Set The Tone

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Louis Finkelman Contributing Writer

Use music to prepare for the High Holidays.

Rosh Hashanah is coming soon, and you might not yet have entered the space of the Days of Awe. How can you get into that reflective mood?

Thanks to the internet, you can hear the melodies of the Days of Awe in advance. Check out these renditions:

  • Rabbi David Polsky of Southfield recommends links to Chasidic music on Youtube, including bit.ly/2N2EwTE and bit.ly/2BV7Uqw. For more material, he recommends: Piyyut.org.il.
  • Musician Laurie Mangold of Louden County, Va., is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and flutist who performs as Laurie Blue on the internet and at breweries, bars, community events, private parties and kindergartens. She also teaches Hebrew school at Congregation Sha’are Shalom in Leesburg, Va.

“I start singing pretty much anything, randomly, around the house, with the soaring High Holiday ma’ariv nusach [evening service liturgy]. Hubby Jeff can confirm this. So, what I’m listening to is myself, and it’s not very good … but the melody moves me.”

Mangold also seeks out other sorts of Jewish music online, including the Maccabeats: bit.ly/2Nqy31Q.

  • Ezra Lubelsky, originally from Antwerp, Belgium, now leads services in Switzerland. You can hear his moving version of traditional Ashkenazic prayer service liturgy at www.nusachtefillah.com. Listening to these files will certainly awaken memories.
  • Former Detroiter Dina Najman serves as rosh kehillah (religious leader) and marta de’atra (authority in Jewish law) of the Kehillah in Manhattan, N.Y. She prepares for the Days of Awe by listening to a special tape of the music of her father, Hazan Chaim Najman. Several of her rabbinic colleagues also listen to this music each year. Najman feels reluctant to tout the work of her father, a humble man, “but,” she says, “the richness and the depth he brings to the tefillah has never been matched, in my experience.”

Though the tape is not available, the cantor’s Kol Nidre and Yud Gimmel Middot are online here.

Jewish man blowing the Shofar horn of Rosh Hashanah New Year . Religious symbol.. High holidays music.

How to make it fresh?

Another way to get a charge out of the same liturgy that we recite year after year: Listen to it in a different accent and a different musical mode. If you are used to a classical Ashkenazic liturgy, try hearing Shoham-Simchi present the prayers in a Yemenite service that is heartfelt and moving.

Find this on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2PM4n0C or https://bit.ly/2okT4QB.

Or you might hear the penitential prayers (Selichot) as recited at Congregation Petah Tikvah in Montreal, in the liturgy of the people of Castille: https://1-tube.ru/watch/ERbLFPg_9XI.

Or listen to the music that moves your soul, even if it seems unrelated to Judaism. Chana Finman, who teaches art at Jewish Ferndale, said, “I find that I contemplate the universe with Bach. The meandering voice of a violin, intricate patterns of counter melody and fugue pull my heart and mind to feel awe in the magic of living.”

  • Tova Schreiber of Oak Park, programming and engagement coordinator for Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield and Motor City USY adviser, said, “One of the things I enjoy most about the High Holidays is the distinctiveness of the davening. Those somber, old-school melodies seem holy to me precisely because I don’t hear them the rest of the year. They have a rareness to them that sends a chill up my spine. To preserve that awesome effect, I make an effort not to listen to them in advance.”
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