Posts Tagged ‘Meaningful Davening’

Parah Piyyut Podcast Video: מבוא לפיוטי פרשת פרה

April 1, 2016

A short video has just been posted online about the piyutim for this Shabbos, Parashas Poroh.


It gives an introduction to some of the music and meaning involved, giving a nice flavor to the text and practice. Hopefully we will see additional, expanded such efforts in the future, to share the beauty of the practice of reciting the special piyutim with those not attuned to it yet.

א גוטען שבת


Poetic Justice: Piyyutim Get Some Overdue Attention – חיבורים חדשים רמי מעלה על פיוטים

March 3, 2016

Once again, we are at that time of the year, as winter winds down, just weeks from Purim ב”ה, the beginning of one of the high seasons of piyyutim in Shul. It is no secret that piyyutim are a ‘hard sell’ for numerous people, and that many have long abandoned them.

But there is yet hope. With a comprehensive, intelligent approach, that shows the wisdom and beauty within them to people, rather than trying to force feed them to the masses, inroads and advances can be, and are being made, in perpetuating their ancient, holy legacy.

In recent years there has been a profusion of new, improved siddurim issued. Piyyutim, however, have gotten a lot less attention. Understandable, on the one hand, after all, they are not the same as regular tefilloh, but nevertheless cause for concern if they didn’t yet get their fair share of attention perhaps.

In that vein, some recent publications featured at the מכון מורשת אשכנז website are a hopeful sign, specifically two works on piyyutim which have come out in the last half year or so, adorned with the blessings of מורנו הרב המבורגר שליט”א and others.

(Of course, there have been other fine works previously  issued on piyyutim in recent decades, but some were quite academic, of limited circulation, etc., great for the more scholarly among us, but not necessarily a perfect fit for the המון עם, the masses of daveners. And/or they may have focused on more widely recited parts of the poetic heritage we have, omitting other, lesser known, but still worthy segments. The fine new works of which we speak, attempt to fill gaps left in the past.)

The most recent new work in the category of which we speak, which includes piyutim for the special Shabbosos of the ‘ארבע פרשיות’, which we are about to start, בס”ד, is very new, ‘hot off the press’, as some might put it.

title page

With skillfull innovation, scholarly, but not overly weighty and tedious, features, introductions, and explanatory comments, it was put together as a machzor for the masses. It has already gotten some nice publicity, and is worth looking at. You can get a taste of it via the Machzor Shivchei Yeshurun website.

We wish the people involved in these initiatives ברכה והצלחה, and hope that they continue to progress מעלה מעלה with their worthwhile activities לטובת הציבור.

The Glory of Chanukahs Past and Present: A Chanukah Stroll Down Western European Jewish Memory Lane: Breuer’s and IGB Basel – הוד חנוכה של שנים קדמוניות בזמננו – קהל עדת ישורון וואשינגטאן הייטס, ביהכ”נ באסל

December 14, 2015

Just in time for זאת חנוכה (important correction: commenter D. has written to me that in מסורת אשכנז the last day of Chanukah is called חנוכת המזבח, rather than Zos Chanukah, and Rav Hamburger shlit”a commented that his point was very correct, and so it is in ספרי רבותינו הראשונים והאחרונים, so I stand corrected with regard to the terminology, שגיאות מי יבין….וה’ ירחם עלי), a commenter, Mendel, has alerted us to some fine, important newly posted videos, one of historical footage showing Chanukahs past in KAJ-Breuer’s, as well as one of a program focusing on IGB Basel on Chanukah in the past.

Viewing them, one gets a renewed appreciation, feeling, and yearning for the glory and majesty of the past, as seen in Western Ashkenaz type kehillos, and a renewed desire to help them continue enriching our lives.

We thank the poster for sharing these newly virtually available treasures with us, and invite our community of readers to view and enjoy them.

יישר כחו וחילו

א פרייליכען חנוכה


The Special Experience of Sukkos at KAJ WH – היחודיות של חג סוכות נעלה בקהל עדת ישורון בוואשינגטאן הייטס: רעיונות ממשתתף אחד

October 2, 2015

R. Avrohom Gordimer, a talented writer, thinker, and Torah activist, has shared some thoughtful reflections on the specialness of the Sukkos experience at KAJ WH.

Worth reading and thinking about.

Other communities and individuals may want to share in the spiritual bounty therein, via similar fare.

