of the above hypotheses. As was
inevitable, the forcible confinement of many Synagogue tunes into the Procrustean bed of the
modes necessitated some alterations and omissions. Thus, in transcribing the VEHAKO
HANIM, and wishing to fit it into his YISHTABACH Gust (4 flats), he writes an E natural on
the last syllable of BOAZOROH (Ex. 2), which is an obvious deformity. Likewise he omits
an E flat commonly used in the LEIL SHIMURIM (see Lewandowsky, Baer and Friedman).
Probably for the same reason, he neglects to quote the concluding Brocho for the Festival
evening service, for there the E flat is patently unavoidable. (Ex. 3, 4)
However, the most serious mistake made by Singer and others preceding and following
him lay in their effort to delineate a mode externally by the scale into which it fits (and even
then restricting it to an octave), instead of analyzing the inner motives and melodic patterns
peculiar to each mode. Another fault lay in the neglect of consideration of changes occurring
in the scale when the melody extends beyond the limits of the octave, for example, in the
AHAVOH RABOH below the tonic and in the ADONOY MOLOCH both below the tonic
and above the octave. (Ex. 5)
Singer's theory evoked considerable controversy. Mortiz Deutsch, who reviewed it in
the May 24, 1886, issue of the Cantoren Zeitung, resented Singer's claim to priority in the dis-
covery of a system in the labyrinth of Synagogue music. Weintraub, Naumbourg and he,
Deutsch, had already pointed to the relation of Synagogue and Church modes. Furthermore,
how, asks Deutsch, can one fit the ATOH ECHOD, the Amidah for the Festivals, TOIR
VESORIA, OCHILO LOEIL, EIL EMUNOH, into any of the three modes? He also points
to the existence of the real Phrygian mode (minus the augmented second) in our traditional
music. (Ex. 6)
However, the most avid attack on Singer came in a lecture delivered on May 6, by Cantor
Josef Goldstein, which also appeared in the Cantoren Zeitung on May 24. Goldstein denies
the existence of a specifically Jewish MOGEN OVOS mode. It is simply a major mode begin-
ning unjustly or mistakenly on a minor third below the tonic. The YISHTABACH mode is
not as Singer describes it. It is based, rather, on the following scale: C-D-E-F-GAbB-C
(major with minor sixth) - C-B-Ab-G-F-E-Db-C (A. R. with two augemented steps). As proof
of his contention, he cites the YISHTABACH melody as sung by Dovidl Brod. (Ex. 7, 8, 9
There is, however, Goldstein continues, an OR CHODOSH or AHAVOH RABOH mode,
omitted by Singer. It is built on the following scale: C-Db-E-F-GAb-B-C-DbE-F (as YISH-
TABACH descending). It has a Bb below the tonic and unusual progression of three half-steps:
B-C-Db. He also stresses the similarity between the YISHTABACH and OR CHODOSH modes
(F-G-Ab-B-C), as well as the difference in that in the former the fifth is dominant, while in the
latter it is the fourth. The ADONOY MOLOCH scale, he constructs on C-D-Eb-Fx-GA-Bb-C,
utilizing it for MALCHUYOS and ZICHRONOS. A substitute version or variation of the A.M.
mode consists of the following intervals: C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-B-C. The final mode described
by Goldstein is the MI SHEBEIRACH mode limited to the first five or six steps of the minor
scale with, in most cases, the seventh and eights steps used only after the fourth has been
raised. This mode is employed for SHOFROS until the end of the section when a modulation
to the A.M. mode is required.
Goldstein evidently fell into error on two counts: 1) in that he considered the version of
Dovidl Brod, which he had learned from his father, who as a child sang with Dovidl Brod,
the only authentic one and 2) in his disregard of the difference between West- and East- Euro-
pean traditions. Where the first is dominant, the ADONOY MOLOCH is, as a rule, chanted
in the Mixolydian mode and the YISHTABACH in the AHAVOH RABOH or Hedjaz mode,
while in Eastern Europe both of these are generally done in a minor mode. Dovidl Brod ob
viously used the tradtional modes as a basis for variations and embellishments.
Concurrently with this controversy there appeared on May 16, 1886, in the " Oesterreich-
Ungarische Cantoren Zeitung," an article by "Minnachel," a pseudonym of, I suspect, Cantor
Lachman, under the title: "Unsere Fach-Zeitungen Und Hire Ehemalige Musikbeilage," Here
the author suggests the following modes as the basis of our Synagogue song:
The YISHTABACH -A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A -
The AHAVOH RABOH and its subdivision the TISGADAL built on its minor third and
extending upward for six notes.
The YEKUM PURKON - C-D-Eb(E)-F#-GA-
These include all Synagogue improvisations. Russian hazzanim also employ the MI SHE-
BERIRACH or AV HORACHMIM mode which is basically a combination of the YISHTABACH
and TISGADAL modes and the OZ BEKOL mode common in the Danube Basin, which is not
truly Jewish. This mode has a minor second and an occasional diminished fifth.
Minnachel's (Lachman's) observation that the MI SHEBEIRACH mode is a combination
of the YISHTABACH and the TISGADAL modes is open to serious doubt. As a matter of
fact, the TISGADAL made as part of A. R. is found almost exclusively in the MIMKOMCHO.
In the brief introduction to his "Vorbeterschule" (1871), Mortiz Deutsch conceives of
Synagogue music as consisting of three groups: 1) only approximately 50 years old, which
is a by-product of the Reform movement; 2) Recitatives of individual hazzanim and having but
temporary value; 3) Nusach Hatefiloh. However, in his "Der Ritualgesange Der Synagoge"
(1890), he deals at greater length with the subject, relating the major portion of Synagogue
music, as well as the variations of the cantillations, to the Church modes,
Of interest are some of his observations, namely: the MOGEN OVOS is mistakenly called
the Aeolian mode, as the rest or final note of the former is on the fifth. Choral arrangements
in Phrygian were often concluded with the third raised in the final chord. From here the
raised third may have spread to other parts of the composition.
The pioneers in Jewish musicology in the New World were Alois Kaiser and Wm. Sparger.
Their volume, "Songs of Zion, A Collection of The Principal Melodies of the Synagogue From
the Earliest Time to the Present," (1893) supplied with a lengthy introduction by the authors
and with an interesting preface by Cyrus Adler, deals with many facets of Jewish musicology.
The authors cite the theories of such Christian musicologists as: Riemann, Anton, Arends,
Langhans, and Rockstro, and, as did Naumbourg and Marksohn, debate the relative authenticity
of Ashkenazic versus Sefardic tradition. They deny that Synagogue song is traceable to the
Church modes. Rather, the reverse is true. The ultimate source of Jewish, Arabic and Greek
modes lies in Egypt. The AHAVOH RABOH is exclusively Jewish. As proof of this they state
that while in those of our melodies which are based upon the M. 0. and A. M. modes slight
deviations from the basis of their tonality may occur, the melodies built on A. R. "are every-
where the same and never deviate from scale." Furthermore, in those chants which appear to
be a mixture of these three modes, the A. R. is predominant. The latter mode was probably
the primary mode in the Temple of old. Hence Ambrose rejected it.
The music of the Synagogue, according to the authors, may be classified in two categories:
1) Traditional Melodies, mostly in major, whose origin is Germany of 1800-1 8.50, and 2) Ritual
Song or Liturgical Chant, being foreign in character, of diminished and augmented intervals,
and of indefinite rhythm.
The first Jewish musician in Eastern Europe to become interested in problems of Jewish
musicology was Pinchos Minkowsky. In his "Die Entwickelung Der Synagogalen Liturgie"
(Odessa 1902) and in his article onhazzanut in "Otsar Yisroeil" (1907?), Minkowsky notes
three distinct periods of foreign influence: Greek, Arabic and German. The author main-
tains that our musical liturgy consists of three types: TEFILOH, KERIOH and ZIMROH. The
four modes are
YISHTABACH A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A -
YEKUM PURKON GA-B-C-D-E-F-G -
MI SHEBEIRACH A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A -
AHAVOH RABOH E-F-G#-A-B-C-D-E -
There is, in my opinion, no justification for stating categorically that in descending the
YEKUM PURKON must have or does have a minor third. An occasional variation does not
make a rule. Similarly, the differentiation between the ascending and descending MI SHE-
BEIRACH scale is arbitrary. As a matter of fact, the descending form as given here is, to be
sure, used in approximately the middle of the MI SHEBEIRACH in motives going both up
ward and downward.
A. M.Bernstein, in the introduction to his "Muzikalisher Pinkes" (Vilna 1927), adopts
Minkowsky's definitions with but one amendation: the YISHTABACH mode in descent has
a Bb, a minor second, Jacob Weinberg, in an article, "The Distinctive Apsects of Jewish Music,"
reprinted from "Jewish Tribune," published in 1945 by Jewish Welfare Board in a booklet
containing articles on Jewish music, accepts this same analysis of the modes. Here I should
like to point to a historic fact. Cantors of old frequently utilized the interval of a minor second
when descending at the end of a composition to the final tonic. (Ex. 11) This was done
although throughout the composition the second step was a whole step. At times this minor
second interval was also utilized in the middle of the composition, at the end of a longer musi-
cal phrase. This fact seems to have misled Bernstein, Minnachel, Goldstein and, later, Glantz,
into considering this minor second step an integral part of the descending YISHTABACH scale.
An altogether new approach to a definition of Synagogue music and its modes was con-
ceived by Francis L. Cohen in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1907) The types of song of our Ser-
vice he designates as: Cantillations, Prayer-Motives, Fixed Melodies and Hymns. The first of
these reproduce or represent the tonalities and melodic outlines prevalent in the Western world
during the first ten centuries of Diaspora. The second are reminiscences of the music of the
8th to 13th centuries.
As to modes, Cohen avers that there is a specific allotment of a particular mode or scale-
form to each service. Thus, the evening service for the week-days is found in the scale F-G-A-
Bb-C-D, the Sabbath eve service fits into C-D-E-F-GA-BbC. The evening service for the three
festivals corresponds to C-D-Eb-F-GAbBb-C, and for the High Holidays it is C-D-E-F-G-A-
The morning service assumes the following qualities: during the weekdays E-GA-C-D, <
Sabbath C-Db-E-F-G-Ab-Bb-C, on Festivals C-D-E-F-GA-BbC-D, and on High Holidays D-Eb-
F-GA-BbC-D for the earlier portion and B-C-D-E-F#-GA-B for the later portions. The Sabbath
afternoon service corresponds to C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb-C
Besides relating each of these sclaes to their corresponding Church modes, the author
designates the reciting or dominant note, as well as the final note of each scale. A mode, Rabbi
Cohen maintains, appears in simplest form in prayer motive as a sort of coda to which the
closing berocho is chanted. This is associated with a secondary phrase (leading to the coda).
Of great portent is the theory suggested here, namely that the age of the various elements
in Synagogue song may be traced from the order in which the text was first introduced into the
liturgy and was in turn regarded as so important as to demand special vocalization. Interestingly,
Cohen endeavors to establish the differences between the musical terminologies Nigun, Steiger
and Scarbove or Gust. The first term is used when melody is primarily in view, the second
when modality and tonality are considered. The terms Scarbove and Gust are applicable
where taste or style of rendering is stressed.
The notation of some of the nuschaot by Rabbi Cohen leave something to be desired.
For instance, essential motives (Ex. 3, 4) are missing from the Festival evening service. No
allowance is made for the major sixth (when it is below the tonic) in the mode for Sabbath
morning. In the mode for the earlier part of the SHACHRIS for YOMIM NOROIM an E natu-
ral instead of E flat would be a happier choice. (Ex. 12) The Sabbath Mincha mode is alto-
gether incomplete. Furthermore, an inference that each service has its particular mode is erron-
eous and misleading, witness the Friday evening and Sabbath morning services. It is also diffi-
cult to agree with Rabbi Cohen's belief that the age of the various elements in Synagogue song
may be traced from the order in which the text was first introduced into the liturgy and was
in turn regarded as so important as to demand special vocalization. It is an indisputable fact
that during different periods of history different liturgical selections were singled out for special
musical treatment. We also find different melodies for the same text, such as YISGADAL and
BORCHU. Would Cohen maintain that the 18-1 9 melodies for the Kadish are all of the same
age? His distinction between Steiger and Scarbove and Gust seems arbitrary.
In his "Der Synagogale Gesang" (Berlin, 1908,) second edition), A. Friedman points to
the fact that the YISHTABACH is chanted in Eastern Europe in M. O., while in Austria-
Hungary it is done in A. R. Obvious exceptions to this statement are Baer and Lewandowsky.
His otherwise stimulating essay is marred by recurrent dilettanteism. In a number of instances
Friedman employs a homiletical approach in order to explain a musicological problem. Thus,
because the Torah reading for YOMIM NOROIM is done in the A. M. mode, that mode is uti-
lized for ADONOY MOLOCH and for MALCHUYOS. During the week the YISHTABACH is
sung in the specifically Jewish A. R. mode to stress in the YOTSEIR OR our opposition to the
Persian dualism of Ormuzd and Ahriman.
The author, referring to the TISGADAL mode as noted by Lachman, contends that this
(Maftir) mode, an integral part of the A. R., was transferred from here to the last berochos
of the Maftir and to the weekday Amidah. He notates the MISHEBEIRACH - AV HORA-
CHAMIM mode as: C-D-Eb-F#-G-Ab-Bb-C. Friedman, in trying to trace the origin of some
of our traditional tunes, quotes freely from the Baumker collection, "Das Katholische Kirch-
Cantor Friedman, who was one of our most competent men in the field of Nusach, all
too often proved prone to reach a decision on flimsy evidence. In his quotes he was at times
careless. Thus he alters the original melodic line as given by Baumker. (Ex. 13)
With the advent of Idelsohn the study of Jewish musicology both widened and deepened.
He, for the first time, revealed the rich musical heritage of far-flung Jewish communities. Se-
condly, he introduced historical and comparative methods of musical analysis. Even the brief-
est synopsis of his works would be of greater length than this entire thesis.
In his best-known work, "Jewish Music" (New York 1929), he adds to the A. M., M. 0..
and A. R. modes the SELICHO and VIDUI modes. The musical material of the Ashkenazic
Synagogue he divides into: 1) Modes, 2A) Set Tunes Partially Pdiythmical and, 2B) Pdiythmical
Melodies. Mention is also made of at least eight other modes in minor plus the AV HORA-
CHAMIM mode, the Ukrainian-Rumanian-Gypsy scale and the Lern-Steiger. In these sub
divisions he follows partially the system of Francis L. Cohen. However, a perusal of Vols.
VII and VIII of his monumental Thesaurus will reveal modes and classifications differing from
those present in his "Jewish Music."
The over-all definition of Synagogue music presented in Vol. VII is given as: 1) Modes
of Bible; 2) Modes of Old Prayers; and 3) Melodies. In Vol. VIII, devoted to Synagogue music
in Eastern Europe, the number of modes is increased to 16, plus MISINAI chants, four divi-
sions of Irregular chants, BEROCHOS for Torah, Kabbalistic chant (ROZO DESHABOS),
Study - (Lern) mode and VIDUI and TAL.
As far as Idelsohn' s work is concerned, we must realize that until his last illness Idelsohn
was still in the process of collecting and slassifying musical material. What needs to be done
is a careful sifting and editing of the vast amount of material he accumulated. Elsewhere ("Bar
Mitzvah Instruction," The Synagogue School, Sept. 1953) I pointed out that changes took
place in the various volumes of the author. These changes must be noted, considered and a
final redaction of his monumental work presented.
In an effort to find a theoretical basis for our modes, two men have concurrently reached
a partially similar result. Cantor Leib Glantz, in a paper, "The Musical Basis of Nusach Hate-
fillah," read at our Convention in 1952, and Dr. Joseph Yasser, in a hitherto unpublished
paper, "The Structural Aspect of Jewish Modality," tackle the problem of the modes.
Cantor Glantz points to the pentatonic elements in the music of the Synagogue and then
marshals numerous musical illustrations to prove that the construction of our modes is tetra-
chordal, conjunctive or disjunctive. Thus the YEKUM PURKON mode encompassed originally
the two conjunctive tetrachords GA-B-C and C-D-E-F. To these were added one tetrachord
above: F-GA-Bb and one below: D-E-FfrG. The tetrachords of the A. R. are E-F-Gw-A -B-
C-D#-E. To these was added below the E the tetrachord A-B-C#-D.
The MOGEN OVOS mode'is built on A-B-C-D - E-F-G-A. This (Aeolian) mode "branched
out into many variations." One of these is the YISHTABACH mode: E-F-GA - B-C-DE
(Phrygian). Another is the MI SHEBEIRACH: D-E-F-G# - A-B-C-D (Ukranian-Dorian). A third
is ATOH ZOCHEIR: DE-F-G - A-B-C-D, to which was added below A-EC-D, making the
tetrachords conjunctive in the lower part and disjunctive above. In this group belongs also the
TAL GESHEM nusach.
I find myself unable to see eye to eye with Cantor Glantz regarding this theory, on two
general grounds: 1) The justification of the theory itself (these objections apply partly also
to Dr. Yasser's theory) and, 2) The transcriptionof his musical illustrations.
If the Glantz theory is correct, then tetrachord was added to tetrachord and thus melody
was extended. If this were the case, then the melodic line ought to exhibit some tetrachordal
characteristics, limitations or breaks, whereas the truth is that most of the essential nusach-
motifs extend beyond a given tetrachord. If the tetrachordal theory were correct, then the
fourth should have served as the dominant note in the scale, whereas we find the fifth doing
that service. As far as Synagogue music is concerned, I cannot subscribe to the terachordal
theory as advanced by musicologists relating to the development of general music (see article,
"Scales" in Grove's "Dictionary of Music"). Even if that theory were correct, our nuschaot
show clear evidence of either post-tetrachordal age or total independence of tetrachordality.
Personally, I side with the latter probability.
As proof the fact that Jews needed to tetrachordal additions to indulge in wide-ranged
melodies, we need but consider the cantillations. Furthermore, it is more likely and requires
less credulity to suppose that melodic incursions took place throughout history without pre-
vious benefit of tetrachordal adjustments and considerations than to presume that melodies
were adopted only when they confirmed to a definite tetrachordal pattern. In order to explain
a structural peculiarity in the A. R. mode, it is necessary, as Cantor Glantz states, to add a tetra-
chord of another type below the tonic. However, may I point to two other collateral motives
of the A. R., hitherto overlooked, which I shall name as the OZ MISINAI and CHEMDAS
YOMIM motives. Neither of these can be accommodated into any of the hitherto synthetically
constructed modal scales, the OZ MISINAI as, incidentally, the YISTABACH, modulates
temporarily to the major built on the fourth step of the scale. The CHEMDAS YOMIM is
likewise a major motive. It is however, based on the subtonic. (Ex. 14, 15)
Consideration ought also be given the fact that a scale in no wise is sufficiently descrip
tive of the characteristic motives of a given mode. Thus, one may be able to place the ATOH
ECHOD and the MOGEN OVOS in one scale. That scale, however, will not give us the pecu-
liar differences between these two dissimilar modes. Or take such unlike modes as the ZARA
CHAYO and the Kadish for Neilah, both of which are assigned to the A. M. scale.
I now turn to the illustrations in the Glantz article. 111. No. 7, both A and B (Ex. 16),
contain what seems to me errors in the transcriptions. In the second measure of example A
the E should be flat and, most likely, the F sharp. In the last measure of example B, the
B should be flat. I consider Cantor Glantz to be in error in placing these two items: BORCHU
for Festival evening service and UMIPNEI CHATOEINU in the YEKUM PURKON mode.
In 111. No. 15 (Ex. 17) he uses the MI SHEBEIRACH mode, which is normally saved for a later
appearance, on the first words of the passage. By the way, the B should be natural in the first
Finally, I cannot accept the contention of the author that the major sixth is a prominent
element in the GESHEM-TAL mode. I can justify its appearance on artistic grounds, but can-
not accept its dominancy or even equality within the mode. Careful analysis of 111. No. 17
(Ex. 18), will reveal that Cantor Glantz, perhaps subconsciously, supports my view. Please
observe whenever a B natural is used it is on the weak beat of the measure. A far more con-
vincing case of dualism could be made in the case of the Festival MA'ARIV mode where both
a major and a minor third have equally legitimate claim.
Dr. Joseph Yasser evolved an equally ingenious THEORY OF TRIPLE KEY MODES, as
it is technically named. According to this theory, the series of notes from G to G forms the
so-called "center key" of the A. M. mode. This is being supplemented by the "bottom key"
of the same (Mixolydian) mode built a fourth below the tonic, that is, from D to D (with F#),
and furthermore by the "top key" built a fourth above the tonic, that is, from C to C (with Bb).
One thus achieves a 14-note scale from D to C covering almost two octaves with F# in the
lower region and B^ in the upper region. This combined scale represents a self-sufficient unit
of three interlocked keys or, in Dr. Yasser's terminology, a triple-key A. M. mode. This whole
unit can readily be transposed, of course, to any desirable set of keys as long as their basic
interralation is preserved. In example, 20, the triple-key A. M. mode is shown in two different
ranges: from D to C, just explained, and from G to F which probably is more familiar to
cantors. (The center key is marked off by a solid bracket in each instance, whereas the
bottom and top keys are marked off by broken-line brackets.)
The M. 0. (Aeolian) triple-key mode is similarly constructed by Dr. Yasser: center key
A - A, bottom key E - (F#) - E, and top key D (B^)- D. A slightly different approach is
suggested for the A. R. mode. While its center key occupies the accepted range E - (G#) - E,
the bottom key begins a fifth (instead of a fourth) below the tonic, thus forming a series A -
(B" C#) - A, and the top key begins a fifth above the tonic, thereby producing a series B -
Dr. Yasser highlights the pentatonic origin of our modes and explains their scalar divergen-
cied as phenomena that reflect the variations in cantorial practices through the centuries.
These variations usually occur on the "weak" notes of the scale. As I rely mainly on memory,
I cannot do full justice to Dr. Yasser's theory. But faithful to his own scientific reserve, Dr.
