Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fallen tabernacle

I returned today from the 8th (my 6th) Hadar Shavuot Retreat, and I have a couple questions about the davening culture at Hadar that I've been meaning to ask for a while.

  • When the Carlebach Mi Chamochah is sung at Hadar in the morning, the standard way it is broken up into lines is:

    Tehilot le-Eil Elyon, baruch hu umvorach
    Mosheh uvnei Yisraeil
    Lecha anu shirah
    Besimchah rabah ve-ameru chulam
    Mi chamochah ba-eilim Adonai
    Mi kamochah ne'dar bakodesh

    Nora tehilot oseh fele
    Shira chadashah shibechu ge'ulim
    Leshimcha al sefat hayam
    Yachad kulam hodu ve-himlichu ve-ameru
    Adonai yimloch le'olam va'ed
    Yai dai dai dai dai dai dai...

    And the hurry-up-and-wait nature of the last three lines has always mystified me. Why jam lots of syllables into the antepenultimate line, only to have extra beats left over for yai dai dai? Why not just

    Yachad kulam hodu
    Ve-himlichu ve-ameru
    Adonai yimloch le'olam va'ed

  • Melodies go through cycles of popularity. This is in part influenced by ordinary use -- if a particular melody is used successfully, it might be emulated by other shelichei tzibbur and slowly gain popularity; on the other hand, it might also become overused and then (silently) deprecated. A melody can also be placed on the fast track through mass exposure if it is taught in a large-group setting such as the Shavuot Retreat or the melody classes preceding the High Holidays. When a melody becomes popular, it's often possible to trace a mechanism by which it spreads. But I was away from New York and Hadar for a year (2007-08), so whatever happened during that year is outside my firsthand experience. So can someone explain what the deal is with "Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim"? Don't get me wrong, I like it and I use it. But I generally use it only in instances that call for a specific mood, e.g. the Three Weeks, and that's the type of situation where I had previously encountered it in davening (e.g. selichot). And then I come back to Hadar in summer 2008, and Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim is everywhere! It's just become a stock "slow" niggun, seemingly stripped of its specific associations. So I'm just curious how and when this happened.

And another question that isn't specific to Hadar:

  • I noticed a few weeks ago that Amos 9:11 says "sukkat David hanofelet". And "hanofelet" has an etnachta, so if there were a special pausal form of this word, it would already be there. So why do some benchers say (in birkat hamazon) "hanofalet"? Is it just a hypercorrection? The actual Tanakh text is presumably authoritative.

    A quick survey of some of the benchers in my apartment shows that the bencher population is distributed fairly randomly:

    Nofelet: B'Kol Echad, B'Osher Ashir, L'chu N'ran'nah, Livnot, Mizmor Shir, UJA, Yedid Nefesh, Zimrat Yah
    Nofalet: Ain Sof, Anim Zemirot, Artscroll, Eit Hazamir Higiyah [sic], Kolot, Limmud, Nevarech, Zemirot Yomeiru

    And that's just benchers; I didn't even get started with siddurim.

This last item isn't really a question:

  • At havdalah on the Shavuot Retreat, everyone got an individual teabag for besamim. At that point, everyone in my section simultaneously got the idea that this havdalah felt like it had been sponsored by Fox News. Of course, this probably wasn't Hadar's fault, because Hadar plans things well in advance, so this had likely been in the works before it had been usurped by the astroturfers. But it plays into a larger trend, since it is reminiscent of the fiasco at the 2005 Shavuot Retreat, when Hadar gave out free Nalgene-style bottles. A great souvenir, with just one problem: the bottles (and the folders for that retreat) were orange, so we couldn't be caught in public with them for many months afterward. Again, not Hadar's fault: the color scheme was inspired by The Gates, and the bottles and folders had been ordered well before the anti-disengagement movement took root. The point is this: time and again, the Hadar Shavuot team has shown an uncanny ability to predict the next inane right-wing meme (or at least the superficial symbols associated with it). They should start thinking of ways to capitalize on this. Does Intrade have a category for what color or prop will be waved in the protests against Obama's second-term agenda in spring 2013?