א גוטען מועד, א גוטען שבת, א גוטען יום טוב, און א גוט יאהר

The Special Experience of Chanukah Lighting at Khal Adas Jeshurun (‘Breuer’s’) – הדלקת נר חנוכה בק”ק קהל עדת ישורון, וואשינגטאן הייטס, ניו יורק

December 2, 2013

The הדלקת נר חנוכה at KAJ (‘Breuer’s’) is traditionally a special experience.

Now, thanks to the generosity of GWCTD, those who could not experience it in person can get a taste of it even from afar.

Here is a video from the first night of this year’s Chanukah.

Note the following.

1) The beautiful בית הכנסת.

2) The chazan is wearing a tallis in the evening (I believe it is a short while after shekias hachamah). This is in accordance with Minhag Ashkenaz, in which the chazan/shliach tzibbur wears a tallis for tefillos mincha and arvis, as well as the morning tefillos (as we discussed in the past).

3) The way he is wearing it – draped over his arms (as opposed to a common practice among some of throwing back that part of the tallis back over the shoulders, leaving the arms uncovered by it).

4) The beautiful way the brachos are chanted by the chazan, following a traditional nusach. Each one takes close to a minute!

5) The special portable mini platform, upon which the chazan stands when lighting the menorah, after ascending three steps.

6) How the chazan descends after the lighting, taking special action to avoid turning his back to the aron kodesh.

7) The general decorum.

This is a great example of זה א-לי ואנוהו, upon which חז”ל comment התנאה לפניו במצות, as well as כבוד בית הכנסת ושמירת מנהגים קדושים.

Hopefully others will learn from this great example and act similarly. ומהם ילמדו וכן יעשו.

א ליכטיגען און פרייליכען חנוכה

Avinu Malkeinu, A Closer Look: Customs & Insights – תפלת אבינו מלכנו: מנהגים וביאורים

September 13, 2013

One of the tefillos that especially colors and characterizes this time of the year is אבינו מלכנו. Though its basis is ancient, based on a gemara, it was further developed as time went on, and divergent customs developed around it in some places. As with tefillos in general, it is highly recommended to learn more about it, to make your prayer more meaningful, and hopefully more effective, and to leave rote prayer behind (hopefully).

The renowned siddur Avodas Yisroel, as is its wont, sheds significant light on the prayer. It informs us that the amount of supplications starting with Avinu Malkeinu therein varies greatly between Sepharadic, Ashkenaz, and Polish versions, from 29, to 38, to 44, respectively, with a total of 53 different versions existing. In addition, there is a difference in sequence between nuschaos as well. One difference in sequence which caught my attention in particular, is that while in nusach Polin (Eastern European), אבינו מלכנו החזירנו בתשובה שלמה לפניך, asking Hashem to bring us back in complete repentance before Him, follows lines such as א”מ סלח ומחל לכל עונותינו, א”מ מחה והעבר פשעינו וחטאתינו מנגד עיניך, א”מ מחוק ברחמיך הרבים כל שטרי חובותינו, in nusach Ashkenaz it precedes them. That seems to have significant logic on its side, as at the least, praying, yearning, and striving for repentance (hopefully followed by actual repentance), should lead the way, rather than asking for an outright, unequivocal pardon from above first (although it is true that part of repentance, the admission of sin, was already addressed by the first line, אבינו מלכנו חטאנו לפניך).

Another difference in אבינו מלכנו between nusach Ashkenaz and nusach Polin, is that nusach Ashkenaz says it during aseres yemei teshuvoh, but not on a regular calendar taanis tzibbur in other parts of the year, while nusach Polin, in a relatively recent development, does. Update: I looked at a Sepharadic siddur and it seems to be the same as Nusach/Minhag Ashkenaz here, meaning that Avinu Malkeinu is not routinely recited during a regular taanis tzibbur outside Aseres yemei teshuvoh.

May we be zoche, in the zechus of עיון תפלה, analysis and delving into our prayers, which we are taught (as said in tefillas Shacharis) is one of the things שאדם אוכל פירותיהן בעולם הזה והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא (sounds like a great investment!), to more meaningful and spiritual davening, תשובה שלמה, and a שנה טובה.

Thanks to all for their support.

חתימה טובה

Meaningful Poetry Reading (Recitation of Piyutim) In Shul – Guidelines from Rav Tzvi Hirsch Koidanover – הדרך לומר פיוטים לפי ספר קב הישר

March 23, 2012

I recently came across some words of advice regarding how piyutim (synagogue poetry) should be recited, in the famous sefer קב הישר, authored by R. Tzvi Hirsch Koidanover, which dates back to over three hundred years ago.