Yasser is cautious with his claims. Thus, while considering the triple-key principle as fundamen-
tal in the A. M., he sees no more than a tendency toward it in the two other modes.
It would be appropriate to add at this point that Dr. Yasser looks upon each Jewish mode
as having two distinct aspects, sturctural and motivic. Even though both are organically inte-
grated in live cantorial creations, they should never be confused (as they too often are) in
purely scientific analyses, where they can be taken up quite separately. As the title of Dr.
Yasser's paper referred to clearly indicates, he deals in it exclusively with the structural aspect
of Jewish modes.
The similarities between the Yasser and Glantz theories are apparent, the main difference
being that Yasser views the mode-scales in octaves and Glantz in tetrachords. The Glantz
theory accommodates the major third below the tonic (C#) in the key of E in the A. R.,
whereas Dr. Yasser considers this note a deviation from the formal A. R. Neither theory can,
however, account for the half-step below the tonic in the A. M. mode.
The last article I wish to discuss, "The Structure of the Synagogue Prayer-Chant," by
Baruch Joseph Cohon, belongs chronologically before the Glantz- Yasser theories. It appe-
ared in the Spring, 1950, issue of the "Journal of the American Musicological Society." How-
ever, because its fundamental concept is at complete variance from the previous papers, I shall
deal with it separately,
As I have indicated before, it is my belief that none of the proposed scales, constructed
either along medieval, modal or modem diatonic lines, can properly encompass the intricacies
of our Synagogue modes. This inadequateness can be explained, I believe, by the fact that
Western musical idioms we possess today reflect a limited period in history, while the Syna-
gogue modes represent melodic accretions during two millenia, in numerous countries, under
Hence, the more advisable task seems to be to take our modes as they are and analyze them
according to their intrinsic motives. This was begun by ldelsohn and is here continued by his
pupil Baruch Cohon. Cohon takes each of the three chief modes and divides its motives into:
1) Beginning phrases; 2) Intermediate phrases 2A) Pausal phrases, 2B) Modulations; 3) Pre-
concluding phrases and 4) Concluding phrases. Cohon further sub-divides each of the chief
modes into secondary modes and their motives. Thus the modes in the M. 0. scale include
BIRCHOS HASHACHAR, TEFILOH, MOGEN OVOS, BORCHU for Sabbath morning,
MINCHOH for Sabbath, Festival MA'ARIV and STUDY. The A. R. scale contains Sabbath
and weekday modes. KABOLAS SHABOS, P'SUKEI D'ZIMROH for Sabbath, YEKUM PUR-
KON and OVOS for Sabbath, MA'ARIV L'YOMIM NOROIM and AKDOMUS are found in
the A. M. scale.
Careful anaylsis of this article will reveal that essential motives are missing. See Ex. 19 for
some of the missing motives. The AKDOMUS "mode" does not properly belong here. Its
place is among the Traditional Tunes. Nonetheless, the article is done with admirable effi-
ciency and with careful detail. It focuses attention on the manner in which further studies
should be made.
The author has sent sections of this paper to Cantor Glantz and Dr. Yasser in order to
permit them to discuss, if they so desired, the above analyses of their respective theories.
Dear Cantor Wohlberg:
Thank you for sending me the one and a half pages of your paper dealing with my theory
of Nusach Hatefilah. I shall be very happy to comment upon the points you discuss. Before
I begin, I want to thank you deeply for your wonderful words about my work in the last issue
of the Cantors Voice. I always ready your column with great interest and never fail to find
the discussion scholarly, serious and offering much food for thought. I was thrilled and moved
to find your generous comments about me.
I should have like to have had the opportunity to read your whole paper, for I am sure
it would then have been easier for me to answer your points. Since I do not have before me
the positiveelements of your paper, I must confine my remakrs to the section you sent to me
in which you find errors in, or disagreement with my theory. First, about the "errors."
1. Illustration 7-A of my paper
If I were writing E flat in the "Borechu" and even F sharp, in the Festival Borechu, there
would be no problem at all about the nusach of the Festival Borechu. It would simply be a
Western harmonic minor. I discussed the problem with many great cantors, including the late
Kalechnik, and it is found in the writings of Minkovsky that the Festival "Borechu" is a prob-
lem just because it starts with B major in the first phrase, minor B in the second phrase plus
F natural and E natural. The answer lies in the fact that the Borechu as well as the ending of
the Brachot of the Maariv service are the only remnants of the Festival Nusach which is so
clearly recognizable in the morning festival service. It is definitely a ten step Yekum Purkon
nusach; its line is three tetrachords: GA-B-C(C>DE-F(F)-GA-Bb. Read the Borechu and you
will find all these peculiarities: B natural in the lower phrase, B flat above, F natural and E
natural. A Misinai Nusach cannot and should not be changed. The Maariv is in minor but the
Brachot retain again the 10 step Yekum Purkon.
2. Illustration 7-B
Your criticism is easy to answer. The error is yours. The B flat is there. The lower B
must be natural in accordance with the point made above. Since I do not have your whole
paper before me, I do not know what musical line you ascribe to the Festival nusach. How-
ever, I can tell you that in my further studies since my paper was first presented, in 1952, I
have found more internal evidence of the close relationship between Yekum Purkon and Ahava
Raba nuschaot and have many more examples of Misinai nuschaot which corroborate this
3. Illustration 15
Here, my dear Colleague, you are perfectly correct, but the error is not mine but the
"bochur hasetzer," as they used to say in the rabbinical literature. The copyist put the B
natural in the second phrase, and also in the B of the first phrase of the Mi Sheberach line,
but he omitted it in the first phrase. Thank you for calling it to my attention.
4. Illustration 17
Your remark that the most significant feature of the GESHEM-TAL nusach, which is the
B natural, falls on the weak beat, is irrelevant, in my opinion. In many Misinai nuschaot the
same thing occurs. That is why we, the students of Jewish nusach have to dig in so carefully
to find the hidden features of the Nuschaot. The fact that we have B natural and B flat in
succession in this nusach, is the real demonstration and illustration of the nusach. Actually,
it is its manifestation.
Since I have not had the opportunity to read and to study carefully the major features
of your paper, I shall reserve comment on the remarks which you did send me relating to the
theory in general. I look forward to further occasions, both personal and professional, to con-
tinue these discussions. From all our studies there will surely come a systematic and valid and
viable analysis of the great cantorial heritage. I can only say that I did not find a single reason
of doubting my theory. I am sure that my theory is now stronger that it was in 1952.
May I wish you and all our colleagues the greatest success in your deliberations. I am really
sorry that I am unable to be with you this time.
Dear Cantor Wohlberg,
I have read through with great interest your paper on THE MUSICAL MODES OF THE
ASHKENAZIC SYNAGOGUE. Since its subject is so expertly presented, I don't think there
is any need in commenting on it.
Therefore, I have only taken the liberty of slightly reediting and amplifying the portion
concerning my own theory, which you were so kind to include in your text. And even to this
I have resorted merely for a greater clarity and precision. You will find my version of this por-
tion on a separate sheet to which I have also appended a musical example for elucidation.
After reading this version, you will perhaps agree with me that, contrary to your state-
ment, my theory does account for the half-step below the tonic in the A. M. mode. This half-
step is formed by the notes F#-G in the basic triple-key mode, and by the notes B-C in its
With kindest regards and sincere thanks, I am
Dr. Yasser is correct in stating that his theory does include a half-step below the tonic in
the A. M. mode.
<>- do-noj mo-loch <^l\. us lo- vaish lo-veishou-do-no^ «*■ his-a. -tor a-S- *i-Kon
&m a- dir i>a- mo-rom <x- do- noy
^-do-no^ mo- loth qei-uS lo- vtetsh : ai- «i-K»n irei - </e\ I _
/ Jo-mar Koi d-shei- n'sho-mo v a. po_ Kola-shem'sho-mo /'a- po •
&o~^ a- lei-no a-do- no* tx* Vo— os sh-mo - -^*" K-<*o.5h ^i&- ro- «.i I -
Mi *ne-bei.i-«.th a-N/o-s«.i no o.v-ro- hom Kti-cMC V iou-a-KoV
MAX WOHLBERG was born in Czechoslovakia, educated in traditional schools in Europe. He was a student
of renown hazzanim and music teachers in Hungary and United States. He has been a cantor in American
congregations for almost 40 years. He has served the Malverne Jewish Center of Long Island since 1958.
He has been a member of faculty of the Cantors Institute from its founding in 1952, and currently its
Professor of Hazzanut. Hazzan Wohlberg is a noted composer of Jewish music, both liturgical and secular;
author of "The Music of the Synagogue and many other scholarly and popular articles on all phases of Jewish
music. He is a Contributing Editor of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, a member of the Editorial Board
of Jewish Music Notes, and now serves as president of the Jewish Liturgical Music Society. He served as
president of the Cantors Assembly of America, from 1949 to 1952. He is a popular lecturer on synagogue
music and the Yiddish folk song. As hazzan, composer, teacher, scholar, writer and lecturer, he has pursued
an extraordinarily creative career dedicated to enhancing the appreciation and knowledge of Jewish music
among our people.
THE TASK OF THE HAZZAN
By Dr. Abraham J. Heschel
What does a person expect to attain when entering a Synagogue? In the pursuit of learn-
ing one goes to a library; for esthetic enrichment one goes to the art museum; for pure music
to the concert hall. So what is the purpose of going to the Synagogue? Many arc the facili-
ties which help us to acquire the important worldly virtues, skills and techniques. But where
should one learn about the insights of the spirit? Many are opportunities for public speech;
where are the occasions for inner silence? It is easy to find people who will teach us how to
be eloquent; but who will teach us how to be still'? It is surely important to develop a sense
of humor; but is it not also important to have a sense of reverence? Where should one learn
the eternal wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous?
Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition'? Important and precious
as the development of our intellectual faculties is, the cultivation of a sensitive conscience is
indispensable. We are all in danger of sinking in the darkness of vanity; we are all involved in
worshipping our own egos. Where should we become sensitive to the pitfalls of cleverness, or
to the realization that expediency is not the acme of wisdom?
We are constantly in need of self-purification. We are in need of experiencing moments
in which the spiritual is as relevant and as concrete as the esthetic, for example. Everyone has
a sense of beauty; everyone is capable of distinguishing between the beautiful and the ugly.
But we also must learn to be sensitive to the spirit. It is the Synagogue where we must try
to acquire such inwardness, such sensitivity.
To attain a degree of spiritual security one cannot rely upon one's own resources. One
needs an atmosphere, where the concern for the spirit is shared by a community. We are in
need of students and scholars, masters and specialists. But we need also the company of wit-
nesses, of human beings who are engaged in worship, who for a moment sense the truth that
life is meanigless without attachment to God. It is the task of the Cantor to create the litur-
gical community, to convert a plurality of praying individuals into a unity of worship.
Pondering his religious existence a Jew will realize that some of the greatest spiritual
events happen in moments of prayer. Worship is the source of religious experience, of re-
ligious insight, and religiously some of us live by what happens to us in the hours we spend in
the Synagogue. These hours have been in the past the wellsprings of insight, the wellsprings
01 faith. Are these wellsprings still open in our time?
I grew up in a house of worship where the spirtitual was real. There was no elegance, but
there was contrition; there was no great wealth, but there was great longing. It was a place
where when I saw a Jew I sensed Judaism. Something happened to the people when they
entered the house of worship. To this day every time I go the Synagogue my hope is to ex-
perience a taste of such an atmosphere. But what do I find within the contemporary Syna-
Delivered at the 10th Annual Convention, May 195 7
We are all in agreement about the importance of prayer. Cantors dedicate their lives to
the art of leading our people in prayer. Indeed, of all religious acts, prayer is most widely ob-
served. Every seventh day hundreds of thousands of Jews enter the Synagogue. But what
comes to pass in most of our services'? Our services are conducted with pomp and precision.
The rendition of the liturgy is smooth. Everything is present; decorum, voice, ceremony. But
one thing is missing: Life. One knows in advance what will ensue. There will be no surprise,
no adventure of the soul: there will be no sudden burst of devotion. Nothing is going to
happen to the soul. Nothing unpredictable must happen to the person who prays. He will
attain no insight into the words he reads; he will attain no new perspective for the life he lives.
Our motto is monotony, ma shehaya hu yihiyev'en kol hadash tahat hashemesh. The fire
has gone out of our worship. It is cold, stiff, and dead. Inorganic Judaism. True, things are
happening; of course, not within prayer, but within the administration of the synagogues. Do
wc not establish new edifices all over the country'? Yes, the edifices are growing. Yet, worship
Has the synagogue become the graveyard where prayer is buried? Are we, the spiritual
leaders of American Jewry, members of a hevra kadisha ? There are many who labor in the
vineyard of oratory; but who knows how to pray, or how to inspire others to pray'? There
arc many who can execute and display magnificent fireworks; but who knows how to kindle a
spark in the darkness of a soul?
One must realize the difficulties of the Cantor. The call to prayer falls against an iron
wall. The congregation is not always open and ready to worship. The Cantor has to please
the armor of indifference. He has to fight for a response. He has to conquer them in order
to speak for them. Often he must first be a mekitz nirdamim, one who arouses those who are
asleep, before he can claim to be a shaliah tzibbur. And yet we must not forget that there is
a heritage of spiritutal responsiveness in the souls of our people. It is true, however, that this
responsiveness may waste away for lack of new inspiration, just as fire burns itself out for lack
The tragedy of the Synagogue is in the depersonalization of prayer. Hazzanut has be-
come a skill, a technical performance, an impersonal affair. As a result the sounds that come
out of the Hazzan evoke no participation. They enter the ears; they do not touch the hearts.
The right Hebrew word for Cantor is baal t' fillab.
The mission of a Cantor is to lead in prayer. He does not stand before the Ark as an
artist in isolation trying to demonstrate his skill or to display vocal feats. He stands before
the Ark not as an individual but as a Congregation. He must identify himself with the Cong-
regation. His task is to represent as well as to inspire a community. Within the Synagogue
music is not an end in itself but a means of religious experience. Its function is to help us to
live through a moment of confrontation with the presence of God; to expose ourselves to
Him in praise, in self-scrutiny and in hope.
We have adopted the habit of believing that the world is a spiritual vacuum, whereas the
seraphim proclaim that "the whole earth is full of His glory." Are only the seraphim endowed
with a sense for the glory? "The heavens declare the glory of God." How do they declare it?
How do they reveal it? "There is no speech, there are no words, neither is their voice heard."
The heavens have no voice; the glory is inaudible, And it is the task of man to reveal what is
concealed; to be the voice of the glory, to sing its silence, to utter, so to speak, what is in the
heart of all things. The glory is here - invisible and silent. Man is the voice; his task is to be
the song. The cosmos is a congregation in need of a Cantor. Every seventh day we proclaim
as a fact: The soul of everything that lives blesses Thy name.
They all thank Thee,
They all praise Thee,
They all say,
There is none holy like the Lord.
Whose ear has ever heard how all trees sing to God? Has our reason ever thought of calling
upon the sun to praise the Lord? And yet, what the ear fails to perceive, what reason fails to
conceive, our prayer makes clear to our souls. It is a higher truth, to be grasped by the spirit:
All Thy works praise Thee
Psalms 145: 10
We are not alone in our acts of praise. Wherever there is life, there is silent worship. The
world is always on the verge of becoming one in adoration. It is man who is the Cantor of the
universe, and in whose life the secret of cosmic prayer is disclosed. To sing means to sense and
to affirm that the spirit is real and that its glory is present. In singing we perceive what is other-
wise beyond perceiving. Song, and particularly liturgical song, is not only an act of expression
but also a way of bringing down the spirit from heaven to earth.
Shira begim atria f Ma. The numerical value of the letters which constitute the word
shira or song is equal to the numerical value of the word t'fillah or prayer. Prayer is song.
Shiru lo, zamru lo, sihu bikhol nif'iotav.
Sing to Him, chant to Him meditate about all the wonders, about the mystery that sur-
rounds us. The wonder defies all descriptions; the mystery surpasses the limits of expression.
The only language that seems to be compatible with the wonder and mystery of being is the
language of music. Music is more than just expressiveness. It is rather a reaching out toward
realm that lies beyond the reach of verbal propositions. Verbal expression is in danger of being
taken literally and of serving as a substitute for insight. Words become slogans, slogans be-
come idols. But music is a refutation of human finality. Music is an antidote to higher ido-
While other forces in society combine to dull our mind, music endows us with moments
in which the sense of the ineffable becomes alive.
Listening to great music is a shattering experience, throwing the soul into an encounter
with an aspect of reality to which the mind can never relate itself adequately. Such experi-
ences undermine conceit and complacency and may even induce a sense of contrition and a
readiness for repentance. I am neither a musician nor an expert on music. But the shattering
experience of music has been a challenge to my thinking on ultimate issues. I spend my life
working with thoughts. And the problem that gives me no rest is: do these thoughts ever rise
to the heights reached by authentic music?
Music leads us to the threshold of repentance, of unbearable realization of our own vanity
and frailty and of the terrible relevance of God. I would define myself as a person who has
been smitten by music, as a person who has never recovered from the blows of music. And
yet, music is a vessel that may hold anything. It may express vulgarity; it may inspire humility.
It may convey stupidity and it can be the voice of grandeur. It may engender fury, it may
kindle compassion. If often voices man's highest reverence, but often brings to expression
Cantorial music is first of all music in the service of the liturgical word. Its core is nusah,
and its integrity depends upon the cultivation of nusah. Elsewhere I have suggested (see Man's
Quest for God. Studies in Prayer and Symbolism, New York, 1954, pp. 5 1 and 899.) that
one of the main causes of the decay of prayer in the Synagogue is the loss of nusah the loss
of chant; and surely the disengagement of cantorial music from the nusah has been most harm-
ful. To pray without nusah is to forfeit the active participation of the community. People
may not be able to pray; they are able to chant. And chant leads to prayer. What I mean by
the disengagement of Cantorial music from the liturgical word is not singing without words,
but singing in a way which contradicts the words. It is both a spiritual and a technical matter.
The Cantor's voice must neither replace the words nor misinterpret the spirit of the words.
The Cantor who prefers to display his voice rather than to convey the words and to set forth
the spirit of the words, will not bring the Congregation closer to prayer. Be humble before
the words, should be the cantorial imperative.
Music is a serious pretender to the place of religion in the heart of man, and the concert
hall is to many people a substitute for the Synagogue. The separation of music from the word
may, indeed, foster a spirtituality without a commitment and render a greater service to the
advancement of concert music than to the enrichment of Synagogue worship.
Entering the Synagogue, I first relinquish all I know and try to begin all over again. The
words are sometimes open, and at other times locked. Even in such embarrassment song is a
sphere that will admit even the poor in faith. It is so far off, and yet we are all there. Pride
begins to fade bit by bit, and praise begins to happen. The cantorial voice is a door, but often
the banging of the door jars and tears our sensitivity to shreds.
A Cantor who faces the holiness in the Ark rather than the curiosity of man will realize
that his audience is God. He will learn to realize that his task is not to entertain but to repre-
sent the people Israel. He will be carried away into moments in which he will forget the world,
ignore the congregation and be overcome by the awareness of Him in Whose presence he stands.
The congregation then will hear and sense that the Cantor is not giving a recital but worship-
ping God, that to pray does not mean to listen to a singer but to identify oneself with what is
being proclaimed in their name.
Mankind is always on trial, and the cross-examination of the soul is audible in music. One
of the things reflected in modem cantorial music is the lack of the sense of mystery which is
at the very root of religious consciousness. Music gains its religious dimension when ceasing to
be satisfied with sonveying that which is within the grasp of emotion and imagination. Reli-
gious music is an attempt to convey that which is within our reach but beyond our grasp. The
loss of that tension throws all cantorial music into the danger of becoming a distortion of the
Music is the soul of language. A good sentence is more than a series of words grouped
together. A sentence without a tone, without a musical quality, is like a body without a soul.
The secret of a good sentence lies in the creation of a tonal quality to correspond to the mean-
ing of the words. There has to be a harmony of the right tone and the right words. Such har-
mony is often painfully missing in cantorial expression. One is shocked to hear how magni-
ficent thoughts are uttered in a false tone; sublime words and crude melodies. So much of
what we hear in the Synagogue is alien to our liturgy. So much of the music we hear distorts
and even contradicts the words, instead of enhancing and glorifying them. Such music has a
crushing effect upon our quest for prayer. One feels frequently hurt when listening to some
of the melodies in modem Synagogues.
It is a fact that just as there are speakers who are better than their words, there are Can-
tors who are better than their melodies. But this is not only a matter of personal importance.
The future of Jewish prayer is to a considerable degree in the power of the Cantor.
There is a book which everyone talks about, but few people have really read. A book
which has the distinction of being one of the least known books in our literature. It is the
Siddur, the prayerbook. Have we ever pondered the meaning of its words? Did we ever stop
to think what it means'?
And yet, there are those who claim that the Siddur does not express needs, wants, aspi-
rations of contemporary man.
We must learn how to study the inner life of the words that fill the world of our prayer-
book. Without intense study of their meaning, we feel indeed, bewildered when we encoun-
ter the multitude of those strange, lofty beings that populate the innter cosmos of the Jewish
spirit. The trouble with the prayerbook is it is too great for us, it is too lofty. Our small souls
must first rise to its grandeur.
We have failed to introduce our minds to its greatness, and our souls are lost in its sub-
lime wilderness. It is not enough to know how to translate Hebrew into English; it is not
enough to have met a word in the dictionary and to have experienced unpleasant adventures
with it in the study of grammar. A word has a soul, and we must learn how to attain insight
into its life. Words are commitments, not the subject-matter for esthetic reflection.
This is our affliction. We say words but make no decisions. We do not even know how
to look across a word to its meaning. We forget how to find the way to the word, how to be
on intimate terms with a few passages in the Prayerbook. We are familiar with all words, but
at home with none. The Siddur has become a foreign language which the sould does not know
how to pronounce.
