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...
"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."
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!).
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?