  1. If I'm thinking of the right Mi Chamochah tune, then I like phrasing it that way so that the (second) musical climax lines up with "Adonai yimloch le'olam va'ed".

    Also, if you're planning to switch tunes at that point, then you might want to yai-dai-dai there anyway (you certainly can't do so later), so why does it matter if you start yai-dai-dai'ing in the middle of a musical stanza?

  2. The actual Tanakh text is presumably authoritativeYes and no: sometimes there are variant readings of Biblical texts in non-biblical ones, like hazal or siddurim. This would be trickier, though, since its a matter of nikkud which was not always written into the texts. I'm guessing hypercorrection.

  3. On tunes: One thing I'd noticed about Hadar and its copies is that while they're organizationally interesting and creative, they aren't very musically creative. I haven't been to Hadar very often, but I was there once when the same tune (which is a perfectly nice tune) was used four separate times in different parts of the service. Maybe it's the influence of (post-Shlomo) Carlebach minyanim that tunes and words are considered interchangeable whether or not they fit the meter?

    Seligmann Baer (in Seder Avodat Yisrael), who seemed to have enjoyed pointing out the grammatical mistakes in his sources, does not mention the variant with the qamats at all. Lest you think that it was too trivial of a change to point out, he *does* comment that, here, דויד should be spelled with a yod just like it is in Tanach.

    My guess would be hypercorrection.

  4. elf's DH writes:
    I haven't been to Hadar very often, but I was there once when the same tune (which is a perfectly nice tune) was used four separate times in different parts of the service.

    I think it's the responsibility of the person who leads musaf to be there for shacharit and be prepared to depart from your original plan if the melodies you're planning to use have already been used in shacharit. Repeating melodies is a faux pas, unless you're repeating them intentionally (because you davka want to link one part of the service to another and/or have a recurring musical theme throughout the service).

    (Since I know that not everyone is prepared to change their plans on the fly, sometimes when I lead shacharit I don't sing anything for e.g. Sim Shalom, to avoid putting the musaf person in an awkward situation.)

  5. I don't claim to know that the tune leader had this in mind, but weren't we just wed to the Torah and to God? We always promise to keep Jerusalem above our chiefest joy at weddings.

  6. Daniel-
    That would explain this instance, but not why this tune has become generally popular (unless the joy of Shabbat is placed in the same category as weddings).

  7. re: sukkat daveed hanof(a/e)let, i don't think it's a matter of hypercorrection, per se.
    what i believe is the case is that some nusakhim see the pausal form as extending beyond the tanakh. i.e. that it still applies, and others consider it archaic and specific to the bible.

  8. I know some people say bore pri hagafen and some say bore pri hagefen, but I have a sefardi (tahora) friend that says bore fri hagefen. one would think that common blessing would be clear, kal vahomer

  9. btw, I just put the pdf of our birkon (bentcher) b'osher ashir online, typos and all

    B'Osher Ashir

  10. Benjamin writes:
    I know some people say bore pri hagafen and some say bore pri hagefen, but I have a sefardi (tahora) friend that says bore fri hagefen.

    But it's not the same issue. There are two forms of the word gefen/gafen in Tanach, the regular form and the pausal form. In that berachah, the word is in pausal position, so the machloket is about whether or not we use pausal forms in post-biblical Hebrew (not about what the pausal form is).

    The fact that "nofelet" appears in pausal form in this pasuk indicates that there is no special pausal form for this word (even in Tanach) - the form "nofalet" apparently doesn't exist.

  11. Hi Benjamin. My name is Eleazar. I am Brazilian and my English is not very good.
    I wonder if you can identify the word that is in the form pausal in Daniel 9:25.
    I wonder if the word is in the form pausal is the same where the accent Atnah.
    Send The answer to my e-mail:

  12. As far as I can tell, no words in that verse are in a special pausal form.