In order for Cantorial music to regain its dignity, it will not be enough to study the
authentic pattern of our musical tradition. What is necessary is a liturgical revival. This will
involve not only a new sense of reverence and faith, but also a new insight into the meaning
of the liturgical words as well as an intimate way of uttering and appropriating the words. The
decline of hazzanut will continue as long as we fail to realize that reverence and faith are as
important as talent and technique, and that the music must not lose its relationship to the
spirit of the words.
It is important for the Cantor to study the score, but it is also important to study the
words of the Prayerbook. The education of the Cantor calls for intellectual and not only for
esthetic achievements. In Judaism study is a form of worship, but it may also be said that
worship is in a sense a form of study; it includes meditation. It is not enough to rely on one's
voice. It takes a constant effort to find a way to the grandeur of the words in the Prayerbook.
What are we exposed to in the atmosphere of the synagogue? We are exposed not only,
to sacred words, not only to spiritual tunes. This, indeed, is the essence of our liturgy. It is
a combination of word and music. Great as music is, it is neither the ultimate nor the supreme.
The ultimate is God, and the medium in which His guidance has been conveyed to us is the
word. We have no holy music; we revere sacred Scripture, sacred words. Music is the language
of mystery. But there is something which is greater than mystery. God is the meaning be-
yond all mystery. That meaning is concealed in the Biblical words, and our prayers are an
attempt to disclose to ourselves what is concealed in those words.
For all its grandeur, there is something greater than music. At Sinai we heard thunder
and lightning, but it was not the music of the elements but the word for the sake of which the
great event happened. The Voice goes on forever? and we are being pursued by it.
We have neither icons, nor statues in our Synagogue. We are not even in need of visible
symbols to create in us a mood of worship. All we have are words in the Siddur and reverence
in our hearts. But even these two are often apart from each other. It is the task of music to
bring them together.
"Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord, and who shall stand in this holy place? He
who has clean hands and a pure heart, and who does not lift up his soul to what is false and
does not swear deceitfully. Not by might of voice, not by strength of talent alone, but by
the sense of awe and fear, by contrition and the sense of inadequacy, will a Cantor succeed
in leading others to prayer.
The Cantor must constantly learn how to be involved in what he says, realizing that he
must also teach others how to attach themselves to the words of the liturgy. He has a secret
mission to convert, to lead people to a point where they can sense that arrogance is an abyss
and sacrifice is eternity.
There a few proofs for the existence of God, but there are witnesses. Foremost among
them are the Bible and Music. Our liturgy is a moment in which these two witnesses come to
expression. On the evidence of two witnesses a claim is sustained. Our liturgy consists of the
testimony of both music and the word.
Perhaps this is the way to define a baal t 'j&h. He is a person in whom the two witnesses
meet. He is a person in whom a spiritual equation takes place - the equation of song and soul,
of word and mind. Va-ani t'fillati: the self and prayer are one.
I should like to conceive of hazzanut as the art of Siddur exegesis, as the art of interpre-
ting the words of the Siddur. Words die of routine. The Cantor's task is to bring them to life.
A Cantor is a person who knows the secret of the resurrection of the words. The art of giving
life to the words of our liturgy requires not only the personal involvement of the Cantor but
also the power contained in the piety of the ages. Our liturgy contains incomparably more
than what our hearts are ready to feel. Jewish liturgy in text and in song is a spiritual sum-
mary of our history. There is a written and an unwritten Torah, Scripture and tradition. We
Jews claim that one without the other is unintelligible. In the same sense we may say that
there is a written and unwritten liturgy. There is the Siddur but there is also an inner approach
and response to it, a way of giving life to the words, a style in which the words become a per-
sonal and unique utterance.
The Lord commanded Noah: "Go into the teva you and all your household." Teva means
Ark, it also means word. In prayer a person must enter the word with all he has, with heart
and soul, with thought and voice. "Make a light for the Ark." The word is dark. This is the
task of him who prays: to kindle a light in the word (The Baal Shem) Humbly we must ap
preach both the word and the chant. We must never forget that the word is deeper than our
thought, that the song is more sublime than our voice. These words enhance us. The Rabbis
maintain that "those who carried the Ark were actually carried by the Ark." And indeed he
who knows how to carry a word in all its splendor is carried away by the word. He who has
succeeded in kindling a light within the word will discover that the word has kindled a light
within his soul. Where is the Schechinah? Where is the presence of God to be sensed'? Accor-
ding to TIKKUNE ZOHAR the Schechinah is in words. God is present in sacred words. In
praying we discover the holiness in words.
Song is the most intimate expression of man. In no other way does man reveal himself
so completely as in the way he sings. For the voice of a person, particularly when in song, is
the soul in its full nakedness. When we sing, we utter and confess all our thoughts. In every
sense hazzanut is hishtupkhut hanefesh. There is a story about the Baal Shem who was once
listening most intently to a musician. When his disciples asked him why he was so absorbed in
what he heard, the Baal Shem replied: When a musician plays he pours out all he has done.
Indeed, a Hazzan standing before the Ark reveals all his soul, utters all his secrets. The
art of being a Cantor involves the depth, richness and integrity of personal existence. There
is a story about a hassidic Rabbi in Galicia, among whose adherents were many hazzanim.
Their custom was to gather at the Rabbi's court of the Sabbath which precedes Rosh Hashanah.
At the end of their stay they would enter the Rabbi's chamber and ask for his blessing that
their prayers on Rosh Hashanah be accepted in heaven. Once, the story goes, one of the haz-
zanim entered the Rabbi's chamber immediately after the Sabbath to take leave of the Rabbi.
When the Rabbi asked him why he was in a hurry to leave, the Hazzan replied, "I have to go
home in order to go through the Mahzor and to take a look at the notes." Thereupon the
Rabbi replied, "Why should you go through the Mahzoror the notes; they are the same as
last year. It is more important to go through your own life, and take a look at your own
deeds. For you are not the same as you were a year ago." The Hazzan was no longer in a
hurry to leave.
ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL, philosopher and theologian, was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1907.
Educated in Berlin, he came to the United States in 1940. After some years of teaching at Hebrew Union
College, he became Professor of Jewish Ethicsand Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America
in 1945. His works deal with various phases of religion and philosophy, many bearing the stamp of
Hassidism. Heschel played a leading role in many humanitarian causes including the civil rights campaign
and the movement to support Soviet Jewry. He was the first Visiting Professor of the Jewish faith appointed
by the Union Theological Seminary in 1965. Heschel was active in the discussions that served as a prelude
to the Ecumenical Council deliberations on Catholic- Jewish relations. He is the author of "The Earth is
the Lord's", "The Inner Life of the Jew in East Europe", "Man Is Not Alone", "A Philosophy of Religion"
and "The Sabbath - Its Meaning for Modem Man".
"Creating Synagogue Music for America"
Leader, Dr. A. W. Binder, New York City
Hazzan Gershon Ephros
Mr. Herbert Fromm
Mr. Sholom Secunda
The topic of this morning's discussion I would like to amend just a little. It is entitled,
"Creating Synagogue Music in America." I would like to say "Creating and Atmosphere for
Synagogue Music in America. "
It has been my dream for a long time to see the faculties, students and alumni members
of all three cantorial schools in America assembled together to discuss common problems. It
took a long time coming, but thank God that prejudices were forgotten and that we have at
least made a beginning. Let us hope that this will develop and continue for the glory of God
and our synagogue musical art.
We are today going through a transitory period in our synagogues. The ears of our liste-
ners have changed over the last 20-25 years. The same ears that listen to music on radio, tele-
vision, recordings, and concerts come to the synagogue. Music and performances with which
we were able to get away with 20 years ago are no longer accepted. Our young people are
musically educated and if the music of the synagogue annoys them and their elders, they simply
won't come. That is why we hear in so many quarters of bad attendances at Sabbath services.
Synagogue choral music may be divided into 4 subdivisions. One, it may be just sacred
music, like much of the music of Sulzer or Lewandowski. It may be sacred and modal. Here
I refer to the harmonization which is one of the big problems in synagogue music, like the
Ahavas Olom by Jacobi, or Mi C ha mocha by Freed in the Sabbath Morning service. It may be
sacred, modal and Jewish like Bloch's Sacred Service or Weinberg's "May the Words" in unison
Service; or Freed' s Shiru Ladonai in the evening service. And the fourth is, it may be sacred,
modal, Jewish and traditional. By traditional I mean based on the nusach hatefilah of the
particular time. Not a Sabbath morning nusach on Friday evening, or a Rosh Hashono nusach
at a service of the Sholosh R egolim So I say that the fourth is sacred, modal, Jewish and tra-
ditional. When I refer to our Jewish musical tradition, I mean the nusach hatefilah. The latter
is, of course, the most genuine type of synagogue music and the most desirable.
We are fortunate in this country to have witnessed a renaissance of synagogue music
which is the most significant in our history. We have composed more synagogue music,
published and performed more good synagogue music than any other country in the world,
including Israel. Nowhere in the world are there as many publishers who devote themselves
to the publication of synagogue music as in this country. The imposing exhibition which you
have in the back of this room is proof of this fact. Synagogue music composers are grateful
Delivered at the 14th Annual Convention, April 1961
to the many synagogues which have made it possible, by the way of excellent choirs and organ-
ists, to perform this music. The cantorial schools are sending out cantors who know what
good synagogue music should be, and its bibliography.
Many synagogues in the past quarter of a century have engaged as organists and choir
directors highly trained Jewish musicians. The trained ears of many congregants have made it
possible for new Jewish music to be introduced and the National Jewish Council has helped,
through Jewish Music Month, to make synagogue music a chief attraction, at least, for one
month during the year.
We must constantly strive to raise the standards of performance in our synagogues. Wc
can attract the worshipper only when he gets that inspiration in the synagogue which he doesn't
get in front of a T.V. set on Friday evening. Great choral music can be performed only by
professional singers or highly trained volunteers (which are only too rare.) Volunteers are
generally undependable and must of necessity stick to a monotonous repertoire in most cases,
thereby shutting out from your service the important synagogue music. Congregations will
pay the printer, the plumber, the janitor, but where music is concerned they want to econo-
What about congregational singing? I have felt for a long time that some of the tunes
which we now call traditional, such as Shema Yisrael, Kedusha, Hodo A 1 Eretz, Ein Kelohenu
and many others, are, first of all, not Jewish tunes and do not express the meaning and majesty
of these texts. I am very happy to say that in the publications of the Cantors Assembly of
congregational tunes, (Zamru Lo, Volumes I and 11) many very beautiful and genuinely Jewish
tunes are included. One of them is, of course, a favorite, not only of mine, but also of my
grandchildren, Cantor Nathanson's Hazz on Et Ha-olam which is a very beautiful tune and a
very fine Jewish tune. These must be repeated. There are still a lot of cheap little tunes,
liedelach, being badly sung in many synagogues every Saturday by our congregations. Of
necessity these must be repeated from week to week and year to year. The service is bound to
lose its spiritual inspiration and become monotonous.Congregation singing should not dominate
the service. There should be a balance between good choral music and congregational partici-
Years ago when congregations went out to look for a cantor, they looked for a voice,
like three hands in a poker game looking for a fourth hand. They don't go out looking for a
person, they go out looking for a hand. We need a fourth hand. Congregations went out to
look for a voice. It was that much impersonal. Sometimes they did manage to get a man with
a voice, but one who was trained by a phonograph company. I sometimes refer to these
phonograph-trained hazzanim as "phonies." Thank God that our cantorial schools and our
cantorial assemblies are gradually eliminating this evil.
Last year there was this big discussion in Israel, "Who is a Jew'?" This morning I want to
raise the question, who is a hazzan?
One, he must have a secular education. Two, he must have a Jewish education. Three, he
must be a trained musician. Four, he must have piety or else he has no business in this pro-
fession. Five, he must have a voice. I place the voice at the very end because some of our
greates cantors in cantorial history had almost no voice at all. Take for example, Avraham
Trottenberg, with whom I sang as a child; Zeidel Rovner, Moses Tobiansky and others. They
and their works will be remembered for generations to come, long after the great-voice-cantors
will have been forgotten. Of course, we had our Rosenblatts, Rutmans and Roitmans, but
one does not come to the synagogue today just to hear a voice. One comes to hear a Sheliah
Tsibur and all that it entails. I should like to see abolished, gentlemen, from the practice, the
patch-quilt type of recitative and choral piece. I refer to the process of taking a piece from
here and a piece from there and patching it together into one composition. One would never
think of performing in this manner in the musical world, and wc are part of the musical world,
a movement of a Beethoven symphony followed by a movement by Mozart and then a move-
ment by Haydn or Tchaikovsky and calling it a symphony. We must also be careful not to
allow impurities such as Western influences to enter our nusach ha-tefilah. We must strive to
keep it pure. We must aim to find out what is right and what is wrong; what is accepted as
the authentic nusach. Tradition is something which is not passively inherited but something
to be attained by great lahour. There are many sources, gentlemen, where this can be checked.
Imagine, if each cantor contributes only one wrong note and one change into our nusach
ha-tefilah, how disfigured it can become in only one generation.
In my practice as a synagogue musician I've always had goals. I never perform a piece
just for the sake of performing it. It must have a reason and a purpose at all times. Even a
response must have its reason and purpose and atmosphere and spirit. What should be the goals
of synagogue music at our service today'?
One, to establish a synagogue atmosphere. Two, to awaken the spirtitual qualities in
man. Three, to exalt the spirit. Four to aid him in the concentration on prayer. To achieve
a state of kavanah. Five, to aid him in achieving a prayerful spirit, which is almost the same
Recently at a metting of the Jewish Forum, I heard Dr. Hugo Weisgal speak on Jewish
music and the Jewish composer. He gave us his list of Jewish composers. They included
Meyerberg, Offenbach, Halevy, Mendelsohn, Schoenberg, Bloch, Milhaud, Diamond, Foss, etc.
I would like to give you my list: Engel, Milner, Rosofsky, Achron, Alman, Bloch, Freed,
Binder, Chajes, Fromm, Shalit, Weiner, Helfman, Ephros, Silver, Zilberts, Secunda. If it were
not for this latter list, I doubt, gentlemen, whether we would be sitting here this morning
discussing the subject of synagogue music in America.
When I came to Israel three years ago, I was introduced to a venerable Rosh Yeshiva,
Rabbi Gordon of the Lomzer Yeshiva. He asked how cantors are trained in America. I told
him that I had been teaching young cantors. So he asked me, "Are they teaching da lifne
mi ata omed in your school?" I told him they do not teach it but the knowledge is in their
blood and in their bones because in the modem congregation the cantor has to face the congre-
gants. If they fear the congregations of lay people how should I feel at this moment when I
face you, my dear colleagues and such illustrious men around me. You can just imagine how
this weighs heavy on me. However, I am confident, because I feel that there is a current of
friendship coming to me from you and this is giving me the courage and the strength to over-
come that fear, I don't want to say hin'ni heani mi-maas for this would be saying a lie, but I
almost felt like saying nirash venifhad I hope that with your help I will be able to do my
share this morning. However, I want you to know that when I get through perhaps you will
not be so very happy about me because I feel that I am not going to sing your praise. I feel
that we have a great deal to achieve. We have a long road and that is as the phrase in Hebrew
goes, rabbah hamlakha v'arukha haderekh. It is a long road.
While we have a great deal to be happy about when I look back to years ago, we cannot
overlook the condition in the cantorate. Many of us have adopted the road of least resistance.
We live from hand to mouth and are not interested so much to elevate the cantorate as much
as to please the congregants. Of course, I am happy to see, especially today, that we can look
forward to hearing tonight new compositions, which for the first time in the history of any
cantorial organization were commissioned. I would say the best brains of American Jewish
composers were asked to write for the synagogue. This is a great event. But I would like to
ask you, are you all going to use that music?
Now, I come to the point. I shall read to you what I have prepared. It is not very long.
As you can see I have only three pages.
Fifteen years ago our dear frined, Dr. Joseph Yasser wrote an article in the Menorah
Journal, entitled, "Jewish Composer, Look Within." The ideas expressed therein are as perti-
nent and vital today as they were then. However, much creativity has taken place since that
plea by many Jewish musicians of different schools of thought. These may be divided into
two main streams-those writing within and those writing from without. Yet it is of interest
to note that there has been a gradual rapproachment between the two, a so-called movement
to the center. The composers from within assimilating the musical form and language of our
time with sensitivity and aesthetic pertinance; composers from without rediscovering the vigor
and potency of the authentic Jewish idiom.
This change is not an accidental one nor has it come to pass through wishful thinking.
Both schools of thought have been making the supreme effort, in order to achieve organic
unity between the Jewish traditional "melos" and the musical craftmanship of our day.
These creating from without realized that Jewish music worthy of the name must be rooted
to the tradition of its people, its history, lore and legend. In short, its way of life. Those
working from without realized that horizons must be broadened so that our tradition is seen
in the total context of world culture.
Dr. Jacob Agus in a recent paper on Conservative philosphy writes: "To understand
a people or tradition is to analyze it into the component parts and then to put the parts into
the universal category into which they belong. All religious traditions are unique as chemical
compounds are unique, but compounds consist of elemental parts which are universal. What
of the vitality of our traditional songs, so often asked by my young fellow composers. I have
to find an answer. Not only do they express the thought that it lacks vitality but they even
say that East-European music is ghetto music, and they sneer at it. In answer let me para-
phrase Chaim Nachman Bialik from his Divre Sifrut, speaking of the vitality of Halacha, that
great structure which was built hundreds and hundreds of years. What does it mean for the
Jew today? And he says that these are the questions that are put before him. Shall we ever
bring forth living waters from this rock? His answer is yes. Yes, if God's staff is in our hands
and the living spirit in our hearts.
It is the same. The gifted man creates out of the tradition, of the East-European tradition,
that monument, that will live forever.
But here I come to ourselves, the cantors. It is the cantorate, however, which can make
this new fertile creativity live. Though mindful of the cantor's dilemma who would advance
his art and would please his congregants - yet we have in our very midst pioneers who are
experimenting with new music and are winning over the sympathetic ear fro the creative
efforts of our contemporaries. They plead like Antony in Julius Caesar, ahenu b'nai yisrael
"give us your ears." Similarly, I would say to you shelichei tsibur, give us your ears. But
ears will not open without an intensive study of present day music.
Please, dear colleagues, do not suspect me of pleading the cause of Arnold Shoenberg's
Appropos of this I would quote my friend Dr. Werner's statement, or part of his article
in The Reconstruct! onist, in tribute to my unforgettable friend, Dr. Isadore Freed: "The
three great masters of art music in the synagogue are Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud and Arnold
Schoenberg. They all came from the periphery of Judaism and endeavored each in his own
way to draw near the essence of Jewish melos and Jewish spirit." Certainly Bloch and Milhaud
have made a very important contribution to the Jewish service. I would add the name of
Joseph Achron and I would add the names of the illustrious composers who are with us today.
I, however, question Arnold Schoenberg 's contribution to Jewish religious worship. This
intellectual giant who orbited into space long before the Russian Yuri Gargarin and who ad-
vanced music many years ahead, has with his Kol Nidre and Psalm 130 made a contribution
to the universal art of the 12 tone system, but not to art music in the synagogue.
Our esteemed friend, Herbert Fromm, who is here with us, wrote a striking evaluation
of Psalm 130 in connection with the long article about the Vinaver Anthology where that
Psalm is included. And I quote him: "this work is a delicate maze of the most subtle, unsing-
able chromatic counterpoint. The difficulties are so forbidding that we doubt if the effect
in performance would ever be commensurate with the ardous labors of preparation. One
stands in awe before this terrifying piece of paper music that seems destined to remain buried
within the pages of this expensive anthology as in a satin-line coffin." The way he described
this piece of music was extraordinary.
But there are extremists to the right who would entertain the worshippers with their
own special brand of musical cocktail rather than ennoble and purify the soul.
In conclusion may I say that for the cantorate to survive as a sacred art in this age of
creative plenty, hazzanut in its noblest from, embodying every tradition mi-mizrah umimaarav,
mitzafon umidarom should become a source of inspiration so that both cantors and compo-
sers together may create an idiom that is new in form yet old in content speaking the voice of
Yisrael saba, in accents of a revitalized and rejuvenated people a music that will ring forth
with the vigor of youth and the spirit of the pioneer. Composer and cantor shall thus be the
vanguard of a new renaissance in our sacred music. Their dreams and aspirations shall embrace
our people's destiny and that of all created b'tzelem Elohim.
Distinguished colleagues, hazzanim, guests: I shall read a short statement of 4 points,
not really a speech and this might induce a discussion. My first point:
I rest the case for the use of a contemporary musical idiom in synagogues on the premise
that there exists natural kinship between the means of contemporary music and the require-
ments of Hebrew melos. The free meters of Hebrew declamation are met by flexible use
of musical time signature and irregular length of musical periods. The mode kind of Hebrew
melody, the traditional or freely invented, can be convincingly interpreted by modern chord
structures, by polyphonic devices, by judicious use of unison, and other means.
My second point: The American synagogue should broaden its culture by taking in
some of the melodic material of Oriental Jewish communities as presented in the work of
Idelsohn. As example, I give you the composer Heinrich Shalit who, in his Friday Eve litur-
gy, has shown the way to a successful integration. I refer specifically to such pieces as Tov
L'hodot, L'cho Dodi, Vahavba and Yevarechacha.
Third point: Modern architecture in the building of new synagogues is now generally
accepted. Music need not stay behind this trend for contemporary expression. I am not
speaking here for a modernism which is widely experimental. I mean a modernism that
respects traditional values and understands the role of music within the framework of liturgy.
These requirements, in my mind, are best met by people who spend a lifetime in the synagogue.
Outsiders of great talent have also contributed to synagogue music but I have always found
that they have just missed the liturgical tone which cannot be heard from the outside. The
best of the old material should be retained, but the younger generation of worshippers, no
longer attached to the style of 19th century Ashkenazic idiom, will welcome new territory.
My 4th point is merely practical. We must expect congregational resistance and we need
patient education by which steady progress can be made possible. Let me also say that while
many new works will not last, some will, if given the chance. New today, thry will in due
time acquire the cloak of tradition as much as compositions of the 19th century, not based
on specific tradition, like Lewandowski's 115th Psalm, have become standard in the reprtoire
of the synagogue. I would welcome your reactions later to this point.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished composers, hazzanim, ladies and gentlemen: First I must
ask forgiveness for not having prepared a speech, I always ask to speak last, if I can help it,
because if I hear other speakers speak first, I have enough to learn from them to know what
to say when they get through. So today while I listened as intently as you did to all the
speakers, I made some notations and from now on, I shall go on my own.