Since we are now in one of the peak seasons of piyutim of the year, I thought it would be timely and worth sharing. We all say piyutim after all basically, some more and some less. Even those who may think that they don’t say any, actually say them in one way or another, on one occasion or another.

A relevant excerpt, with a partial free translation, from פרק פו of the sefer, follows.

How To Say Piyutim

לא יהיה קל בעיניך באמירת פיוטים של קרוב״ץ, וחיוב על כל אדם לומר הפיוטים בשמחה ובכונת הלב בשפה ברורה, בי בבל פיוט ופיוט יש סודות נפלאין, ולא יהיו הפיוטים דומין עליך כמשא כי הפיוטים נתחברו ע״פ עצת מלאכי מעלה שנגלו לר׳ אליעזר הקלירי שסידר הפיוטים ע״פ א״ב ג״ד וע״פ תשר״ק כי כן מזמריז ומשבחין למעלה, וקבלה בידי מפי זקינים ומפי חסידים מי שמקל באמירת קרוב״ץ ואומר שאינו חיוב כל כך לאומרם אינו מאריך ימיו ח״ו, כי כל היחידים שחברו הפיוטים היו גדולי הדור ואנשי מעשה אשר נעשה להם כמה ניסים בחייהן ובמיתתן,

Let it be not light in your eyes the recitation of piyutim….and it is an obligation on every person to say the poems (piyutim) with joy, concentration of the heart, and clear enunciation, because in every single piyut there are wondrous secrets. And the poems (piyutim) should not appear to you as a burden, because they were composed according to the counsel of angels from above that were revealed to R. Eliezer HaKaliri who arranged them according to Alef Beis (alphabetical order) and Tashra”k (reverse alphabetical order), because that is how they sing and praise on high…..

How Not To Say Piyutim

So that is how to say piyutim. And one can also infer from the above the wrong way to say them, which has unfortunately claimed so many victims over the years. Namely, do not say them as a burden, without joy, without concentration and understanding, in a rush, and with unclear speech.

May we be zoche to to have meaningful poetry readings in our Shuls that elevate us spiritually.

Synagogue poetry month – poetry readings in your local synagogue! The current state of piyyutim.

March 4, 2011

We are about to enter one of the high seasons of synagogue poetry, aka פיוטים.

No, your Shul wasn’t overrun by a group of artists and poets. It’s just that time of the year again.

Piyyutim season is here. The ארבע פרשיות – which feature the most widely recited piyyutim perhaps, at least outside the Yomim noraim, are almost upon us. I am not sure if Sepharadim say them too. Anyone know?

The state of piyyutim today seems to be poor, from my observations over the years (as the state of poetry in general today perhaps?). A negative attitude is widespread. But it wasn’t always that way. The great talmid of the נודע ביהודה, רב אלעזר פלעקעלס, author of responsa תשובה מאהבה, who was his successor in the rabbonus of Prague,  in a famous teshuvoh, at the beginning of his teshuvos, exclaims, בא וראה כמה חביבים הפיוטים בעיני רבותינו הקדושים הראשונים, come and see how beloved piyyutim are to the holy Rabbis of earlier generations. And he brings a whole list – Rashi, Tosefos, Rishonim….who talk and bring proofs from language of piyyutim to explain Torah. To explain a gemara. To explain a midrash. Piyyutim are handled like Chazal. So piyyutim are the holiest of the holy. Viata – and now – hachareishim – the deaf – haivrim – the blind – habitu – look – im harishonim bnei haElokim, baalei hoasufos, Rashi viTosefos, Ramban, Rashba.. he brings…they all ahovu vechibevu divrei hapiyyutim, they loved the words of the piyyutim, we can come now and criticize them?

How many still say them? How many understand them?

How many enjoy them? How many look forward to them?

Who says them?

Who omits them?

Who says them in a quality manner?

Some say them during chazoras haShatz, some after.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Simple things come to mind. Say them slowly, with no speeding.  Have a fitting shliach tzibbur leading them – one that understands them, and knows the nusach with which they are traditionally chanted.

I heard a very interesting shiur from רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א on piyyutim (from which the תשובה מאהבה piece above came) a while back. One of the things he suggested to improve the situation was to have shiurim, explaining the piyyutim, before they are to be recited, as is brought by the son of the של”ה, רבי שבתי שעפטל הורוויץ, ווי העמודים, פרק י, who reports that he instituted in Frankfurt when he was אב”ד there that groups should study the meaning of תפלות, פיוטים, ויוצרות so they should know what are saying, be able to have proper kavonnoh and not just emit sounds like birds.

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