Monday, October 31, 2005

Holiday pet peeves

With the holidays over, it's time to think back about all the things that annoyed me - most of which bug me every year. Let's start with...

The words

"Eloha selichot": This is wrong. God's name is never pronounced "eloha". The final hey follows the patah, like the chet in "sameach". The correct pronunciation is "e-LO-ahh", with the accent on the "lo" and with the hey pronounced at the end of the word, aspirated with a puff of air. Remember: If you pronounce it wrong, you're not saying God's name!

"Beena hagigeinu": In "shma koleinu" during selichot, the word "beena" is correctly pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: "BEE-na". Israelis often get this wrong, reading it "bee-NA", since they mistake it for the noun which means "insight" or "understanding". In this case "BEE-na" is a verb, in the imperative, pleading with God to "heed" our expressions of repentance. The word should really be "been", but the poetic form used here adds a superfluous hey to make it "BEE-na" (in parallel with "ha'azeena" in the first part of the verse). If you say it "bee-NA", you're not making sense; instead of saying, "Hearken to our utterances, God, heed our expressions," you're saying, "insight our expressions."

The actions

Waving for the "Hodu"s: In the "Hodu" paragraph of Hallel, the Chazzan waves his lulav for each of the first two verses (Hodu and Yomar Na), but the congregation should wave four times, each time they respond with "Hodu". Many congregations mistakenly follow the Chazzan and only wave the first two times.

Waving for "Hatzlicha na": Both Chazzan and congregation should wave lulavs for "Ana Hashem hoshia na" but not for "Ana Hashem hatzlicha na" (since we don't hold like Beit Shammai!).

The music

Lively Unetaneh Tokef: This is one of the most somber of the high holiday prayers, but I've noticed an (increasing?) inclination to put at least parts of it to lively tunes. One melody popular in Israel includes a lilting march for "umalachim yechafezun...", and I've also heard upbeat melodies used for "Adam yesodo me'afar..." ("Man comes from dust and goes to dust"). The popular (in Israel) Yair Rosenbloom melody is wonderful, but it suffers from the same flaw in places ("V'chol baei olam..."). Save your lively marches for Kedusha, please!

Hodu in unison: The Hodu paragraph of Hallel is meant to be recited or sung responsively, with the chazzan saying one verse and the congregation responding, "Hodu Lashem ki tov...". This has become so rare that I feel relieved when I see it done right. Not every song in the davening needs to be sung in unison!

The wrong hakafot songs: Simchat Torah celebrates the completion of the Torah. When I was young, we would dance to songs about the Torah or about joy, and all was well. Lately, though, it seems Simchat Torah is losing its theme.

First, they started with "T'hey hasha'ah hazot" - a slow, contemplative song pleading for God's mercy. It's a beautiful song, sure, but hakafot are a time to celebrate, not to plead! This is a hora, not a kumzits! Other kumzits songs like "Hamalach hagoel oti" came next. Come on, folks: If you want to meditate, do it at seudah shlishit!

Then, more recently - and I don't know if this is just my shul or if it has taken hold more widely in Israel - the Yamim Noraim songs appeared. "Mareh Cohen" is an inspiring hymn, but it's about the Cohen Gadol leaving the Kodesh Kodashim on Yom Kippur! And I simply don't get "Areshet Sefateinu" - when's the last time anyone blew a shofar on Simchat Torah? (Forget I asked; that's all I need...)

We have beautiful songs and we have meaningful festivals. What's so hard about matching them up correctly?


Soccer Dad said...

What's wrong with singing Marei Cohen? Doesn't it say that his friends and family made him a big party? Didn't the safe emergence of the Cohen Gadol suggest (along with the thread turning white) that the Jews' repentence had been accepted?

Zman Biur said...

Looks like my paragraph breaks confused you. I love singing Marei Cohen. Just not during hakafot on Simchat Torah!

Joel Nothman said...

I've had some similar peeves. Well at least on G-d's name in Hallel.

But I too think mar'eh kohen is fine to dance to on simchat torah. And yet, I too have heard hamal'ach hagoel... and that should not be there at all!

MatzahNacho said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one bugged by the "Eloha" thing.

Cosmic X said...

The Eloha thing bothers me as well, especially when the chazan is a Torah scholar who should no better.

Here are my "favorite" davening mistakes.

yitz said...