I was primarily very much impressed, last night, with the address by Rabbi Sandrow and
I felt that the same address could have been applied, very easily, by a musician for musicians,
quoting him practically verbatum, only interpreting them as a musician, as a composer.
I am the one who probably today and ever before, always find myself on the battle field.
For example, when I listened today I'm fully in accord with everything I have heard thus far.
Yet when all these things come into practice that's where I begin to take my guns out all over
again because that's where I disagree with the end results. Everyone speaks of Nusach Ha-tefilah.
Everyone speaks of how important it is to keep the synagogues as synagogues and yet when we
examine thoroughly, when we scrutinize the works of the modern composers, of the American
Jewish composers of today, we must recognize the fact that they deviate from all of those
things that have been advocated today. That of course goes not for all but for some.
The rabbi last night said, he tried to stress the importance for the need for religious com-
mitment and this is what I would like to see in all the compositions that we do. I wish to see
in all our service that religious commitment, but, I want to add to that religious commitment
the adjective "Jewish". We hear a good many services where we can hear religious commit-
ment but not Jewish religious commitment. That is what I desperately oppose. I want
Jewish religious commitment in our services.
He was talking about making an end to the chaos that exists today in our synagogues.
And I wholeheartedly support that but we find that chaos all over, in all our various forms of
We that find chaos with the Orthodox cantors who resort to acrobatics, unneccessary
acrobatics in their service, but we also find that in the Reform service where we do not find
any Jewish sentiment at all.
I must proudly say and happily say that in my travels throughout the land I find a great
change even in the Reform movement. I can go in and I can hear in a Reform synagogue a
Hassidic melody beautifully performed. It does my heart good. But this chaos must be done
away with all over, in every synagogue. How ? By using the proper methods to which we will
His talk on dedication to hazzanut has a distinct significance for me. (And this is where
I am going to differ a little bit in the 5 point program listed by my distinguished colleague,
Professor Binder.) I agree with every one of those 5 requirements he listed but not in the
same category. What he put at the end, I would put at the first. That would be my first
We read and we all all familiar with that requirement: that only those who had pleasant
voices were to sing praises to the Lord. My dear fellow hazzanim, if the voice will be put at
the end of the list, every rabbi could replace you because every rabbi is a frustrated hazzan.
Of course, I agree wholeheartedly that every hazzan must learn nusach. In the greatest number
of cases nusach is the important thing if one wants to be a hazzan. I even go a step further.
The use, the improvisation of nusach is very important for a hazzan. And, of course, the
musical training is important. I agree with the rest. Only that I would not put the voice at
the end. I would put it at the top. Without that we don't need hazzanim; everybody, the
shamash, could also be a hazzan.
The rabbi spoke, last night, of the importance of having an image. This is the important
thing. I think we all agree on that. We all spoke about that but not in the same terms. Image
_ we must create in our service, in our compositions for the synagogue. We must create
something that will bear that Jewish image which for thousands of years has been carried as
a burden on the shoulders of every Jew who survived the diaspora. That image-what is hap
pening to that image today? When we use modern techniques of composition-I don't re-
buke that statement and I don't oppose that statement-but by means of modern techniques
when we change our image, I say no modern techniques.
First of all our image-I want to be able to recognize you as a Jew. Don't put on all sorts
of masks for me where when I see you I don't know where you belong. First of all, I want
to know where do you belong. I want to know what do you stand for. If there is no diffe-
rence in our liturgy then why make an issue of it altogether. But there is a difference in our
liturgy. No one denies that fact whether you are in the Reform, Conservative or Orthodox
movement. You do not deny the fact that there is an image, that there is a difference between
one liturgy and another. Therefore, let us stick to our liturgy and I think that we have the
right and the strong desire to recreate it, to stick to our image because our liturgy is rich; our
liturgy is old and many other liturgies learned from our liturgy. Therefore, we should not run
away from our liturgy.
I hear all rabbis in their sermons stressing the point of kashrut. Fine. But kashrut is only
the element for the kishke. Where is the Kashrut for your spiritual satisfaction? This is the
kashrut that I want to see in our service. We as musicians, as hazzanim, as composers, we must
watch for that kashrut very seriously to see that that kashrut is not violated. We want to have
that kashrut in the nusach ha-tefilah. We don't want any fancy farmonies or any fancy organ
accompaniment to cover up the nusach ha-tefilah.
I certainly love to hear very interesting accompaniments; very interesting organ preludes;
interludes and postludes in the background to the services because I think that the organ gives
something to the service. If we don't understand verbatum our prayers, the organ, that accom-
paniement, that harmonic treatment, that rhythmic pattern, help to give us greater under-
standing of the service. But when we allow ourselves to put the organ accompaniment, the
heavy harmonic treatment, above the nusach and above the liturgy, you forget to listen to the
hazzan, forget to listen to the nusach ha-tefilah, forget to listen to the prayer, just listen to
the organ, that I oppose.
Cantor Ephros very beautifully spoke of this da lifne mi ata omed. Only I should like to
put my own interpretation to that, if there are no objections on your part. Da//fnemiata
omed must have a different significance and that will refer to our services, our music. We want
to know, once and for all, is the synagogue Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera House or
is it a night club? I find all these three elements in our services. I hear very often in an ortho-
dox Shul music that would not even be tit in a night club. On the other hand, I hear in a
Reform or even Conservative synagogue music that would maybe fit Carnegie Hall but not the
Da lifne mi a ata omed! You must once and for all decide are you a cantor, an opera
singer? Are you writing music for Carnegie Hall or are you writing music for your congrega-
tion, for the worshipper to come to pray and to listen to. If this is what he comes for, this
is what you must give him. This is my interpretation of da lifne mi ata omed.
In conclusion I'll just say this.
I oppose this business of making our temples, our synagogues laboratories for composers.
I strongly oppose when a composer, who failed to do his homework when he was a student in
school, comes now to do homework and practices it on the worshipper. That I oppose. The
synagogue, the temple is not a laboratory. I do believe in experimental works in so far as our
liturgy is concerned. That is what we are here for. If we are new composers, if we want to
bring something new, some fresh blood and something interesting to our liturgy, (I believe
in that) we must make experiments-only along the prescribed lines. We must not deviate
and not go on wrong paths, and not to lose the address of our synagogues.
Needless to say, as a contemporary Jewish musician, I didn't agree with all that Mr. Secunda
said. I am glad that he agreed with me, but I think that he misunderstood me. When I gave
you the 5 requirements for a hazzan and put the voice at the end, I didn't mean to minimize
voice. It is important, but, gentlemen, this has been the plague of your profession. Do you
realize that up to the time that the cantorial schools were organized that every frustrated
opera singer became a hazzan. He didn't know peirush hamilos; he was a phonograph cantor.
This was the plague of your profession. Anybody who had some sort of a voice became a
hazzan. I am not afraid of a rabbi becoming a hazzan. I am not afraid of a shamash becoming
a hazzan. Don't worry about them. They have their own work. What I am afraid of is that
everybody who has a voice and after he has been a failure in every other profession, in every
other phase of the music profession, he finally says, perhaps I will become a hazzan. That is
the plague of your profession.
That is why I said that first he must have an education, he must be a mentsh, he must
have a Jewish education, he must be a pious person, and then, if he has a voice avada gul.
I must tell you about a man who gave me a great deal of inspiration (I spend my sum-
mers on Lake Placid). There was a little shul there where I used to go on Friday evenings.
They couldn't afford a cantor and a rabbi so they had both professions merged into one. He
didn't have much of a voice, but when he stood there on Friday evenings, I felt that it was
Friday evening. There was atmosphere of the Friday evening service-there was the nusach
ha-tefila, there was the sweetness that went along with it. A man that has only a voice is not
able to do that, don't kid yourselves about it. It sounds very good. Mr. Secunda is very adept.
He has great experience in the theater and so on. It sounded very funny and I am sure that
you are all tickled by it, but this has been the plague of your profession. Now we are trying
to wipe that out. There are the free-lancers who are amoratzim and who defile our profession
and it is for this reason that we felt it very important to organize the cantorial schools, to
eliminate this, just this, the fourth hand in poker.
I have very many reasons to admire Mr. Secunda' s eloquence. He speaks beautifully, with
great fire, but above all with pertinence. His logic is like the logic of a man who says the pig
is a dirty animal, change his name. He starts the other way around. He first begins to dismiss
all we call progress but he fails to say just where those instances are. Now, he speaks of the
Jewish image. This is a very broad statement. We are not here to philosophize, we are here
to speak tachlis. We ask what is a Jew? The answers are nothing to me but a hazy statement.
I think this is what he means: his image of a Jew which might not be everybody's image of
a Jew. There are many ways of being a Jew.
Nay, he complains about fancy harmony, over-loaded organ accompaniments that cover
the nusach ha-tefila Let me say just this: the better composers of the progressive school in
synagogue music are very adept in handling organ accompaniments. There are some of the
older school, I will admit, that did write very heavy, very undistinguished piano-like accom-
paniment for the organ which never sounded good on the organ. The better composers who
know the organ, may be organists themselves, do better.
This business of fancy harmony. Again, he used the word "fancy" which is such a de-
rogatory term. There is a demagogic element in just using the term "fancy". It is a degradation
of what should be called progressive harmony. There was a time, let me recall, when a man
like Wagner wrote Tristan This could have been called fancy harmony and it was. If we had
stopped at what Mr. Secunda would call the image of music of the time, we would never
have gone beyond dominant tonic relationships. Music has made immense progress. We
hear now Wagner's Tristan even whistled on the street. If we don't begin with new concepts
I doubt that there will be progress. I will admit, and think that Mr. Secunda is completely
right, that sometimes the synagogue is no more than a laboratory for a new composer to try
out his talents. Maybe that's true. I think it is not true in many instances, but again we only
have success by also admitting failures. There is no other way of getting there if we don't
have the patience with failures. But anybody who is set on progress must accept this fact of
failures. Thank you.
For the interpretation of da lifne mi ata omed Mr. Secunda, my dear friend, referred to
my interpretation, I simply stated the facts. We know that it should be the tradition of the
Jew to have the fear of the Lord in his heart.
Sulzer's B' Rosh Hashana, or Lewandowski's Ki Keshimcho and Weintraub's Ki Keshimcho,
arc great pieces that will survive. That doesn't mean that because these composers produced
great masterpieces in a limited musical vocabulary that we must stick to that vocabulary today.
Today we have been enriched with great new sounds. I don't say that we shall use the color
of the theater in the synagogue but the Jewish composer today is a child of his period and if
we have not yet today a Bartok of our own, we listen to Bartok and we see what he did in
this age. Wc are children and we are listening to the music of the masters and we are inevitably
influenced by them. Therefore, our program, our progress in synagogue music must go on
because we have a long ways to go. Music is only, comparatively a few hundred years old,
especially our music which has been dormant for so long. We are just awakening and the future
is a future of progress.
We have with us also, as you know, Lazar Weiner, a distinguished composer of synagogue
music and a distinguished musician. Mr. Weiner has asked to say a few words.
We listen to music through our ears; very often it misses our minds. Tonight we are per-
forming 16 compositions. They are completely new for you. I am sure that when we are through
with the 16th, you will not know one from the other, for the simple reason that Ki Ke-shimcho
you have heard so many times, and the Rosh Hashana masterpieces are in your blood. You
have to get acquainted. I would suggest that you get hold of a copy. I know when I have to
listen to a new compostion, I buy it and I go to Carnegie Hall and follow the score. Whatever
it is, buy it. If you don't have enough money buy only my I am very serious. I
strongly suggest, get hold of the music. We shall see that you will have light so that you will
be able to follow to see what mistakes we make and see those harmonies which my other
colleagues are talking about. Thank you.
We shall hear from Mr. Secunda (very briefly, 1 hope) because we want to hear questions
from the others.
I just want to make briefly these remarks that maybe I misunderstood some of my
colleagues but I am afraid that my colleagues completely missed the point that I was striving
for. I would like to tell my friend, Dr. Binder, about his gramaphone-record cantors, that his
5 point program did not wipe out these "cantors" because 1 can list at least a dozen cantors
who hold positions now, particularly in Reform synagogues that read the Hebrew script. This
was not wiped out. I still maintain that a hazzan, if not for the voice, forget the Cantors
Assembly. I would also like to tell my friend Fromm that I was not referring to the image,
What is a Jew? or What makes a Jew? That is not my concern but the concern of the rabbi.
1 am concerned with what makes Jewish liturgical music. 1 want the image of Jewish liturgical
music to remain. It remained for thousands of years and I don't want, through the methods
of laboratory, to do away with the image of Jewish liturgical music. I also want to point
out, contrary to what Mr. Fromm said about the modern composers of today regarding organ
music. I am sure Mr. Fromm knows it if he listens to all the lastest works as 1 did, that even
those composers who are themselves professional organists, those are more guilty than those
who do not know how to play the organ. They make the organ an organ solo and forget the
service completely. That I have heard myself. As to the term "fancy harmony" if I had not
been talking to musicians, I would not have used that term. I don't get scared of modern har-
monization. I hear it every night in my capacity as music critic, I listen to everything-what
like and what I don't like- and I say my opinion after that. When 1 say "fancy harmony"
it is the term that I try to apply when some composers try to be fancy or out-landishly fancy
and forget the words, forget the prayer, forget the meaning of the prayer and forget the
meaning of each word and cover it up with a chord that has abslutely no relation to the word
or to the prayer; that's what 1 mean by "fancy harmony". As to your contention about
Wagner's contribution although I disagree with you about people whistling Tristan and Isol-
de on the street. If they do I would like you to give me the address of those streets, I would
like to go to listen to them whistle Tristan.
DR. A. W. BINDER was born January 5, 1895 in New York City. The son of a cantor, he became familiar
at an early age with Jewish music. He receive his musical education at Columbia University where he was
awarded the Mosenthal Fellowship in Music in 1918. For more than three decades he was Professor of
Liturgical Music at Hebrew Union College. He was a prolific composer of sacred and secular music. Among
his sacred works is the popular hymn "Come Sabbath Day". During his many years as Director of the 92nd
Street Y.M.H.A. he distinguished himself as a choral conductor. He is the author of many articles on Jewish
music which have been widely published. Upon conferring the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Hebrew
Letters, the president of Hebrew Union College had this to say: "Dr. Binder is a gifted teacher, a creative
composer, a talented conductor, and a pioneer in the field of Jewish music". Among his compositions are
included, "Kabbalat Shabbat", "Esther, Queen of Persia", "Palestinian Song Suite" and many others.
CERSHON EPHROS was born in Serotzk, Poland in the year 189 1. At an early age he already had a
thorough knowledge of Eastern synagogue music. While yet in his teens he became Cantor and Choir
Master in Sgersh. Moving to Palestine he became acquainted with Idelson who gave him further instruction
in hazzanut and in the Hebrew language. He then came to the United States where he served as Hazzan
in Norfolk, Va., New York City, and finally, in 1929, at Temple Mordecai in Perth Amboy, N. J. In addition
to his fine compositions, we are indebted most to Hazzan Ephros for his magnificent 6 volume Cantorial
HERBERT FROMM, composer, was born February 23, 1905 in Kitzingen, Germany. He studied composition,
conducting, piano, and organ at the State Academy in Munich. From 1930 to 1933 he was opera conductor
in Bielefeld on Werzberg. The rise of the Nazi movement brought him to America in 1937 where he assumed
the post of Organist and Music Director of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo. In 1941 he accepted the same
position with Tempe Israel in Boston, from which post he will retire this year. His compositions include
works for orchestra, chamber music, liturgical music for the synagogue, art and folk songs. In 1945, Fromm
won the Ernest Bloch Award for his choral composition, "Song of Miriam".
SHOLOM SECUNDA, distinguished composer, was born August 23, 1894 in Alexandria, in the Ukraine.
He came to this country at an early age as a wunderkind hazzan. When he lost his voice he began to study
music formally at Columbia University; theory, counterpoint and composition at the Institute of Musical
Art, and instrumentation with Ernest Bloch. His name is synonymous with the Jewish musical theater as
the composer of over 60 successful operettas. He has also composed a symphonic rhapsody, a string quartet,
an opera "Sulamith", two oratorios "If Not Higher" and "Yizkor" and many Yiddish songs. Mr. Secunda
lectures widely on liturgical music and other aspects of Jewish music.
A FORUM ON SYNAGOGUE MUSIC
"WHAT MAKES SYNAGOGUE MUSIC TRADITIONAL;
HOW IS OUR MUSICAL TRADITION TO BE MAINTAINED?"
Dr. Herman Berlinski
Dr. Joseph Freudenthal
What makes synagogue music traditional; how are music traditions to be maintained?
The word Tradition is open to many interpretations. How you and 1 feel about it will depend
upon our experience, temperment, education and personality. Our attitude toward the old
and the new, toward evolution and revolution, expresses itself in our relation to Tradition.
Because strong emotions can be aroused by the subject, let us first define what tradition is
and what it is not. The Latin root of the word traditio means the handing over, the surrender
of something. According to Webster, "tradition is the oral transmission of opinions, beliefs,
customs, etc. without the aid of written memorials. More generally, any belief, custom, way
of life which has its roots in one's family or racial past; an inherited culture, attitude or the
Like, sometimes long established convention."
Rabbinic authorities teach us minhag hasliuv kudin, tradition is as important as the Law.
Gustav Mahler, a decidedly unrabbinic authority, is quoted as saying, "Tradition is sloppiness,"
or tradition is shloperei or shleperei. The most significant definition of the word Tradition
would seem to be, "a custom so long continued that it has almost the force of the law." The
key word here is almost. When we say that Tradition has almost the force of the law, almost
but not quite, then we have the door open to conscientious examination of values and to
sensible revision, We are able to honor custom based on valid tradition, to question tradition
based on doubtful values. All of us who accept tradition thereby express our belief that the
present cannot live without the past, and that the past remains alive only in a continuing
A tradition that cannot renew itself and draw constant nourishment from our own lives
has no living roots. Like cut flowers, it may retain its beauty for a time, then it must wilt
and die. No one exists in a vacuum. Hayden and Mozart were part of the same culture,
drew on the same sources, benefited from each other's discoveries. That each of them created
a miracle of his own has no bearing on our discussion. What is important for us here is that
Delivered at the 16th Annual Convention, April 1963
they were musicians in a given period, unthinkable in an earlier or later century, expressive of
their own time and place in history of its customs, gestures, attitudes, language and ideas.
Each leaves its stamp upon language and ideals, gestures and social customs; upon a composer's
attitudes toward tonal materials and upon the gestures of his music. What applies to Hayden
and Mozart and to the art music of the time applies equally to Jewish music. Its language and
ideas bear the stamp of the 19th century Germany and Eastern Europe and reflect its customs
and influences A tradition flourishes when it achieves continuity in creating and communi-
cating artistic values out of the realities of human experience. Jewish music of the 18th and
19th centuries succeeded in this. It was progressively shaped by the realities of Jewish exis-
tence during that period, the ghetto, total Jewish living inside the ghetto walls, pogroms,
emancipation, Slavic and German influences. Little in our synagogue music today springs
from the roots of our own existence. Musically we continue to live in the past. When we
sing the beloved old melodies from Europe, we like it known that we sing them with feelings
of nostalgia which means with homesickness. How many of us really do feel homesick for
the world of the European ghettos'? How many of us who love authentic Hassidic music,
who today compose or perform "Hassidic" services could tolerate living for even one week as
Hassidim in a Hassidic community, say in Williamsburgh, Toronto or Jerusalem'? Are we
taking refuge in the music of the past because we have no relation to the music of the present'?
True, many congregations now annually pay their respect to Ernest Bloch, In increasing
numbers we like to give "first performance" of a contemporary piece during Jewish Music
Festivals, preferably of a new work in the old style, one that is not too unconventional and is
by a "safe" composer. With the exception of this high adventure once a year we peacefully
adhere to the established norm, namely, 19th century European tradition. Meanwhile, the
techniques of contemporary music, its vocabulary and tonal resources have left us in the music
of the synagogue, and to a lesser degree, of the church, which is far behind. Audience capa-
city and tolerance for contemporary sound has advanced significantly. All of us are exposed
daily to complicated modern scores and to electronic music on EM or as accompaniment to
films and television programs. There is no documentary or industrial film, no DuPont or U.S.
Steel commercial without a modern and often highly original score; 9 and 10 year old children
spontaneously sing a dozen pages from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" by ear, as if it
were from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. They never heard anything about difficult
intervals, complex rhythms or asymetical phrase structures. They just like it and they sing
Today our congregants are better conditioned to listen to contemporary music in the
synagogue and accept it than at any time before. They are probably far ahead of our estimate
In the Arabic countries, where there is a closed musical tradition that rejects the modifying
influences of changing times, music remains in it primitive tribal ancestral state. In Spain where
there is a strong musical tradition with distinctive and typical characteristics, even the well-
trained musician is hard put to tell on first hearing an unfamiliar composition. Conformity
has all but wiped out individual quality and creative diversion. Jewish music could, concei-
vably, suffer the same fate unless we foster the development of our tradition and guard it
against conformity and parochialism.
The familiar argument "it was good enough for my fathers, it's good enough for me,"
should not be raised here. We are, after all, not discussing Biblical law or religious concepts
but music. Our music is not misinai; it was not divinely ordained but is the work of human
beings, of fallible human beings like you and me. It is, therefore, permissible to question,
to reinterpret, to develop and change if need be, in accordance with the needs of our own
lives. Before attempting to answer the questions, "What makes synagogue music traditional
and how can the traditions be maintained," I should like to ask four questions myself:
1. Why must 20th century synagogue music be 19th century music?
2. Why must Jewish music in America be Slavic or German music?
3. Why is Jewish music prevalently spoken of in terms of its Jewishness rather than in
terms of music?
