These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Great Synagogue

Posted on November 28, 2010 by Shibley

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I have written here and there about the shaliach tzibbur (communal emissary) and the importance that that role has in the experience of Jewish prayer. If you go back and read my post about Yom Kippur, I wrote that the shaliach tzibbur for musaf did not have the most magnificent voice, but that his presence, passion, and command for the t’fillah far surpassed any his vocal shortcomings. To draw a contrast, last night I attended kabbalat Shabbat at The Great Synagogue, pictured above.

The chazzan, accompanied by an award winning choir, delivered rousing renditions of the Friday evening t’fillot. It was an impressive display of what I think comes to mind when people think about classical European chazzanut. Any attempt at recounting the beauty of the music would fall woefully short of its true grandeur. At one point, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to be transported to the “old world,” where daveners would pack the shul to hear the magnificent voices of Europes finest chazzanim.

I would be remiss if I did not inform you that it was not a participatory experience. There were very few opportunities to sing along. As such, many of those in attendance, tourists and daveners alike, turned to side conversations which detracted from the power of the music. Unlike my Yom Kippur experience, which was highly participatory, this was perhaps akin to a concert, which while beautiful did not fulfill my desire to sing the Psalms of kabbalat Shabbat.

I hope this helps others in considering what kind of davening they wish to seek and build.