Thursday, September 23, 2004

What time did you finish? (Rosh Hashana)

What time did you finish? What time did you finish? That is the question on every Jew's lips on the days following Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

In the shteeble they were done at 2:30 pm. In the shul at 1 pm. And both sides were feeling mighty proud of themselves (I was out of town, with my parents.)

From L: The Rav (who was the chazan for musaf) poured out his heart, and really brought us together. How could they have finished at 1? They really must have rushed

From the big pediatrician: We had a nice tight service at the shul, with plenty of time to say everything properly, but no dragging. Lots of singing. Our hired chazan chose excellent tunes, and kept us all singing. How did they finish at 2:30? They really must have dragged it out.

I'm baynonim, so let's deconstruct this.

The shul had a 5 hour service, with no break and a brief 10 minute speech. They started at 8 am and, aside for ten ten-minute sermon, went straight through until 1 pm.

The shteeble also started at 8 but took a 30 minute snack-break before shofar blowing. Also, the shteeble davens sefard, meaning there were 3 sets of shofar blasts during the silent musaf amidah. This takes longer, because the person blowing the shofar waits until it seems that most everyone is ready. I've been to the shteeble for Rosh Hashana and the silent musaf amidah is a good 30 minutes longer. Also, the shteeble sells aliyos before torah reading. This takes, perhaps, 20 minutes. So factor in the delays and the actual shteeble service wasn't much longer than the service at the shul. Maybe 15 minutes longer, if that.

As for the hired chazan vs using the rav debate? I think it's simple.

Hasidim, traditionally, believe their Rabbi is an intercessor, so of couse they want their Rabbi to pray the important prayers on their behalf. To the Hasidim, it doesn't matter if their Rabbi can sing or not; they just want the best lawyer at the bar on the Days of Awe. ( Though the shteeble has only a handful of Hasidim, the Rabbi is Hasidic, and as the Rav he expects to take the amud. Because it's his shul, the people have no choice but to let him.)

Non-hasidim don't need an intercessor, but they need to be inspired so that their own prayers are a powerful as possible. A hired chazzan is something of a cheerleader. It's up to him to arouse the crowd, to invigorate the service, to keep the people alert and involved and praying with all their might.

Sounds like both the shul and the shteeble got what they wanted - and needed - this year.

NB: An argumnet for hired chazans. For the most part, the hired chazans sing the "set" pieces (haMelech, Aleinu, Kol Nidrei) with the familair, traditional tunes. The amature prayer leaders I've heard in the shteeble sometimes introduce unwelcome varieties. Even their Kol Nidrei is different. Professionalism and good training has its place. Hat tip HM for the article.


1. My shul is chassidic, and they always hire a chazzan (another chassid)

2. Both the shul and the shteeble daven sfard

3. The shul takes 7 hours to daven, no auction

4. The shteeble takes 4.5 hours to daven, no speech. Nothing skipped. Singing everything.

5. I think doing an auction on Rosh Hashana is adding insult to injury. Do they really need the funds or is it just continuing a tradition?  

They auction on Yom Kippur, too. I think it is outrageous. Do they need the funds? Hard to say, but who doesn't need $20,000?  

When I was 14 we went down to Miami to have Pesach with my Grandma at the Shellbourne Hotel where she lived. They didn't have a minyan there, so I walked down to the Seagul Hotel (the mashgiach said, "go to the Seco Hotel" I looked for ages).
There were exactly 10 of us there.
They still auctioned off the aliyahs.
I don't know what happened to the money, but I didn't get an aliyah.
Some people think if there's no auction, it's not yontif.  

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