4. Why do we permit the most ancient and authentic part of our musical tradition
to suffer by turning the kriat haTorah over to Readers who will not or cannot make it a dig-
nified and beautiful part of the service?
As you will have noticed I am hesitating to give a direct answer to the question, "What
makes Jewish music traditional?" It would be easy enough to get around it by answering,
adherence to nusach hatefillah and to certain established musical customs and characteristics.
But that would be avoiding the issue. One could very well use nusach hatefillah and still come
up with a very bad composition, innocent of any musical craftsmanship. Why, it has been
done hundreds of times and you and I know many examples. One could also use authentic
Jewish melodies and come up with some things that sound anything but Jewish, like Ravel's
Kaddish, which sounds French. Lastly, one could blithely write Traditional music in the
best or second best 19th century style as so many do as if word had not got around yet that
the 20fh century has been with us for sometime now.
These Traditionalists apparently believe that Tradition is dead or cannot live in our time
so they seek refuge in the past. A composition for the synagogue in our time must, in my
opinion, fulfill a number of requirements, among them the following:
1. It should truly be a religious statement; that is, a musical expression of man's search
2. It should be an honest, distinctive and personal statement made by a musical crafts-
man who masters form and the art of vocal writing.
3. It should reveal kinship with the spirit and meaning of the holy text, and an affinity
for the beauty and complexity of the Hebrew language.
4. It should reveal the composer's links with the past and with the present alike. It
should be evident that he is simultaneously, like others before him, and yet not like others
We are taught, "minhag hashuv kadin, " tradition is as important as the Law and we are
taught, "shiru la' adoshem shir hadash," Sing unto the Lord a new song. There is no real
contradiction between the two statements. Neither newness nor oldness, youth nor age gives
value to a synagogue composition. It will be entitled to become or to remain part of our
tradition only by virtue of its musical and religious validity.
Dr. Joseph Freuden t /a/;
Dear friends, when four people have to speak on the same subject, people who have given
it a lot of thought, it is inevitable that they express similar thoughts, especially when there are
areas in which you will find a great kinship of thinking. It was not surprising to me that
Erwin Jospe, in his splendid paper, expressed some ideas which I had incorporated in my
statement. I shall skp them when reading the statement to avoid repetition.
Three weeks ago I was invited to speak from the pulpit of B'nai Jeshrurun in New York
on a related subject, very closely related subject. I called it, "Synagogue Music, A Constant
Challenge. " There, addressing a sizable Sabbath morning congregation of laymen, about 800
people attended, I stressed the great spiritual and historic values inherent in our Jewish musical
heritage with its colorful fabric.
Here, before an Assembly of men trained in this heritage and dedicated to it, it seems
to me quite superfluous to point out the areas of general agreement. I consider it more fruitful
to approach our subject from a broader point of view that degree of scientific detachment so
frequently absent in discussions by persons who are too close to a matter. In forming opi-
nions and reaching conclusions I might have one small technical advantage over my learned
co-panelists, and in fact, over almost all of you. No, I do not mean by looking at hundreds
of manuscripts, good or bad, during the course of the year, because you, too, took at dozens
of published works, good and bad. What I do mean is that on every Shabbat and YomTov
of the year, you officiate in the same house of worship. I, not being in the employ of any
synagogue, can attend services in many places and listen, absorb and compare. I believe that
this variety of experience is conducive to the broadening of one's outlook. Jewish music in
general, and synagogue music in particular, has developed a terminology, a somewhat nebulous
expression of outright misnomer. You speak of Recitative in which the one who chants does
less reciting, elaborating and embellishing. You speak of the art of cantorial improvisation, but
there is less spontaneous creation in it, less improvising than there is the proven pattern tried
out and applied time and again before. But the vaguest of all terms, seems to me, the word
Let us pause for a moment, once more, to define it. The etymological source is clear
as Erwin Jospe has just pointed out. It stems from the Latin word traditio which means
surrender. Tradition, therefore, is to surrender to something which you are expected to accept.
It can mean and does mean different things to different people. It can be as unimportant as
a local custom, the minhag, not binding, for others. It can be magnified in the eyes of its
followers to the status of a law, a mishpat, if not to that of a dogma. There are valid tra-
ditions, meaningful traditions; there are traditions of questionable value. But whether musical
traditions are valid or controversial, identical or diversified, we must emphasize one thing from
the outset. There can be a vast difference between so-called Traditional music on one hand
and the basic modal elements identify the Jewish worship on the other. The nuschaot, the
Biblical cantillations and prayer-modes, which have given and are still giving synagogue music
its distinctive color. To arrive at the constructive clarification, I do not hesitate to point
first at some musical traditions which became established contrary to the musical style or
flavor that was characteristic of our services before. We can understand their introduction
only if we look at the development of synagogue music within the larger framework of the
historical development of the synagogue itself.
You all know that the turning point came during the 19th century when the ghetto walls
crumbled and Emancipation arrived for the Jews in Europe in country after country. Welcome
and long-hoped for as this emancipation was, it created a new anxiety, the fear that the cul-
tural, economic and social equality might make the Jew lose his identity. To counteract this
possibility the synagogue moved toward secularization. A trend that has continued to this
day. The synagogue was no longer only bet hatefillah, it became increasingly bet hakenesset,
the house of assembly, a focal point of Jewish community life, a hub of center activities. The
rabbi's sermon added to the scriptural topics, subjects of more worldly nature, social questions,
political problems, a new play, the latest book, as long as this concerned an area of interest
to the congregant as Jew.
The music of the synagogue emulated this trend. Choral music so effectively employed
for centuries by the churches was introduced into Jewish worship. Professional choir leaders
were engaged and even cantors began to study the techniques of Western compositions and
harmonization. So, culturally, musically, the ghetto Jew became, what I call, the composite
Jew, preserving much of his heritage yet absorbing the new civilization so different, so very
different from that of his past. Small wonder, then, that we find in many works of leading
synagogue composers strong influences of the masters of their era. Shubert in the works of
Solomon Sulzer; Mendelsohn in the case of Louis Lewandowski; Moussorgsky and Tschaikowski
in the case of David Nowakovsky and others of the Russian school.
So we can detect in their musical creations next to the genuine and conventional the
new and alien, next to works that embody our musical heritage like Sulzer' s Uvashofar Gadol
Lewandowski, Zucharti Lach; Nowakovski's Neilah Service; works that seem to say, "Look I
am no longer an accidental occidental, I am as Western as my non- Jewish fellow composer.
And then, the Viennese Waltz, the German lied, and the Russian folk-dance moved into the
synagogue. Some of those musical traditions which are created or were created in the wake
of this development are either a travesty on the meaning of our prayers or an insult to a
better musical taste or both. What made those melodies traditional? Repetition over and
over again, supported by the tunefulness and the simplicity of the melody. It is to the
ever-lasting discredit of the Jewish community that it has accepted Sulzer' s trivial % time tune
for Shema Yisrael as an appropriate expression of one of our loftiest pronouncements, our
proclamation of the monotheism we Jews gave to the world. That it sings again and again
God's praise for having chosen us and sanctified us among all people to the utterly inadequate
merry-go-round from Lewandowski' s Kiddush; that it has made the Lutheran church hymn,
En Kelohenu, by my namesake Julius Freudenthal, part of the ritual, a song which I heard
first in a church with much more fitting words, "Hail to our Savior"; that it still delights in
Naumbourg's grand opera style setting of "Seu Shearim', I am not even speaking of cheap
operations like the Adon Olam polka which fortunately seems to be disappearing from the
scene. They all, and many other conventional pieces, have in common, primitivity of harmo-
nization which almost invariably stays within the three forms of the same key tonic, dominant
and subdominant and sometimes even daring without logical progression to related keys. It is
to the everlasting discredit of the cantorate that it has permitted these pseudo-traditions to be
perpetuated; that it is either too complacent or lacks the necessary stamina to fight for changes,
the desirability of which synagogue musicians have agreed on for the past 25 years; conti-
nuing to condemn these poor traditions but doing nothing about erasing them.
When we call these questionable portions of our musical tradition you will understand
that I am not too happy with the phrasing of our topic of today, especially of the question,
"How is our musical tradition to be maintained?" It sounds to me too indefinite, conveys
a meaning which can hardly be intended. I would like to rephrase it, reading, "To what
extent, and by which means, can we pass our Jewish musical heritage on the future gene-
Let us assume that by our heritage we mean the synagogue music of the Ashkenazic
community, aware of the fact that there is not or never has been absolute conformity or
homogeneity between the various sectors of this majority group of Jewry. I listen and I
say this with candor to friends, I hope you will not misunderstand, I listen with envey to
those of you who constantly use the words nusach, traditional, Yiddishkeit, heimish and
so on, with an aboluteness and self-assuredness as if they were pronouncing values of an
exact science like mathematics. This over-simplification, mainly based on habit and senti-
ment, fails to recognize one basic fact. It holds true of all religious music that the shiduch,
the union between music and religion constitutes, in the final analysis, a mixed marriage.
Two partners are wedded to each other who by their very nature will never be wholly com-
patible, for religion is the realm of ethics. It proclaims the truth; its precepts transcend the
ages. Music, on the other hand, belongs to the area of aesthetics. It expresses man's emo-
tions; its aim is beauty. It develops and changes. Its techniques advance. Exposure to the
contemporary must influence individual tastes a process as inevitable as automation in tech-
nology. Here we have one of the reasons for the specific character of synagogue music.
It will always be a great compromise. The compromise between the past and the future;
between the tradition of yesterday and the innovation of today which might well become
the tradition of tomorrow. It almost seems as if our ancestors realized this when they built
the complex edifice of codified nuschaot but left room for free musical expression for cer-
tain portions of the liturgy like the opening and closing of our Sabbath services, Ma Tovu,
L'cho Dodi, Yigdal, Adon Olam, En Kelohenu, and so on, for which there is no specific
nusach; or the Hayom Teamtzenu, Areshet Sifatenu, and so on. The Jew of the 19th
century could no longer accept the musical forms of the 17th and 18th centuries. So the
synagogue composers of his time created new forms for this heritage. The question must
be aked how long will the 19th century forms of music or music written in our time, in
the style of the 19th century, by composers of the old school, be suited for the Jew of this,
or of the next century? How long will the form of this music suit the young cantor who
is removed from our background, our experience, our sentimental attachments by two or
more generations? I could give you many examples from works in the Transcontinental
catalog which show a most satisfying blending of tradition and contemporary techniques.
However I must refrain from this because it would be embarrassing, singling out one or the
other work among many, many hundreds and slighting the composers of others.
Yet, since the panelists were requested to illustrate, 1 have no other choice but to give
two short examples from my own compositions for the synagogue. More than words they
will convey to you my concept of the direction in which we should go. They are neither
old fashioned nor avante garde. They show an affinity to cantillation which I did not copy
but which I felt right here. My wife, Marie Barova Freudenthal, who has sung for you at
the convention three or four years ago will hep me to present these samples. It will take
only about 3 minutes.
The first example is a setting of a text quite familiar to you, V'Shomru. It moves to 7
different keys as you will detect within the space of 2 pages but the progressions are logical,
I feel that you hardly notice that it moves back and forth.
The second example I would like to give you is the shortest composition I ever wrote.
There are only 24 bars but it has a history which might be interesting to you. I have always
felt in those many visits to many places of worship, that I mentioned before, felt frustrated
when I heard the end of a service. We enter the House of God with great reverence, but
how do wc leave it. There is the hymn, the Benediction, the rabbi turns to the hazzan, says
Gut shabbos and turmoil breaks loose in the house of worship. The worshipfulness has
gone out of the window. It has irked me and I felt that I had to vindicate my family name,
for that En Kelohenu which I mentioned before. So I wrote "Amen", the Amen after the
benediction connected with the words Shabbat Shalom. The choir sings the greeting to the
congregation, while it sings the greeting, rabbi and hazzan can walk out in dignity and then
the service is over. In fact on the left side is a choral arrangement on the right side is an
arrangment for congregational singing. It can also be used as an organ presentation. To my
great satisfaction within the last six weeks, since this is off, this has become a Sabbath tra-
dition in 14 synagogues in New York and New Jersey, of which I know - which is the
nicest thing that can happen to a composer. It is not only performed once but constantly.
It is the great paradox, if you prefer, irony of our time, that the three synagogue services
which musically rank highest were written with conscious disregard for the appropriate nuschaot.
I personally regret it. It cannot be helped. A cry of protest arose when Bloch's Avodat
HaKodesh was first performed - the Sabbath service which is great music, formally contem-
porary, undeniably Jewish and not written in the Ahava R aba mode. Many of the same
hazzanim who protested then present the work now at their Jewish musical festivals or in
part during regular services. The same holds true for Freed' s Sacred Service for the Sabbath
Morning and Milhaud's Service Sacre. Now we pretend, and do not let us pretend, that we
can find traces of nusach in their works, deceiving ourselves because it suits us. Milhaud's
service is being explained as being based on the Provencal tradition of southern France. I
have letters in my possession from both Darius Milhaud and Ernest Bloch which strictly
testify to the contrary, with a fresh approach as Jews of our century, disregarding the styles,
forms and modes of the past. 1 personally believe that they did not quite recognize them-
selves by giving this absolute denial.
You, the hazzanim, and here I come to the end of my statement, are the vital links
between composer and worshipper. What can you do to preserve the significant elements
of our heritage, yet keep in step with musical development, to give the most talented of our
Jewish composers the incentive to write works which show regard and love for this heritage?
I do not know whether there exists a panacea for our problem.
Here are some postulates which I consider of paramount importance. First, the hazzan
must become a better musician. He must realize that knowledge in musical theory and com-
postion has become imperative. Therefore, if he feels sufficiently in this direction, he should
take courses at the Cantors Institute or at his local college or conservatory. You expect
your mechanic to know something about the construction of a car, though he does not know
how to build the car. You expect your country doctor to know about the latest drugs and
developments in medicine although he does not need to be a skilled surgeon. At the present
time many valuable works recognized as enriching our musical liturgy are being by-passed
not because of the lack of vocal but of musical ability.
Second, the hazzan must gear his programming increasingly toward the younger and
musically educated members of his congregation rather than toward the Golden Age Club.
Third, the hazzan must eradicate those so-called traditions which he finds objectionable
regardless of their familiarity or popularity. I know it is difficult but it can be done. He
should do so step by step, explaining his reasons beforehand and preparing his Junior
Fourth, in commissioning of new works, composers should be preferred who are integ-
rated in the synagogue and have absorbed the spirit of synagogue music. Study material
should be made available to them. Make sure that with all possible musical freedom of self-
expression, they do not write concert music for worship purposes; that contemporary harmo-
nization is not so extreme that it distorts or over-shadows the basic content. The importance
of the treatment of the Hebrew text as a living language and the subsequent necessity of
correct accentuation should be emphasized.
Fifth, the hazzan must exert discretion in the introduction of new traditions. This seems
especially needed when confronted with the vogue of hassidic or rather neo-hassidic music
involving him today, much of which is quite remote from the serene, searching, mystic,
religious hassidism of old and strongly reminiscent of the undistinguished, worldly brand that
was greatly influenced by Slavic popular song. He must decide which prayers will or will not
be adequately expressed by this music and that it will enhance the spirit of worship. He must
be similarly discerning in the introduction of Israeli music.
The hazzan, sixth, and last, must exert the musical leadership entrusted to himself. If
he is content with going the way of least resistance, if he is satisfied with presenting the
same musical service year in, year out, with seeing his years pass teaching B'nei Mitzvah
efficiently, but not taking part in this unparalleled rennaisance in the Jewish music move
ment of our time, if he leaves conventions like this unmoved, without the resoltuion to do
new things, better things; in one word, if he returns to his job, acting as hired help and not
as a musical leader who shows the way, he will have missed his calling.
I cannot help but conclude with a quotation from the preface to Shir Shd Shlomo,
the service by Solomon Rossi which he wrote in the year 1608. In inspired manner he stated
in two short sentences his position regarding the age-old problem which we are discussing
today. You will find those sentences in English in Reuben Kosakoffs new Friday evening
service, L'chvod Shabbat. They were Rossi's credo. They should be the credo, the musical
.4/7/ Maamin of every composer of synagogue music.
They read as follows: "The Lord has helped me and he put into my mouth new songs
which I composed in a planned manner and weaved into sweet and blessed voices, moved by
the spirit of God. And my lips shall never cease but always try to extol the songs of David,
King of Israel, and to revitalize them, discipline them according to the laws of music.
Dr. Herman Berlinski:
Dear friends, colleagues, co-sufferer, Dr. Hohenemser, if you weren't a doctor and if I
didn't know about it because we both graduated the same day, I would say that you don't
know geography because Leipzig is the first railroad stop when you come from Lodz and
that's where my ancestors came from. They did not have enough money to come right
away here so they stopped for some time in Leipzig. This is how I happened to be born
and I got stuck there with 20,000 Polish Jews in Leipzig because it had a very large com-
munity of Eastern Jews. It had its own hassidic community; the German Jews were in a
small minority and it explains perhaps that a man with such a pronounced German accent
has his roots, his ties much more in the East than in the center of Germany. That has been
a problem to some and I take a second to explain this.
When I received the letter to speak about the role of '"tradition", dare we touch "tra-
dition," all these things to you, there were a million and one ideas coming through my head
and I was a little bit concerned that we might spend another two or three hours just to
talk and talk and talk and that we would have the feeling of two things: that we heard every-
thing once before and we just don't know what to do with all these things. I have jotted
down a few notes and a very interesting experience came back to my mind.
Last year a delegation from Independence, Mo. where there is one branch of the Mormon
Church came to New York to see me. You know that the Mormons consider themselves,
whether with justification or not is not our business here, but they consider themselves to
be the true decendents of Hebrew tribes. They wanted to find out all about Jewish music.
They heard that there is an organist at the Temple who had published a number of articles
on Jewish Music in the AMERICAN ORGANIST. They wanted to find out more. They
came and asked me a number of questions and I deduced that they really felt that I have
information that goes straight back to the Temple in Jerusalem (about music). They asked
me such questions, how did they sing, what were the tunes, how many tunes do you have
and what not. They asked me to come down to play a recital for them - they have a mag-
nificent organ - of Jewish music, and would I also lecture for all their organists at their
I accepted with great pleasure and then they asked me about the topic I was going to
hold a seminar on. I suggested the following topic: "What We Do Not Know About Jewish
Music". I think I spoke about 6 hours on this topic on what we do not know. I will not
go into this but then the question period came about (by the way, at the organ recital I had
an audience of about 4,000 people, I almost fainted, but it was quite an experience).
A very interesting question was asked of me, "What should we, (the Mormons) who have
no tradition, do with our music? Our church exists only 130-1 40 years approximately. What
can we do, should we do? We envy you because you have such an old tradition, you have
such magnificent things, we have nothing."
It took my breath away. What am I going to tell them-you, poor, poor people you
have no tradition or should I tell them you are very lucky? You can start wherever you
want to. In a somewhat sophisticated manner I wiggled out by saying all that which is good
and all that which is beautiful is your tradition just as mine. If you have no ethnic tradition
to fall back on, you must go where you can find the deepest, the sincerest, the most beautiful
expression which corresponds to the depths of your religious experience. That sounds very
elegant but they had no other way to do it and they have been doing it and they have been
doing it any how because they do perform Bach and Palestrina and they do perform all that
which is beautiful in the evolution of the western music of Christianity. But coming in such
a compact form it reassured them that they do not necessarily have to create a Hebraic tra-
dition for themselves which would be foreign to their whole ethnical and historical background.
Let me come back, and since I had the good fortune to listen to the wonderful paper
of Mr. Jospe and to Dr. Freudenthal, I also would not want to repeat what has been said
but I want to add another dimension to the word "tradition." Any religious body must have
a tradition, because tradition, while it is not equal to mitzvot, the law, it just deals with minhag,
and our rabbis, contrary to what has been said, never really stated that a minhag is equal to
the law. The tradition in a philosophical, religious sense is the expression for our yearning for
eternity. There it is a deeply religious meaning. The man who lives, wants to continue to
live, and there are certain things he does and wants to do. In the Kaddish, for instance, it is
not so, and as we know the Kaddish is not a prayer for the dead or a dead person; death is
not mentioned in the Kaddish. The Kaddish is a doxology of praise. Knowing that after
our death somebody will say Kaddish is assuring continuity; that the chain is never inter-
rupted. Just as we said Kaddish for our fathers, somebody will say Kaddish for us and, there-
fore, we have within the realm of the past, the present and the future an assured continuity.
Religion, which deals with continuity in the cosmic sense, of that which has been before
we were born, that which is an that which will be, is without a substance when it is without
its tradition. Therefore, even the most anti-traditionalists in the Reform movement create a
tradition as fast as they can because they know that they cannot exist.
Let me give you an example We were doing a little Confirmation hymn which is as ugly
as it could be. When I innocently mentioned, "Could we not do away with this? The whole
idea of Confirmation is not a traditional one, is not an old one. The hymn is something else,
could we not create a more dignified tune?" The answer was given to me that it has become a
"tradition." I ask the question, traditions of a thousand years were put away and this is a
"tradition" of only 25 years. But there might be one mother or one father of that particular
child who was in this Temple and he sang this tune and he would feel a terrible loss if that
"tradition" were to be interrupted. It is enough that one generation has done it.
Let us remember "tradition" is of an ideational quality and not of an aesthetical quality.
In other words, the man who likes a tradtion doesn't like it because the tune or the hymn
or the gesture or the rite is beautiful, but he likes it because there is an ideational quality con-
nected with the act, with the rite, with the gesture, with the melody. It is an association
with something which is very important. Therefore, if you were to go to a very patriotic
American and he would say, look everything is beautiful about America except the national
anthem which is an awkward melody, you would insult the man, because this melody is not
subject to aesthetical criteria. It cannot be and should not be analyzed. These criteria are
not easily tampered with; they are not easily done away with because they mean more than
just the notes, just the melody. Having this well in mind we must be very cautious when we
examine or when we criticize or when we try to eradicate them. We are dealing with dyna-
mite in the human soul and with the emotions. It cannot de disposed of that easily.