Some of the pronunciation & accentuation problems arise from those who daven "b'ha'avara Ashkenazis" as opposed to "ha'avara Sefardit." The former usually put the emphasis on the next-to-last syllable, with the exception if there's a "chataf-patach" in that syllable, then the last syllable is emphasized. Israelis are used to the "ha'avara Sefardit" in which the LAST syllable is almost always the one emphasized.

Regarding the Nanuim, or Waving of the 4 Species: you have correctly pointed out the Ashkenazic, non-Chassidic custom. However, those who follow Nusach Sephard and Chassidic custom wave during Hallel only four times: On the first Hodu, twice for "Ana Hashem Hoshia," and on one of the latter Hodus towards the end [there are varying applications of the last one - some do it on the first, some on the second]. But you are absolutely correct about not waving for "Ana Hashem Hatzlicha".

Regarding the music, I agree with you about "Unsaneh Tokef", but have never heard baalei tefilla using the kind of tunes you mention. Regarding "Hodu in unison", the "Hodu" part is supposed to be a response from the congregation to each of the four stanzas. But what's wrong if the Chazan and congregation sing the latter 3 [Yomar-Yomru-Yomru] stanzas together? I think it's very beautiful that way, and I don't think the Halacha prohibits it.

As to Simchas Torah tunes, adreraba: "T'hei haSha'ah HaZos" can be very moving and danceable, it doesn't have to be sung super-slowly or "dveykusdik."
In my shul, we sing "HaMalach HaGoel Osi" as a "Misheberach" for "Kol HaNa'arim." It is very moving! We don't use it for dancing, you're right on that score.
Regarding Yomim Noraim tunes on Simchas Torah: many Machzorim have the following prayers printed after each Hakafa: "Yedid Nefesh" , "Keil Mistater", and "Yetzaveh Tzur Chasdo," Shalosh Seudos tunes; "Veyesayu Kol", "Al Yisrael Emunaso", and "HaAderes v'Emuna", from Yomim Noraim. So what's wrong with "Ma'areh Kohen" or "Areshes"?
BTW, as mentioned on my blog, in Modzitz, the Rebbe composes a dozen or so new tunes every year, for the Yamim Noraim. The livelier ones are certainly used on Simchas Torah to dance with, and the less lively ones, in the Tefillos!

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

*Eloha Ya‘aqov bothers me too. After all, in a Sefardic-style accent, elohá is the feminine of elóah — just like gavóah ~ gevohá. So if it's the feminine, then it should be Elohat Ya‘aqov which may be fine for iber-feminists or Shekhina-worshippers, but isn't actually what the text says; Elohá Ya‘aqov would mean "Ya‘aqov is a goddess", which sounds more like a women's fashion magazine than Hallel... ;-)

Dave said...

I thought it was only the Torah Tidbits that ranted about the Eloha issue.

As far as waving the lulav and saying Hodu in general during Hallel - I have to admit that I never quite feel like I'm doing the right thing. I guess the easiest thing for me would be if the proper halacha, or choices of halachot were printed in the standard Rinat Yisrael or Koren siddurim.

And I can identify with the song concerns. I wrote about my own song issues here:

Karl said...

There have been numerous letters in the Hamodia about correct pronounceation and pauses between words.

I have seen various customs as to the nanuim - but each congergation should follow one minhag.

I totally agree with you about using the correct song for the correct Yom Tov and often the correct tune too.
There are those that do sing a slow song during each hakafa - It could be kabbalistic, or maybe just to dampen our spirits a bit as we are still lacking the Bayis Shlishi.

bgg1 said...

I know this is quite a late addition to this blog, but I came across this thread while searching for something, and feel obligated to add my thoughts. I do agree with most of the comments - growing up I heard the same niggunim used for the Yamim Nora'im and it always bothers me when I hear a non-traditional melody used for any of those (luckily for me I have been the Chazzan form the past 10 years).
Regarding the correct pronunciation of Elo-ah, there is a Da'as Yachid, of R' Moshe Feinstein, ZT"L, that it should be pronounced -ha. The reason being that HaShem's name should never be changed, and therefore the Heh should maintain its sound.

Zman Biur said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm not familiar with R' Moshe's psak - you wouldn't happen to have a source? I find your explanation hard to understand - pronouncing it "eloah" does maintain the sound of the heh, just at the end of the syllable.