Having added this one dimenstion on the necessity of the "tradition" and our yearning
which is more or less an expression of our yearning for eternity, I would like to give you
here, I would like to make an excursion into a train of thought which happened in the
Catholic Church sometime around 1816.
You know that the most traditional material the Catholic Church has is the Gregorian Chant.
The Gregorian Chant, which comes to the Catholic Church from the 6th, 7th century where it
was recorded first in neumonic notation later in the 11 th century where it was recorded in
regular notation, as much as they could, has been for many centuries, the backbone of the
Catholic Church. It is its traditional body of music. Starting from the 13th century, this body
of music has been subject to any kind of a treatment the composer was capable of giving.
In other words, it was used in the organum, the fifth and fourth parallel organum; it was
used in the most elementary and later in the most complex, contrapuntal structure, to the
point where it disappeared out of the consciousness of the listener. It was buried under such
a web of complicated music that church authorities in Trent in the 16th century had to
condemn it. Let us note that the Catholic clergy was well educated enough musically to
analyze and to take a definite attitude, whether positive or negative is not important, but
they were well equipped to handle the most complicated musical problems of their times
and speak about it with a great deal of authority.
At this particular time it was declared that the Gregorian chant, the traditional body of
the Catholic Church, had been buried underneath a tremendous building of contrapuntal
webs and structures and therefore had lost its traditional value. Palestrina was charged with
a cleaning process. Let mc add right away that Palestrina knew little about Gregorian chant,
about its intensity, about its moment. He misunderstood it completely. While he was one
of the greates geniuses in music, he was not a musicologist. He only used the knowledge which
was available at his time. He did not find a solution and the Gregorian chant is just as
buried in Palestrina as it was buried in many other compositions.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, the middle of the 19th century, when the
Catholic Church finally decided that they must restore the Gregorian chant.
1 am going to some lengths to explain this because it has a strong bearing on our own
When they finally were confronted with the fact that Gregorian chant had almost been
lost and forgotten, they declared all manuscripts of the 19th, 18th, 17th 16th, 15th, 14th
centuries are null and void. None of them contains any truth about the Gregorian chant.
If we are to reconstruct it we must go back to manuscripts we can dig out before the 13th
century. Luckily for them two tremendous archives, the one in Montpelier in France and the
other in Switzerland had just started digging out certain manuscripts which were unavailable
before that time and a gigantic project of reconstruction had then started which took more
than 30 years before the first new book on Gregorian chant was published.
I mention this because here we have a church in the western tradition which had deve-
loped in the 11 th century already a diatonic notation, that means, a notation which could
write down actual intervals, yet had to reject all that which happened in five or six centuries
because it was a distortion of the original material and had to go back to manuscripts dating
before the 13th century.
When we as Jews now compare what have we got, we speak of the necessity of "tradition."
A normal minded person, no person who has any depth of religious perception could possibly
deny the necessity of "tradition." The religion which gives up "tradition" ceases to be a
religion. Have you ever seen the hopelessness and the emptiness of a gathering in the Ethical
Culture School where there is no "tradition." Spring festivals, summer festivals, winter
festivals; no history, no tradition it is all somewhat ephemeral. You have the feeling that
they are living like in a death house. It has no life.
What are we going to do? The first thing to do is to recognize that we have no musical
manuscripts of any nature anti-dating the 18th century. A few little glimpses, and not Jewish
ones, Rossi in the 16th century, after all, was not a Jew and he had the information second-
hand by some rabbis who sang for him and he did the best. Who knows whether the rabbis
knew at the time what they were doing.
When I was commissioned by Capitol Records to write a new setting of the Kol Nidre,
they were under the impression that this is a thing which is about thousands or 1500 years
old and they said get us the most original work that you can find. When 1 admitted to them
that the oldest version is by Aaron Bear, 1765, and that that version is just terrible, full of
contradictions, full of provoked terms and dreidlach, some reminding me of certain Hayden
sonatas, others reminding me of older versions, they looked at me and said, "How come, this
is supposed to be one of the most ancient of your songs?"
Yes, as it so happened we knew how to read and write long before anyone in the
rest of civilization knew how to read and write. But when it came to musical notation, we
did not know it.
Did we not know it or did we refuse to know it? It is an interesting question. Would
anybody believe that Jews in the 11 th and 12th centuries were not aware that there was such
a thing as a musical notation going on in the western church? They certainly were aware.
I have some statements by Abalofya where he compares certain thought processes of the
Kabalah to the art of the counterpoint which was practiced in the western civilization. We
do certain things in our heads which our colleagues out there do with counterpoint. Obviously,
he must have known that counterpoint could not be generated without a process of writing.
Why our forefathers refused to notate is a very complicated question. Perhaps, did they
feel that tradition and improvisation are so closely connected that they felt no sooner do you
write down the stuff and the spirit of improvisation will disappear. And from their oriental
background and heritage, the idea of forever improvising was much stronger than the idea of
fixation. Therefore, perhaps, they disregarded the idea of a musical notation which was cont-
rary to their spirit of getting up, knowing the mode and improvising.
When I proceeded with the Kol Nidre I couldn't find any old manuscripts. I took as
many 19th century, even 20th century versions and I did not find one which coincided with
the other one. Every single Kol Nidre had a different turn, a different twist. Every single
Kol Nidre had even phrases arranged in context with different musical modes. They wanted
to print on their label "authentic," "very historic," "musicalogical." I said, Please, keep me
out of trouble, don't." Because I could only go by what I had seen and used, perhaps by
instinct. The one man who had developed a method of archeological identification, who had
developed a tool whereby 20th century elements, 19th century elements and so on could be
recognized and eventually eliminated and a very old version could be reconstituted is my be-
loved teacher Joseph Yasser, a man who has developed a fantastic ability to analyze melodies
and to understand their original patern. Why he was permitted to retire, why the Jewish com-
munity did not prevail to have this man's work continue on the process of reconstitution is
beyond my understanding. If I, at this point, may suggest if anything positive should come
out of this discussion, a plea, an appeal to get Yasser back to work, editorially on the reconsti-
tution of our oldest elements, just as Rosovsky has done it to a certain extent for the trope,
Yasser is the most qualified man. I must say it and I say it without any restriction, I used
every tool that I have learned from Yasser in the reconstruction of the Kol Nidre melody.
I would like to show you where and how I analyzed every single element in the melody to
come to a version which I think is more authentic than the Lewandowski version.
Where does it all lead us and where do we go from here? It is obvious that there is a
dichotomy, a dual purpuse (I wouldn't call it a dichotomy because that signifies a contra-
diction) in all that which we do religiously. The one is a tradition and I think I have suffici-
ently explained how deeply I feel in the necessity of tradition, in the necessity of a pure
tradition, in the necessity of a cleansed tradition, in the necessity of a tradition which really
reflects our past.
But that is only one wing of our endeavor. The other one is the continuity is the future
if we remain traditionalists, we remain a religious museum. We remain something of an archeo-
logical, like an Egyptian tomb. If we claim to be a vital, modem 20th century religion then
we must go from the tradition, just as Jospe and Freudenthal have very eloquently expressed
it, into the future and we must understand that that which is new is not familiar and that
which is not familiar is not liked.
I do realize, in all practical consideration, no congregation comes over to a Temple to
listen to Berlinski or to Bloch or to Milhaud or to Freudenthal or to anybody. They come
to worship. They will not accept to be chocked; they will, not accept to be estranged. They
must find first traditional and familiar elements. They must feel first that they are at home.
This is their house. They must be first welcomed, friends among friends and if they feel
that then they give you a certain willingness for an excursion. There must be a living presence
of the composer. The Temple bulletins must contain information on that which is experi-
mental. There must be such a situation outside the service. I have pleaded this all through
the years, let us create such occasion where the congregation can be confronted with new
materials, new elements so that they can familiarize themselves. There is no doubt that we
have both elements. There is no problem as tradition against modern concept. There is only
the problem how tactfully and elegantly we can combine both and expose the congregation to
the new while keeping the old. These are the problems.
Let me just say one more word as a teacher of modem harmony. The problem came up,
a problem which is of importance. When you take a Gentile organist and you will say, "You
see a Friday evening service, Conservative or Reform, it has a traditional pattern. We start
with the Psalms which are more or less in the Adonai Moloch mode, we go into L'cho Dodi
which is usually in a major mode.
I don't want to mention the name. A cantor mixes up the Ahava/? aba mode with the
Mogen Ovos mode and throws in a little of the other mode, and he looks at me, and he says,
"What did you teach me, it doesn't make sense to speak about "tradition" and every single
cantor feels he has authority to mix up all the modes to such a point that nobody knows
where to start, where does he finish?
Yesterday afternoon I had to accompany a very famous cantor and we could not re-
hearse. I said to him in Carnegie Hall in front of 3000 people, at the Warsaw Memorial, 1
said to him, let's agree that we will do this El Mole Rachamim in the Ahava Raba mode.
He is a cantor who knows. I know the Ahava Raba mode. We got through splendidly because
we had something that we agreed upon, but it presupposes that we know what the mode
element is that I know already before him where he is going to modulate, what he is going
to do and what are the possibilities of his modes. This knowledge we now teach is not a
common knowledge among all cantors because there are too many compositions where it is
not reflected, too many harmonizations where the cantoral chant is in one mode and the
harmonization is just plain harmonic minor. It does not correspond. In other words we need
also a process of clean-up, of codification of the modal scheme of a service that is also part
of restoring "tradition." There is a question of how we clean it, how we restore it and how
we bring it back to the shape in which it should have been and from which it should never
have been lost. As to the creative expression of the modem composer, as to the sublimation
of his own individial experience, that is another story. That is just as important as the tra-
dition and if we take one without the other one we will kill it.
Let me must conclude with one little story. It will just take a minute and then 1 am
done. It has taught me the lesson of my life. Many years ago, Cantor Edgar Mills performed
two compositions of mine in his synagogue. It was the first time liturgical work of mine had
been performed. It was a Kaddish in memory of my brother and a L'cho Dodi which he had
suggested to me. He did a magnificent job and I was very proud and thankful. It was a
tremendous experience for me. After the service a lady came over to me with a girl, about
13 or 14 years, and introduced me to her young daughter and said I would like you to meet
my daughter, and this is Mr. Berlinski. I looked at her, expectantly. She said, I would like
to ask you a question. Can I see the score? She didn't look like she could count from one
to three. I was snobbish and I said, "What for?" "I'll tell you why. Why do you use, in your
L'cho Dodi, the kind of medieval, modal harmony and you become suddenly neo-impressio-
nistic in your Kaddish?"
My mouth was left open. I said, are you 13, 14 or 18. She said "No, I'm 19; I am a
music major at Radcliff." And I realized suddenly we are standing in front of a new generation.
They are not dumb or stupid and they will know what we are doing. They know about
Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Bloch and they will know about us if we are worthy;
if we have something to challenge their imagination. What I did not know, what Mills did
not at that time tell me was that it was College Night and that all the college kids were there.
We must be able to face them. To this girl the "tradition" might have been something nice,
something worthwhile. They like "traditions" but she was satisfied that she got also, on
that very same evening, a challenge to which she could relate herself critically, positively or
negatively, I don't know. But she asked the question and I had to answer it. There were
inconsistencies I had drawn from two different sources. One, historically, because the poem
of L'cho Dodi is a medieval one and the other, the Kaddish, because that was so close to
my heart. My brother had died and I wanted to set him a monument. There was no feeling
about medieval or modernity involved. It just answered the purposes of someone who had
suffered a loss. I couldn't explain it to her. But the most important things was that she
asked a question and that question has never left my ears because whenever we write music,
we must think both where do we stand in relation to our tradition and where do we stand in
relation to the generation to come.
Mr. Oscar Julius:
I do not profess to be the masterful composer, nor musicologist although 1 have composed
and arranged many compositions for the traditional synagogue, non-commissioned, but rather
a choirmaster who has devoted a life-time to traditional music in its loftiest aspects.
It was my good destiny to be born in this blessed country and raised in strict Jewish
traditions and customs with all its color, though not always right. I state these facts for I
believe it has a bearing on the very roots of traditional music as I conceive it. In order to
discuss, or delve, into this controversial topic of this mornings session, we have to accept,
if you will, that the synagogue, and the traditional Jew are inseparable. If we seek an answer
to the question of what makes synagogue music traditional, we accordingly have to ask what
makes a traditional Jew. There can be one answer. One who follows and adheres religiously
to the Jewish traditions of his ancestors. Therefore, we have to infer that traditional synagogue
music is those chants, known as nuschaot, which have been sanctioned and hallowed since
the days when prayers took the place of sacrificial offerings.
What is "traditional" synagogue music? What, in essence, are the musical elements con-
tained therein which differentiates the "traditional" from the modern or contemporary? I
would venture to say that "traditional" synagogue music, rendered by the cantor or choir
should possess that divine quality which will bring the traditional worshipper in closer com-
munion with his Maker. Such music, artistically and sincerely rendered in its pure state is
not for entertainment purposes but rather a means, if not predominantly so, to elevate from
the material world to the eternal. The ingredients that make traditional synagogue music par-
ticularly for chorus: the melodic line should be first and foremost before any harmonic treat-
ment; melody should be in the realm of nusach and not over-harmonized. It's a fact that the
ear of the average, intelligent listener is eager to follow the melodic line of the composition,
and if the melody is merely a series of sounds which is expressionless, incoherent it leaves
the listener or worshipper in a haze or in a spiritual indigestion.
I should like to ask Cantor Brockman to sing for us the theme, composed by Dr. A. W.
Binder, of Haskivenu which will better explain my point of view. This motif which you have
just heard, simple, sincere and within traditional mode. It is further enhanced by its non-
technical harmonization. This theme, I believe, is traditional music mainly because of its tra-
ditional Hashkivenu nusach.
May I present another illustration of what I term traditional synagogue music, unadulterated,
a fragment of A to Nosen Yod from the Neil ah service by Novakowsky. Listening to this tra-
ditional gem in its entirety. One actually breathes in the penitent aroma of the Neilah, again
because of its nusach content. This as all synagogue music is and should be as fresh and accep-
table now as it was in the early part of the century.
I am often upset why the Jewish composers of today, writing for the synagogue, have dis-
associated themselves from traditional synagogue music. What makes them look down upon
the traditional with musical contempt? Is it a complex perhaps? Why the rebellion of contem-
porary composers, with the exception of a few, against "traditional" music? My assignment
this morning is not to praise nor under-estimate the merits of modern music but in adherence
to our specific subject and in defense of traditional music of our liturgy to which I have devoted
more than 40 years of my life, I would like to make my comments and analogy of contem-
porary synagogue music.
Music as all other arts is the expression of the times and era in which we live. In recent
years of turbulence up to the present day of world chaos, progress has been the keynote of
technology, sciences and arts, music being no exception. Apparently the impact of such prog-
ress did not escape the Jewish composer, motivating him to write new and progressive music
for the synagogue. As a result new musical thoughts and treatments have to be evolved. The
question arises did they accomplish their purpose? Musically, yes. Liturgically, no. The tra-
ditional Jew who comes to pray cannot be satisfied in a sense with the best of modern music
unless he feels and hears the mode or nusach of a specific service. That music must not neces-
sarily have been performed on a Friday evening, Sabbath or festival, any week-day concert would
be just as good. The Jewish traditional worshipper of the synagogue or temple, upon hearing
a specific nusach chanted will invariably recognize the Friday evening, Sabbath or festival, thereby
identifying himself with the occasion. If this is the case, why deprive him of that conscious-
My remarks refer to the choral compositions no less than to the cantorial recitatives. In
line with the above, I should like to illustrate the following: (Sings: MiChamocha). In this
simple and unpretentious response, I am sure you have sensed, as well as I did, the aroma and
flavor of the Shalosh Regal im and only because of its frame of that nusach. You will also note
the admixture of the minor and phrygian modes which gives it an additional charm, yet in
line with its basic nusach. This, my friends, is my definition of "traditional" synagogue music.
I am not that naive to imply that traditional synagogue music be sugary and over-sentimental
with its harmonic structure confined to the dominant and subdominant, with its lack of conti-
nuity and form or any disonance-the only musical diet upon which our forefathers thrived in
the ghetto. Some of us can still remember the days when the hazzan or the dirigent would
have the second or third voice follow a terza and the bass puffing along in root position, in
trombone fashion. For that matter, the cantor himself, in his recitative would swoon into
ecstacies with the preceding oi, oi vey, or with an extra interjection of ribono shel olam. He
would often brag about the juggling of the text thereby proving his ability with peirush hamilos
To rather prove his hazzanic wisdom, he would resort or stoop to a level of interpreting the
peirush hamilos with actual physical demonstration, such as for the text, einayim la hem v'lo
yiru; oznayim I ahem v'lo yishmou he would actually demonstrate it, and so forth down the
line. Can you for a moment stretch your imagination, what would happen, when that cantor
would on Yom Kippur chant the 12th Al Chet (you can look it up). This is no legend my
friends, but rather a sad phenomena of avoda zora which contaminated the altar of the cantor
not too many decades ago. Moreover, when the cantor wished to present himself in a classic
vein, he would select for the U'vnucho yomar, the aria from " Pearlfisher" or "Rachelle" from
La Juive, or even adapt a tune of the Volga Boatmen to the words and text of shovas vayinofash.
I heard it myself!
As for choir compositions, anything from a waltz to a polka mazurka would do at any
service. Thank the Lord that such abominable banalaties and sacriligious presentation of "tra-
ditional" music have petered out although some remnants of it are still left here and there.
Such decadence in music was nauseating if not shocking to the intelligent worshipper who
came for spiritual elevation to the synagogue, and not to, I'havdil, a burlesque or circus.
Of course, our musical tastes and standards have been raised. But why run to extremes?
True, we have removed the shackles of the klein shtetle, or ghetto music, but why burden our-
selves with the so-called rennaissance of the synagogue music, which even the worshipper with
aesthetic taste cannot grasp, especially, when he somehow feels that the inherent traditional
motif, the nusach, has been stripped. Why not strike the happy medium in a path of non-
extremes. The music of the modern age at its best has little or no bearing to the specific
Sabbath or holiday, time or season. Liturgically, its purpose can be achieved if the composer
employes strictly and unequivocally these traditional nuschaot, so rich and plentiful, indelible
and hallowed since the centuries ago when the Jews began to pray after the destruction of the
Second Temple. We haven't even begun to exploit the masterpieces of a Weintraub, Naum-
bourg Navokowsky, Alman and scores of others of such calibre. They have left a wealth of
excellent material whose resources have not been fully tapped.
Let us for a moment examine another motif of genuine, traditional synagogue music by
Novakowsky wherein he treats the same theme with 2 distinctly different harmonic back-
grounds which I think is a very genial treatment. Mogen Avot. There is nothing exceptional
about this-just ordinary and very pleasant. Now he takes the same theme and further text
and he give it a different dressing. Synagogue music of such nature is precisely my answer as
to what makes synagogue music "traditional." Liturgical music that is meaningful, simple
and unpretentious. I would even venture to say that compositions of the old orthodox school,
such as Shestapol, Blumenthal, Nisi Belzer, Zaidel Rovner and many of the others of that era
could very well be renovated and rearranged by composers of today to give it a new look or
rather a new sound-a synthesis of the old and new, to be ever mindful, however, to preserve
the traditional nusach, its very core. The mezuzah on our door posts can be as ornate and
as expensive as one wishes, yet if it does not contain the necessary pa rsh of the Shema, it is
considered possul-disqualified for use and for the religious purpose intended. If our modern
composer, even for sheer experimentation, in a mood of unsophistication would mobolize his
musical ingenuity to refine the liturgic music of the East-European cantor at the end of the
19th and beginning of the 20th century to recreate from the crude to the sublime then such a
contribution to synagogue music today would perhaps be more welcome and acceptable than
many Friday night services.
Not to exceed my alotted time, I should like to conclude with a brief thought. We all
know that Judaism has verily made an upsurge towards traditionalism, particularly since the
birth of Israel. It is no secret that testimonial synagogue music has found its way to many a
Reform Temple and warmly accepted. I personally know of two such Temples. More and
more traditional procedures are being followed. The congregants, who perhaps for the first
time have heard such music, were somehow awakened from dormancy to a Jewish spiritual
vibrancy. Consequently, if Jewish life is now returning to its traditions, isn't Jewish synagogue
music an indispensable spiritual segment of Jewish life? Finally, I firmly believe that if our
musical liturgy, in its "traditional" sense of the word be designed with a progressive and techni-
cal know-how as a means of enhancing the traditional modes and character, such music is
here to stay as long as traditional Judaism will exist.
HERMAN BERLINSKI was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1910. His parents were of Polish- Jewish origin.
He entered the Leipzig Conservatory in 1927, studying piano with Professor Otto Weinreich, harmony with
Siegfried Karg-Elert, and counterpoint with Guenther Raphael. He graduated in 1932 and left Leipzig in the
following year. After a European concert tour he went on to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger and with
Jules le Febre. He came to the United States in 1941. In 1960 he received his Ph.D. in Sacred Music, one
of the first granted by the Cantors Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He has
achieved fame as a composer, organist and conductor and is currently the Organist and Music Director in
Washington, D.C.'s leading Reform congregation. He has composed extensively for the synagogue and even
his secular works are of distinct Jewish origin.
JOSEPH FREUDENTHAL, born March 1, 1903, composed a number of works, chiefly on religious texts,
but he is especially well known as a publisher of Jewish music (Transcontinental Music Corporation). He
made a fine reputation for himself as an organizer of performances of Jewish music, and for his activities
in the "Jewish Music Forum". His death some years ago has been a great loss to the field of Jewish music.
ERWIN JOSPE was born in Breslau, Germany in 1907. He is known as a piano virtuoso of international
reputation. He is also a composer, lecturer and conductor. From 1946-1964, he served as Music Director of
Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago. Among his best known compositions is the incidental music to "The
Golem". In 1964, he was appointed Dean of the School of Fine Arts of the University of Judaism and also
Associate Professor of Music in Los Angeles. He also serves as the Music Director of the Hillel Summer
Institute. Mr. Jospe is at present, also Music Director of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, California.
OSCAR JULIUS, one of the leading conductors of synagogue choirs in America for almost a half century,
was born in New York City and received his Jewish education at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School from which
he graduated in 1917. As is the case with all the men who eventually rise to prominence in Jewish music,
Julius was a child prodigy. He had a fine alto voice and sang with most of the great cantors of the post
World War I era.
He received his formal musical education at McGill University in Montreal. He began his long and success-
ful career as a conductor of synagogue choirs in 1920. He is probably the best known exponent of traditional
choral music in America today. During the course of his long career he composed a great number of choral
pieces with hazzanic solo especially suited to the great voices whom he accompanied.
He currently directs the choir of Temple Beth El in Brooklyn.
THE WONDER OF THE PSALMS
1 did not choose the subject for this evening. I wanted something lighter and easier,
because to discuss the Book of Psalms is a soul-wrenching exercise. To discuss the Bible
at large in a brief form and to try to get to the essence of it is a tempestuous enterprise.
For the Bible is not a goody, goody book. It is not something that you pick up to find
something pleasant, gentle, enlightening, edifying. It is something you go to in order to
live through the experiences of the ages. And in these experiences you will find every
aspect of human behavior and utterance. You will find there an enormous diversity of
human expression in act and in word-humility, despair, exaltation, cruelty, ecstacy, egotism,
self-righteousness, smugness, confession of sin, the feeling of worthlessness and then great
bursts of longing for perfection, and great melodies of praise, all of it in a tremendous tangle.
They say en mukdam v'en m&uchar &-Torah-there is neither the earlier nor the latter,
there is no chronology in the Torah. This isn't strictly true. But it is true in this sense,
that everything is thrown in. There isn't an aspect of human anguish, of human joy, of
bliss, contempt, rage self denigration that you don't find there. And only a people which
has experienced the utmost vicissitudes of existence, the utmost triumph and the utmost
debasement and has suffered all the extremes of outer, and often, inner insecurity could
have given birth to this book or this collection of books.
If you look among the books of the Torah for one which you would give to an out-
sider, neither Jew nor Christian, say to a Buddhist, (I won't even say to Mohammedan who
is already acquainted with part of its content) to a Buddhist or to a Shintoist, one which
will bring him within the smallest compass; (although the Book of Psalms is, as you well
know, the largest book in the Tanuch;) that which is most representative, which book would
you give him? Would you give him Bereshit, the book of the creation and the Patriarchs?
It is a very important book. It is the cosmogeny of the Jew; it is the beginning of his
faith. Would you give him Shemot (Exodus), the book in which for the first time in history,
and the only time in history, a people confronts God and God confronts a people and
makes a national covenant with the people'?
You review the most stiking books and ultimately you discover that the one book
within which best, though of course never completely, the whole of this human turmoil
is represented is the book of Psalms, which we call the Sefer Tillim or Tehillim -the Book
It is a very strange name to me because it isn't merely a book of praises at all. There
is much praise in it. It ends on a note of exultant praise and of the vision of the world and
of the marvel of existence. But if you take it as a whole you find in it the abreaction as
they say technically, or in simple language the working off, of many sentiments which are
by no means admirable. It has passages of which we want to say, "better not look there;
avert the gaze." But you dare not do that because it takes away from the universality,
Delivered at the I8th Annual Convention, May 1965
the harrowing up of the soul which makes this book represent the most representative in
There is very good reason for the tradition which assigns all or most of the Psalms to
David. That was the very early tradition. Later, already among the Amoraim, in the Talmud
itself and in the commentaries there were diverse views. Only 50 or 60 of the Psalms were
written by David and since then there is the opinion that very few actually came down from
his time. But that is almost technical because there is a tremendous congruence between
the Book of Psalms-and 1 would rather call it that than Sefer Tehilim because Psalms from
psalmos, which means singing, zemirot, the book of songs-and the stormy personality and
life of King David.
There was everything in his life. He was born in simplicity, and rose to the highest
levels of human status. To have been a killer and to have rejoiced in killing, to have known
the utmost adversity, a hunted man, hunted by the king that he half loved and half hated;
to have been scorned by the princess who once wooed him, his wife Michal, who spoke to
him contemptuously when he had danced before the Ark - to have known all of these
emotions and on top of them to have been a passionate singer before God. This was his
lot. This multiple and universal personality, has not a second in the Bible, because even the
monumental Moses lacks the coloring and the nuances of this fascinating figure. This is
the man who best reflects the contents of the Psalms. And you could attribute any of the
Psalms to him except of course, where technically speaking, they obviously allude to later
events, to exile and to return and passages which are paralleled in the prophets.
How is it that the Book of Psalms has become the favorite book of all believers? There
are times when, in my opinion, it is not read in the spirit which 1 have just described. I
remember, for instance, as many of you do, out of our Jewish- Yiddish world, the phrase,
"tillim zogen". It's a sad phrase. We said it at funerals; when somebody was sick. There
was very little exaltation about "tillim zogen." We associate it with the ghetto, with mourn-
fulness, with grey coloring, with our extrusion from the world, the one recourse that we had
from our persecution, our psalms, which had been our stand-by through all the ages. We
didn't think of it as great dramatic stuff. We didn't think of it in terms of revenges and
pursuits and cries of bliss before the wonder of the universe. We thought of it as the book of
consolation. We made it that and in so doing we impoverished it. We distorted it. We
took away from its catholicty, from its universality, those aspects which the restrictions of
our life led us to neglect. Those aspects are essential to the book.
The golus has pulled a curtain over aspects of the psalms which we could not indulge.
In the ghetto we did not give vent to hatreds. We didn't even verbalize them. We felt
resentments, yes. But the fierce cry of a genuine bloody hatred we couldn't afford. The
Psalms are full of resentment of a man's enemies and of the people's enemies. Ma rabu
tzarai, rabim kamin alai v'lo ira mai-rivevotam. "Thousands and tens of thousands rise against
me! Over and over again the psalmist speaks of his triumph over his enemies. All my
enemies shall be shamed and terrified. I have pursued my enemies and I have overthrown
them. I have smitten them so that they cannot rise. They have fallen under my feet".
He is horrified by the thought that is something evil happens to him, the enemy will be
happy. It's as though you invert the saying, the sufferings of many are half a consolation.
Tzoros rubim hatzi nehoma. And if the enemy doesn't know, then half of my suffering
is taken away. The cry, pen yomar oyri yeholt'v tzarav yagilu, lest the enemy say I have
prevailed upon him, lest my adversaries rejoice. Anything but that! Now this is a strange
thing, the privilege of a man who can actually struggle. A man who is in a position in
which he cannot sturggle but he must suffer and bite his lips and clench his teeth, dare
not use that kind of inner language because it would break out, and to fight as we were
during the golus would have meant suicide.
Now all these words that I am going to quote to you are very familiar to you. Cer-
tainly to you-you have been singing them for all of your grown-up lives. Therefore, 1
only repeat them in order to bring into focus a picture of the Book of Psalms which is
seldom in our minds and certainly is seldom presented outside. Look at the feeling of
resentment, of warrior rage, when he begs God, to set a wicked man over his enemy: "let
an adversary stand at his right. When he is judged let him go forth condemned. Let his
days be few, let his wife be a widow, let his children be vagabonds and beg." This is not
a golus feeling. I don't remember Jews talking about goyim like that. There was resent-
ment; there was sometimes contempt but there wasn't hatred. I remember when my
mother used to speak of Chmelnitski. It was life a far off horrible thing which she had
forgotten. You know that we have made for our children Purim not a time of hatred but
of derision. We laugh at Haman. We have forgotten that aspect of him which has only
recently been revived. Or remember the Psalm all of us know in which we read to the
end with something of a shudder, Al Naharot Bavel-by the waters of Babylon there we sat
down and we wept when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it we
hanged up our harps. They that led us captive asked of us words of song. And our tormen-
tors asked for mirth: "Sing us one of the songs of Zion".
You ought to know what is imbedded in these words, to say to the Jew, "Sing us one
of your Jew songs; sing us one of your silly old songs now that you are here". "Jew,
dance for us!" And then you understand why he cries out, "How shall we sing the Lord's
song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, Jerusalem." Let that passage pass but there come
these terrible words, "Remember, God, against the children of Edom,
The day of Jerusalem;
Who said: 'Raze it, raze it,
Even to the foundations thereof.'
daughter of Babylon, thou are to be destroyed;
Happy shall he be, that repayeth thee
As thou has served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones
Against the rock."
Those are dreadful words. We mustn't erase them from the Psalter. We mustn't
become squeamish and forget what happened. We must know what was felt. We must know
what a people suffered and we must transcend it. Not as some would do by cutting out
from the Haggadah the Shefoch hamatcha al hagoyim Not by cutting it out but by leaving
it there with the explanation.
I want to make a digression here.
You know of course there is one Haggadah from which the passage has been elided,
"Pour forth thy wrath upon the heathen which know thee not for they have destroyed
Jacob, etc." The reason for that passage in the Haggadah is a very interesting one.
You remember that at the Seder immediately after you open the door you say to
Elijah the Prophet, Baruch Habah, rebbe. The reason that passage is there is because in the
Middle Ages they used to accuse the Jew (and in modern ages, too) of using Christian blood
for the matzos. So the Jews used to open the door and invited the Christians in. Come
and see, search. When they opened the door this was the greeting they gave them. Shqfoch
hamatcha at hagoyim. Let them be destroyed or wiped from the earth. This is a fascinat-
ing reaction. The passage should be kept and explained. To take it out because we will be
misunderstood is a folly. There is no way of not being misunderstood. Certainly, the best
way to be misunderstood is to hide something.
But even when the Psalmist asks for a blessing, he doesn't forget his enemies. This
can happen only to a people which has had to fight continuously for its existence. Even
from the time when they came up out of Egypt until the time of the first Expulstion,
the first Destruction, there was hardly a peaceful generation. All that time they were beset
by enemies and naturally this feeling, trasmitted from generation to generation, also found
its expression in the particular experience of the one man who knew most enmity in his
life and that was David. Here is his Psalm 59:
"Deliver me from mine enemies, my God;
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from the sin of blood
For they lie in wait for my soul
The impudent gather thmselves together against me;
Not for my transgression, nor for my sin, Lord.
Without my fault, they run and prepare thmselves;
Awake to help me, and behold.
Therefore, God of hosts, God of Israel,
Arouse Yourself to punish all the nations;
Show no mercy to any iniquitous traitors.
They return at evening, they howl like a dog.
And go around about the city.
They belch out with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips;
For who doth hear?
I want you to notice that passage. "Without my fault, they run and prepare them-
selves." "Not for my transgression." Now he knows better than that and he admits it in
many places, but this is the fineness of the psychology of the Psalms. There are moments
when you feel, I am an innocent person: what does the world want of me? But none of
us is innocent. And the truth is that if punishment comes to us and we don't deserve it
for a particular act, then we deserve it for something else which we got away with. This
is a universal human experience, and time and again the Psalmist seems to feel it. He keeps
on in this ambivalent attitude, the sense of guilt, the sense of innocence: and there are
times when he feels that he does wrong to hate the enemy. . . says, "If I have done this,
if there be iniquity in my hands, if I have requited him that did evil to me, if I have des-
poiled my adversary into emptiness, then let the enemy pursue my sould and overtake it.
Let him tread my life down to the earth. Yes, let him lay my glory in the dust." Strange
words! You would say different people are speaking. No. It is as if the same person were
speaking, and all of these vicissitudes of emotion, all of these variations, this kaleidoscope
of love and hate, self-abasement and egotism and smugness, all issue from the same person.
There come times, as I have said, when the Psalmist feels quite devoid of guilt. We
say in Yiddish, Gott die neshoma shuldig. Or in English, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
"Judge me, Lord", he cries. "I have walked in my integrity and have trusted in the Lord
without wavering; Examine me and try me. Test my vitals and my heart. Your mercy is
before my eyes and I have walked in your truth. I have not sat with men of falsehood, neither
will I go with deceivers. I hate the gathering of evil doers. I will not sit with the wicked. I
will wash my hands in innocence".
But this is nonsense. No man has the right to speak like that. There isn't anybody saintly
enough to be able to address God in that fashion.
Horn much the less then can a person at a table sing the words you are so familiar with.
"Naar hayiti gam zakanti v'lo raid tzadik neezav, v'zaaro m'vakesh lahem. " "I was a youth and
I have grown old and I have never seen a just man abandoned or his children begging bread."
How can one say this in the days after Hitler? You know, of course, that when a stranger is
at your table, some traveler you have invited or some poor man, this passage is said in a low
voice; which, as it happens, only emphasizes it. How self-righteous a man must feel when, after
having filled himself, he thanks God and says: "Well, you see I had a good father, and I myself
am a good man so I've had a good meal." So I have sometimes felt the passage should be
omitted. But no, it should remain there, and we should remember there are times when we feel
like that. And we should repeat it and know that the words are there for a warning not to feel
These moods of self-satisfaction alternate with moods of personal despair, of the type of
Eli, Eli Zama azavtani Abandoned by God! God forsaken! God has turned away, has rejected
me, cast me off, delivered me to my enemies, made a mockery of me or left me in the void.
"You have given us as a sheep to be eaten, scattered us among the nations; You sell Your
people at a low price and You make us a scorn and a derision and the shame of my face covers
me." "I am counted with those that go down to the pit. I have become a man for whom
there is no help, set apart among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave whom You no
longer remember." Death was a terrible thing for the Psalmist. There was no consolation for
it. He begged God to remember, if I die who is going to praise You? Lo hametim yehatteluyah.
There is no psalm singing in the grave. I am weary with groaning. Every night I make my bed
swim with tears. For in death there is no remembrance of You. In the nether world who will
give thanks to You? But the Psalmist also falls to that lowest estate of man when even praise
of God seems pointless. How can one pray in the face of the vastness of the universe and the
nothingness, the ephes of the human being: "A thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday
when it is past and as a watch in the night. You carry them away as with a flood. They are as
asleep. In the morning they are as grass which grows up. In the morning it flourishes and grows
and in the evening it is cut down and withers. We are consumed in Your anger. We bring our
years to an end as a tale that is told." What can prayer do in such a situation? If we lived a thou-
sand years, it is only as yesterday when it is past. How, from this insignificance, can one rise to a
sense of human dignity? There is no answer. You simply rise. Because in the very next psalm
as though it were placed in juxtaposition to this one, he contradicts what he says in the 90th.
And there occurs such a surrender and such a yearning and complete hopefulness that you
say to yourself that no man can entertain both feelings. But it can be done. This is the wonder
of the Book of Psalms. In one place he says: "You have made my days as handbreadths; my
age as nothing before You. Surely every man at his best estate is altogether nothingness."
Man walks about like a mere simulacrum. Then he turns and says "Yoshev b'seter elyon b'zel
Shadai yitlonan. He who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, he who abides in the secret
place of the Almighty will be at rest in His shadow. I will say to God He is my refuge and my
fortress". Then come those marvelous metaphors: "Thou shalt not be afraid of the teror of
the night nor of the arrow that flieth by day, nor of the destruction that wasteth at noon . . .
Because He has given His angels charge over thee to guard thee in all thy ways. Alkapayim
yisaunha pen tigof baeven raglekha. They will carry you on their hands lest you dash your
foot against a stone." You are like a child and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Can both of these abide in one man? They do. Just as there can abide in one man the
self-righteousness that I have spoken of and then the feeling of a sinfulness from which there is
almost no redemption. They attribute the most contrite of all psalms to a specific occasion in
David's life, when he committed the frightful sin of setting Uriah the Hittite in the forefront
of the battle because he had made his wife pregnant. And then he married Bathsheba, and the
child dies, and he prays: "Be gracious unto me God according to your mercy. According
to the multitude of your compassions, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from
my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before
me. I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. You desire truth in
the inmost parts.' Make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart. Purge me with
hysop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy
and gladness, so that the bones which you have crushed may rejoice."
This, a man knows too. And the full man knows all of these things. The full man knows
the completeness of his wickedness and knows also there are longings in him by which he can
cancel it. If 1 were to look for a modern equivalent of a psalmist, 1 would look for him,
strangely, perhaps you may think, in Bialik, who was able to rebel against God in "Maitai
Midbar" and was able to surrender to Him in all humility in "Lazar Mendel Hamelamed"-
Bialik, who was able to speak with utter hopelesness and cynicism of Jewishness and of God
and at the same time write the "Megillat Ha-eish." He was a proud Jew, and yet could write
Nisht kein broit un nisht kein challah,
Nisht kein fleysh un nisht kein fish-
Vos zhe zitzt ihr? Freylech, brider,
Chapt a tanz arum dem tish. .
Yoh, es rint fun bord un peyes,
Yoh, me vargd sich ash far glik,
Tantzt-she brider, hopei! Shtarker,-
Un dos eigene tsurik . .
Nisht eyn troppen tzu derkviken,
Oisgetriknt vi a kval-
Vos zhe shmacht ihr-nemt dem becher,
Gist ihm on mit griner gal.
Oiskesupt, un nisht farkrumt zich,
Nisht kein tzitter in die hent,
Zol a krenk der soineh vissen
Vos in hartzen brot un brent.
Against this he could also write:
Glust sich mir veynen geshmaker fun hartzen,
Zieht mich chmares tzum yam tsu dem shvartzen.
Tiefer tzu eich, meine elende brider:
'Ch-veys, oich a trer fun meyn eygenner mamen
Boirt dem t'hom dort fun eyere yamen
Un benkt efsher shtillerheyt noch meyne lieder.
Un far a zeycher fun haintige chmaress
Vet unz farbleiben a nayer al-naharos
Vos er vet himmel un erd iberkehren.
Glicklich is der, un gebenscht zol er veren
Vos vet fareyvigen ayere treren,
Heylige, tzvei toisend yohrige treren.
He was able, Bialik, to express utter abandon, scorn of life and of God such as you find in
"A Freilachs, " then come back with this yearning cry for the immortalization of our sufferings.
1 have often reflected on a couple of phrases that are very familiar and have tried to relate
them to new circumstances. "Al tashliheni I'et zikna, kichlot kochi al taazvaini. Cast me not
off in my old age and at the time of my spent forces do not abandon me." We've always
associated that, or mostly associated it, with poverty and old age and Jews usually connect
this phrase with one of the most pathetic in Jewish life-onkumen tzu kinder. Not that Jewish
children are less heedful of their parents, on the contrary. The care of the parents is one of
the great problems of Jewish life, but still the feeling of being dependent, nisht onkumen tsu
kinder! But what happens at a time when there is no such problem really, when there is
Medicare and there will be a Welfare State on more generous terms than today. I don't think
that was the meaning of the words, L'etziknu, and kichlot kochi refer to something else. Let
there not be a time when I am unable to read the Psalms with the full feeling and the rush of
blood which they are supposed to bring. Don't abandon me so that I become merely a vegeta-
But then there is that part of the Book of Psalms which is ineed devoted to Tehilla, to
praise! It is there that one sublimates the self. And yet even in these psalms of praise and of
ecstasy the enemy is remembered again, and the sufferings, and sins of the people.
There is a realism in the Psalmist which prevents him from sentimentalizing the past, something
which happens very often in'the Tanach. When the prophet says Zaharti lach hesed neurayich
ahavat klulotayich. Lechtech achrai bamidbar b'eretz lo rerun - "I remember thee the kindness
of thy youth, the love of thine espousals when thous wentest after me in the desert, the land
that was not sown."- He is sentimentalizing, because the people were rebellious in the desert
and they went after God recultantly, so much so that they were not permitted to enter the
promised land. In the Psalms all of this is thrown together-the good and the bad until the
closing paean, the finale of triumphant chords - a mystical ecstasy for which there isn't a
parallel anywhere in literaure. Then he forgets himself, the people, suffering, the ego which is
always creeping in and turning things upside down and make a mockery of sanctity. He cries
out: "Praise Him sun and moon, Praise Him all you stars of light, Praise Him heaven of heavens,
let them praise the name of God. Praise God from the earth, sea monsters and all deeps, fire
and hail, snow and vapors, stormy wind fulfilling His word, mountains and all hills fruitful,
trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged fowl, kings of the earth
and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth, both young men and maidens, old men
and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord." A tremendous diapason. The whole
world rings with it. How can one account humanly for this marvelous range of expression?
And should one belittle the highest of these ecstasies by ignoring the depths from which it
rose. Would you not take away from the tension of the highest heights if you forgot the
lowest depths of misery and ill behaviour even meanness and cruelty from which they emerged.
This is the wonder of the Psalms, that all of this goes together and belongs in one world
and this world is the cosmos in miniature which we have given to the world at large.
MAURICE SAMUELS, writer, was born in Rumania in 1895. He was educated in England, came to the
United States in 1914 where he served a term in the United States Army during World War I. He later acted
as interpreter with the Reparations Commission in Berlin and Vienna. After ten years in Palestine (1929-
1939) he returned to the United States. During the three decades between the Balfour Declaration and the
establishment of the Jewish State, Samuels devoted his major thinking, writing, and speaking to Zionism.
He is the author of a number of books among them "The World of Sholom Aleichem", " Level Sunlight"
and "Harvest in the Desert". He has also translated numerous Yiddish books by Sholem Asch, I. J. Singer,
Sholom Aleichem and Y. L. Peretz.
"Epitaph for Jewish Music?"
Hazzan Samuel Rosenbaum
Moshe Hayim Luzzato, the eighteenth century Jewish moralist introduces his ethical
treatise, "Mesillat Yesharim" with the following words:
"I have not written this book to teach the readers anything new. Rather is it my aim to
direct his attention to certain well known and generally accepted truths, for the very fact
that they are well known and generally accepted is the cause for their being overlooked."
I, too, will not attempt to teach anything new. Rather is it my aim to call attention to
certain well known facts in the hope that it may help us to act to save Jewish music.
I do not mean to be an alarmist, nor do I overstate a situation merely to attract attention
to it but I believe that there is palpable evidence that Jewish music, as we know it and treasure
it, may, in our own generation, filter out of the mainstream of Jewish culture.
The signs and portents are all about us. Most of us are so familiar with them that we
fail to be moved by them, In that failure, in that apparent lack of concern, in that, lies the
Let me document the problem.
The psychologists tell us that man functions on two major levels. They say.that man's
entire activity complex is in response to two sets of goals: the immediate and the long range.
A man wakes each morning and plunges into the day's work. Why'? To gain the imme-
diate necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing, comforts. But man differs from other crea-
tures in that while he is apparently totally immersed in reaching his immediate goals, he can
also be concerned with goals far off in the future.
He sees the daily grind, but he sees also, with an inner eye, a child who will one day go
to college, a home in a better neighborhood, growth in his business or profession.
Most of us are able to perceive our own lives in both perspectives.
There are some, less fortunate, not so well adjusted, who polarize their lives; they over-
respond to one goal or the other. They become so involved in making a living that they
forget to live. Others become so attracted to a far off ideal that they fail to make a living.
Neither extreme is desirable. A normal human being learns to live in both planes. He
faces the immediate and yet manages to keep an eye on the future. Particularly fortunate is
he who can integrate both goals, to put his immediate needs in harmony with what he hopes
to achieve in the future.
We, hazzanim, face the same situation in our profession. We are practitioners in the
world of Jewish music. We sing, we chant, we teach. We are immediately and regularly oc-
cupied with it. But what of our long range interest in Jewish music? How much attention
Delivered at the 21st Annual Convi
have we given to the future?
The founders of the Cantors Assembly, and the entire roster of leadership which followed
them, understood the need to be concerned with both the present and the future and it should
be a source of satisfaction to us that we have made steady progress toward the realization of
I think it can be said that for most of us a reasonable proportion of immediate goals has
been achieved. While the Messiah is not yet at the gate, and though there are individual ex-
ceptions, we are meeting the problem of making a living with a fair degree of success.
But somehow, as individuals we seem to have become bogged down in the daily grind.
We are so involved with personalities, salary, status, working conditions, insurance, retirement
that we rarely have the time or the energy to think about anything else. But there is a tomor-
What of tomorrow?
I have sombre thoughts about tomorrow!
Buried beneath the apparent general well-being I sense a persistent, ominous apprehen-
sion. The cynicism with which many of our generation are so dangerously infected seems to
have captured us as well. Somewhere along the line we seem to have given up the future! We
appear to be living each day only for what that day can bring us.
There is much to fear from such a philosophy. There is much to fear from those who
might deter us from becoming concerned for the future by reminding us continuously that the
present is still not perfect.
In the hope that we of the Cantors Assembly are not nearly so dangerously infected, I
share with you the results of a recent survey I conducted on the state of Jewish music. I con-
fess that less than 75 of my colleagues responded and that for this reason alone my statistics
may be open to question. But I wonder whether we can afford to disregard them entirely.
And I wonder, too, whether the meager response is not, in itself, a sobering statistic of
the highest creditability.
Here are some of the facts I learned. I take them at random, but together they form a
. For most congregations the late Friday evening service is still the major service of the
week. On the average, less than a half hour of that service is devoted to music. The half hour
of music (most services last an hour and a half) is divided in varying proportions between hazzan,
choir and congregation. In many cases the Bar Mitzvah of the following morning also partici-
pates and uses part of the half hour.
. In most congregations the purely professional choir and the purely professional quali-
ty of singing is a thing of the past. It has been replaced by a volunteer choir that sings on
Friday nights and on the high holidays.
. While most congregations schedule a three hour Sabbath morning service, the largest
regular attendance is present for only the last hour of the service.
• Most congregations allot twenty minutes for Musaf. Many have made it a practice for
the Bar Mitzvah to chant either Shaharit or Musaf or both.
. Most Jews still come to the synagogue on Rosh Hashannah. Less than 30% of the ave-
rage four-hour-service is allocated to hazzanic, choral or congregational music.
. The average congregation last year spent a maximum of fifty dollars on the purchase of
. To my knowledge, not one of the three cantorial schools has graduated a single teacher
qualified and competent and now teaching Jewish music in our religious schools.
. The Junior Congregation is where the foundation must be laid for an understanding
and an appreciation of synagogue music. Most of these are led by teachers of Hebrew, or by
lay volunteers with little musical knowledge, training or talent.
. The average student who attends a religious school is offered a maximum of twenty
minutes of instruction in Jewish music per week, usually led by a teacher with little or no
special training or knowledge. The curriculum offered in most cases consists of a half dozen
ruah songs from Israel and the usual quota of hackneyed holday songs.
. Congregations whose annual school budgets varied last year from $25,000 to $200,000
all managed somehow to spend exactly the same amount, $50, on music and music materials
for their school.
. There remains today only one publisher specializing exclusively in Jewish music. Fifteen
years ago there were more than a half dozen.
. During the '40's and '50's a host of internationally known singers of Jewish art and
folk music appeared regularly before the American Jewish public, Today, one man remains in
the field and it is no secret that he turns to hazzanut on the high holidays in order to make a
. There is not, to the best of my knowledge, one single serious composer studying Jewish
music in any of the three cantorial schools.
. So far as I know only one serious composer of Jewish music occupies a teaching post
on any one of the faculties of the three cantorial schools.
. From my colleagues I learn that as much as 80% of the music heard in their synagogues
was composed before 1900; as much as 50% before 1940. A few report that no more than
20% of their repertoire was composed after 1940.
. With the exception of David Putterman and the Park Avenue Synagogue and Saul
Meisels and the Temple on the Heights no synagogue in the Conservative Movement has a
continuing program for the commissioning of new music.
. The total enrollment of full-time cantorial students in all three cantorial schools does
not exceed 50.
There is more but it is not necessary to continue.
I have told you little that you do not already know, but, perhaps this is the first time
that so much bad news has been gathered together in one place.
Each of us can evaluate these symptoms for himself. Some may find that these facts
have no counterpart in their own experience. It is more likely that for most of us these facts
only scratch the surface. I doubt whether anyone can honestly say that the facts are entirely
In weighing the seriousness of the situation much will depend on one's perspective. One
could probably shrug his shoulders and leave the symptoms for others to diagnose and care.
More, I hope, will agree that a profession that has no future forfeits also the present. They will
agree with me that the body of Jewish music lies gravely ill.
Can we help?
Will we help?
Can we help? The answer to that is, yes.
Will we help? The answer to that lies in your hearts. If we are truly the guardians of
Jewish song as well as its interpreters we must help or watch our profession waste away before
I will admit that we face disaster but we are not necessarily lost. We need to remind our-
selves that we, our entire generation, has come to a totally new place and a totally new time
which no one has explored before. But we have a tradition which can provide us with certain
tested tools and some unfailing insights and there is still time to make our own map.
This is not the time, nor will it help, to make excuses or to ask where the blame lies. The
truth is that we are all at fault. The indifference, the inertia, the ineptitude of the broad Jew-
ish community, including its hazzanim and its rabbis and its other professionals have helped
to bring us to the brink of disaster. Before we can succeed in rescuing Jewish music we will
need to enlist the aid and cooperation to that same broad community together with its hazza-
nim and its rabbis.
This leads us to the ultimate question: How can we help?
I think the time is long past when timid palliatives can help. It is too late for aspirin. A
major miracle is now in order; nothing less will do.
If there is anything that can be salvaged from the ashes of the past it is the knowledge
that we must capture again for ourselves that sense of pride which once was ours, a sense of
pride in the great enterprise which is Jewish music.
We must savor again the joy that comes from being an interpreter of this ancient, sacred
and ennobling art which is the unique expression of the Jewish spirit. We must come to know
again the serene satisfaction which can come to a master of this mystical, wordless language
which has the power to illumine wisdom and faith like a prism in the morning sun.
We must know anew the exaltation which can come to us as guardians of the one key
with which the inner gates of prayer may be opened for those on whose behalf we stand oefore
Such pride is neither vain nor boastful. It is rather the pride of the professional in his
profession. It comes from knowledge, from assurance, from love and for us hazzanim, from
the conviction that we are engaged in God's work.
This kind of price can help us to face and to overcome three great challenges which must
be met; three tests which Jewish music must pass before it can be considered to be out of danger.
These are continuity, vitality and creativity.
The first of these is continuity.
When we speak of continuity our thoughts flow directly to our children. We look to
them to pick up the threads of our lives from where we shall some day drop them.
There will be no Jewish music if our children are not instructed in it. Here is where we
fail most pitifully and where the consequences are the most severe.
For some reason we have always looked upon our tasks with children as a necessary evil,
a demeaning aspect of our careers as hazzanim. We are beginning to reap the whirlwind from
the seeds we have sown.
At a time when the communications industry spouts 1,000 new educational techniques
every day we have not come up with a single new idea to facilitate the teaching of Jewish music;
to make it interesting and exciting. There has not even been published in the last 15 years a
realistic music curriculum. Each of us seems to have been making shabbes far zich.
Yes, individual talented and concerned men have devoted time and effort to this crucial
area. We have heard some of their work at this convention and at others in the past. One or
two have been concerned with developing a new method for chanting sacred texts. But out-
side of their own congregations they have met with little encouragement. To tell the truth at
times I have had the feeling that many of us looked down on these men, implying somehow
that such colleagues must be inadequate at the pulpit and for that reason try to strengthen
their position by becoming involved with children.
Even the simplest tools are not readily available to assist the hazzan in this work.
The Cantors Assembly, along with the other hazzanic and music bodies, must begin at
once to make available new song books, text books, prayer collections, recordings, slides,
films, tapes as well as new techniques and methods.
Most urgently required is a new, re-thought nationally standardized music curriculum
for elementary and high school grades, and a standardized Haftarah and Torah nusah and
method. This therapy must be regularly and continously repeated over the next decade no
matter what the cost or the sacrifice.
While we are on the subject of teaching Jewish music I should like to make one further
comment. Many will probably feel that it is the least practical of the many impractical sug-
gestions I am making. But this suggestion has one saving grace: it is critical of the rabbis and
so I am sure you will listen.
I daresay that no one will disagree that many times we find, to our dismay, that the
level of musical taste of the rabbi is no higher than that of many laymen. Far too often it is
he who calls for, quote, simple music, end quote. All too often it is he who would substitute
the imitation hasidic nigun he has heard on a record for a piece of authentic hazzanut or
All other considerations aside, the basic reason for his naive taste is that he just does not
know any better. Those who should have taught him better when he was just a student in his
own Talmud Torah failed him. By the time he gets to the Seminary his sensitivity and his
taste are already established. If he has been raised in a synagogue where good music was the
norm, he will demand that of his hazzan. If the reverse is ture, he will demand cheap or poor
music, without realizing that he is acting to lower standards rather than to raise them. It
would seem to me that if we are to begin to make serious efforts to teach music to our young,
we must also begin to make provision for a comprehensive music curriculum for rabbinic
students at the Seminary.
If our rabbinate is to be properly prepared, culturally as well as halachically, rabbinical
school curricula must be broadened to include: a course in the history of our sacred nushnot,
a course in nusah, a course in the appreciation of the choral and hazzanic repertoire. Most
helpful would be participation in some choral activity together with cantorial students.
Such a program would go a long way in bridging the gap of understanding which now
separates all too many hazzanim from their rabbinic colleagues. But such a program can come
into being only if we are prepared to suggest it, to promote it, and, if necessary, to finance it.
Let us turn now to the other end of the spectrum. Let us look for a moment to our
heritage and see how it may be preserved and fortified.
Although many old and venerable Jewish communities have been wiped from the face of
the earth in our lifetime, there are still, thankfully, in this country and in Israel, those who
escaped the Holocaust and who still remember the unique melodies which were sung in those
communities. Such udim mutzalim maycsh must be found. The musical traditions which
are locked in their memories must be put on paper and on tape. First, because we owe it to
those communities, to history and to ourselves. Second, because such memories can serve
to enrich our own music and our own lives.
Not everything that weill be recorded will be a treasure: the job of culling and sifting
and editing will come later. Now, while they are still in our midst, is the time to caputre for-
ever these songs and tunes, nushaot and nigunim which will otherwise be lost.
THE NEXT TEST IS THAT OF VITALITY.
A living thing must leave an impression on its surroundings if its existence is to have
meaning. A civilization must leave a record if it is to be remembered.
It should be of great concern to us that all but one publisher of Jewish music has left the
field. The publisher is, in the turest sense, the recorder of history. When all is said and done
all that will remain of the thought, of the creativity, of the philosophy, of the outlook of our
time is the printed word, the printed note. The greatest songs, the greatest thoughts, the
greatest plans, if they are not recorded and published die with their creator.
We are an historic people not only because our history is a long one, but because we have
learned to live with history, to build our lives in historic perspective. Even now, centuries
after they were first written, we find how important and meaningful the written word of the
Dead Sea Scrolls can be in shedding light on an age long gone.
If the field of Jewish music is not broad enough to provide a publisher with a sound econo
mic basis for publishing then it must be our responsibility to assist with publication grants,
with research grants, and with other reasonable means of insuring their continued operation.
Some musical works are just not feasible for a commercial publisher to undertake. This
does not excuse us from the responsibility to see that they are published. Our Reform colleague
all are to be congratulated for their early efforts in restoring and making available our-of-print
masterpieces. The Jewish community will also be in our debt for the outlay of time, effort and
energy which we are expending on the works of Solomon deRossi.
Each hazzan will need to re-examine his own conscience with regard to a practice which
has become all too widespread. In the naive belief that we are saving money for our congrega-
tions we reproduce, without permission, copies of published music either by hand or by
mechanical copier. I know that the practice is widespread in all fields of culture and education.
This does not make it right. It is in the fullest sense g'nevat hada-at, plagiarism.
In trying to save money in this fashion we are actually saying to our congreagtions that
Jewish music does not deserve serious budgetary consideration, that it is not worthy of a full
budget and that we, as practitioners in the field of Jewish music, do not understand, or do not
care to point up, the importance of working with proper materials. It is helpful sometimes, to
be able to repair an automobile engine with a paper clip or a hair pin but General Motors pre-
fers that you go to an authorized dealer who will use the proper guaranteed part.
When we complain about small music budgets we should stop to consider whether or not
we are guilty of inspiring them.
Jewish music will remain vital and continue to serve its purpose only if it has meaning
for our time. Music, especially religious music, faces the same crucial tests to which all here-
tofore accepted tradition has been put by our generation. Religion, morality, ethics, good
and evil, all of these are being carefully scrutinized and examined with an inquisitiveness, un-
fettered as never before by sacred cows, and in some cases with an honesty which is at once
refreshing and shattering, optimistic and at the same time sadly revealing.
Ahead lies great promise and great danger.
Even Judaism itself is not being excused from this searing m-examination. Judaism will
pass muster in the eyes of those whose search is an hones one but it will pass only if it is true
to itself and if it is willing to do what it has always done: if it is willing and able to adapt it-
self to the needs of our time.
But we must not be misled by the phrase "the needs of our time." Not everything that
is timely is necessarily meaningful or true.
We must strive for relevance to the world in which we'live, but also keep in mind that
in every age one finds the good and the bad. Our music should, must, be relevant to the world
in which we live, but relevance must not preclude quality.
Robert Shaw, in a recent address on "New Directives in Music for Worship" had this to
say. He speaks in terms of the church, but the point is relevant to us, as well.
. . . nothing but the best is good enough. If one comes to me saying that one man's
'St. Matthew Passion' may be another's 'Old Rugged Cross' then I may only reply that that
is unfortunately his loss, for there can be little doubt about which music serves God the more
nobly or ascribes to Him the greater glory. There are, after all standards in the construction
of music as there are standards in the building of apartment houses or dams. God is not
served by enshrining the mediocre. It is good to have five thousand young people chanting a
Billy Graham hymn 'Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling' in Madison Square Garden, but if
they could have heard the Dona Nobis Pacem - the prayer for inner and outer peace - of
Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, they would have had a religious experience of vastly greater vigor
Is it too much to hope for, that at least some laymen and rabbis and hazzanim will keep
this in mind the next time the question of choosing this or that choral or congregational selec-
tion comes up for discussion?
THE FINAL CRITERION IS CREATIVITY.
We have talked before about the need to create new music. I do not want to get involved
here in whether we should like the contemporary sound or the old sound or the jazz sound or
far out. What I am talking about here is the concept that we must continue to add music to
our repetoire. Just as one cannot continue to grow financially if he lives on his savings, so we
cannot continue to progress culturally if we do not continue to enlarge that culture with con-
tributions from our own time.
Hazzanim somehow have been smitten with the notion that composers cannot live with-
out composing, that they will compose because they cannot help themselves. We are content
to examine their work and to criticize it but very rarely to instigate its creation.
Let us, once and for all, rid ourselves of this myth. Composers are human beings, creative
human beings, they need encouragement, they need guidance, they need to know that their
creativity is needed, they need to be supported in every sense of that word.
If you do not like contemporary sounds, commission someone to write in a tradtional
style. If you like sophisticated music, or twelve tone music find a composer who works in
those media. It is not necessary for every new work to be avant garde. The main thing is
to keep the creative mill going.
Sooner or later the poor music will filter out and the good music will remain.
But even the process of commissioning is an art. I see little value in commissioning people
to write music for the synagogue if they are not intimately acquainted with the needs of the
synagogue, the musical traditions of the synagogue, the liturgy of the synagogue or if they,
themselves, have not, at one time or another, worshipped in a synagogue.
I wonder whether commissioning Stravinsky to write a service would provide, in the long
run, a lasting contribution to Jewish music. Yes, we need great composers but only if these
great composers know the field, or only if they are willing to become thoroughly acquainted
with it. What I am speaking of is not only knowledge of traditional nusah. I am more con-
cerned that the composer be in tune with Jewish Ideals, be in command of the liturgy and that
he shall be proud to be engaged in such a sacred project.
There are probably good reasons why so few of us are interested in new music. Maybe
it is because we have lost so much that we so desperately cling only to the past. We have be-
come a people that wants only to recite kaddish, only to remember the past. We need to
learn, as well, how to recite Modeh Ani, to look to romorrow. We rob the past of any meaning,
we empty it of purpose if we do not use the inspiration of the lives of those we mourn to guide
us in our own. They absorbed and created anew out of their own experience; and thus passed
on a treasure richer than that which they received. We can do no less.
The task for us is not one which we can accomplish by ourselves. We will need to mobilize
the entire broad American Jewish community. As our own pride in what we are grows, as we
become more and more committed to the future as well as to the present, this pride will be-
come contagious. It will produce the funds, the good will, the energy which will be needed to
save Jewish music, it will create the atmosphere in which, at last, Jewish music will be properly
taught, properly performed, properly preserved and properly loved.
Pride and work can perform miracles. Only those will wipe out the shame which is ref-
lected by the pitifully low enrollments in our cantorial schools. That statistic is, I am afraid,
the most telling of all.
When hazzanut becomes, for each of us, the ennobling and elegant art which it can be,
when it becomes, for all of us tiferet leosehu, vetiferet /a min ha-adam, a thing of glory to
those who pursue it, and a source of pride to all mankind, then we shall not lack for young
men to follow in our footsteps.
Jewish music lies gravely ill. 1 hope that I have suggested some means by which it may
be healed. There are, I am sure, many remedies which offer similar promise. But this much
is clear. Nothing will happen if we do not begin at once to share in the healing.
A broader, brighter, healthier Jewish music lies just within our grasp, but we must first
roll up our sleeves, stretch out our arms and plunge into the task.
Those who will be content merely to stand and look on may find themselves mourners
at the deathbed of Jewish music.
Long ago the rabbis of the Midrash advised: If you come to the house of worship do not
remain standing outside the gate but enter delet lefnim midelet, gate after gate, until you
reach the innermost gate. The rabbis spoke of the synagogue but they meant all of life. There
are heights and depths, ideals and realities, challenges and disappointments, gate after gate
through which we must pass. They understood that true participation in something precious
cannot be achieved by standing on the outside looking in.
In "Before the Law" one of the great parables of modern literature, Franz Kafka des-
cribes a man who arrives before the gate to the Law. The doorkeeper says that he cannot
admit him at the moment. The man waits. The gate to the Law stand open so the man strains
to look inside.
The doorkeeper wants to help. He advises the man: "Try to get in without permission.
But note that I am only the lowest doorkeeper. From hall to hall keepers stand at every gate,
one more powerful than the other."
The man is puzzled, He thinks the Law should be accesible to every man at all times.
But, he decides to wait until he receives permission to enter. He waits for days; he waits for
During all these long years he watches the doorkeeper constantly and learns every detail
of his appearance. He forgets about the other keepers of the other gates, This one seems to
be the only barrier between himself and the Law.
Finally, his life is about to end. Before he dies, all that he has experienced forms into
one question, He beckons to the doorkeeper since he can no longer rise, and asks: "Everybody
strives to attain the Law. How is it, then, that in all these years no one has come seeking ad-
mittance but me?"
The keeper of the gate answers: "No one but you could enter here, since this gate was
reserved for you alone. Now I shall go and close it!
This is the choice which is before us today, tonight, this moment. Shall we, like Kafka's
poor devil, wait for an auspicious moment to enter the gate? And, finding no auspicious moment,
die outside the gate? Or, shall we, as our sages advise, enter at once, gate after gate, until we
reach the innermost?
The answer for each man lies in his own heart. But in another Midrash, the rabbis have
At God's gate, they teach, there is no keeper. The Lord of all keeps the gates wide open.
All there is for us to do is to enter.
SAMUEL ROSENBAUM, is a hazzan who is also well known as an authorand composer. He graduated from
New York University in 1940, after which he studied for the cantorate with the well known teacher of
hazzanim, the late Jacob Beimel. Hazzan Rosenbaum has served as cantor of Temple Beth El in Rochester,
New York since 1946. Mills Music Inc. has published a number of his musical works among which are
"Festival and Sabbath Songs for the Young Singer", "Sing a Song of Israel", a Bat Mitzvah service, and a
collaborative work with the late Abraham Ellstein "The Redemption". He also collaborated with Sholom
Secunda in a well known Peretz work entitled "If Not Higher" and an original work "Yizkor". He is the
author of a recently published book "To Live as a Jew", Hazzan Rosenbaum is a past president and now
the Executive Vice President of the Cantors Assembly.