Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Repetition in Davening

According to R' Rich Wolpoe, repetition has been a long-time argument between cantors, who want to repeat ad nauseam, and rabbis who think it's problematic.

The Cantors Manual of Jewish Law mentions this tension, and notes a hierarchy of repeating.

  1. Don't do it.

  2. Repeat, but preserve word order:
    1. within a phrase: kah ribon, ribon olam.

    2. repeat whole verses: ein keloheinu verse 1 at end again.

  3. Worst: repeat words out of order, ruining the sense of the sentence.

Personally, I'm not that fond of repeating. However, if a) it's melodically necessary, and b) it's not a verse, particularly a verse with God's name, I don't have such a problem with it. In that, I seem to be following Cantor Sherwood "the Chaz" Goffin, my model for all things cantorial.

For instance, there's a tune for Ein Keloheinu, which is AAB (it starts out [& a c', c' d'-b c']), but the B tune ends on the third up from the key, so you have to repeat the A tune to finish on the key note. The Chaz repeats the first verse.

There's also the mishna in brochos warning against "modim modim" and one other repetition; IIRC the gemara derives that since it was only two examples, rather than a blanket prohibition on repeating, it's only those two which are theologically problematic.

Dr. Meir Levin, in R' Yitz Etshalom's series on Rambam's Hilchot Kriat Shema, has some interesting observations on repetition in the view of the Rambam:

Thus in Halacha [2:]11- Reading lemafreah is Lo Yatza. Reading a verse and repeating (1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4,) it or repeating a word, such as "Shma, Shma" is unseemly or we hush but is acceptable B'di'avad. (There is no Al Haseder of sequence but there is Al Haseder of Zman)
[...]
Note : [the repetition of] "Shma, Shma" and "Modim, Modim" is to Rambam an issue of Nusach Hatefila (the formulation/wording of Tefilla).

See our halacha and Tefila 9:4. Rambam does not quote the law of "Modim, Modim" in 9:7 or 10:5 where heretical leanings during Amida are discussed but in the context of Nusach of Shmonei Esreh. (But see Commentary to Megila 25)

Be careful, though, when davening with the "hippy dippy" heterodox. They may repeat phrases to fill up the space taken by phrases that they cut, thinking them theologically problematic.

For instance, in Mogein Avos, when it's done in C-nagogues, they may repeat "ki vam ratzah lehaniach lahem" to cover up for skipping "lefanav naavod beyirah ufachad", which contravenes their belief that the sacrificial order will not be reinstated.

So approach repeating with some forethought, and take into account your whole tzibur, rabbi and congregants.

5 comments:

Ha-historion said...

Thanks, very interesting post.

Mar Gavriel said...

AFAIK, Conservative siddurim all include לפניו נעבד ביראה ופחד. Reform siddurim especially like this phrase, because it reflects the Old Palestinian text שאותך לבדך ביראה נעבוד or שאותך ביראה נעבד, which R prefers to the Babylonian המחזיר שכינתו לציון.

The reason that many Conservative synagogues repeat כי בם רצה להניח להם is that the popular C tune (Goldfarb?) requires such a repetition.

thanbo said...

Yes, I just checked Goldfarb's original tune, and yes, you're right, he does repeat it. I guess when I learned it, I adapted it so as not to repeat.

BTW, Israel Goldfarb's brother Joe was my great-uncle; Israel's son Joe is (or was a couple of years ago) alive & well; I've run into him at family funerals.

The Goldfarbs were Orthodox and quite frum, and several brothers were chazzonim. R' Israel was rabbi/cantor at Kane Street Synagogue for about 50 years; Joe was chazzan at a little shul in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (which is now the subject of a Lubavitch turf war); Samuel D. assisted at Kane Street, played organ in a movie theatre, and left his first (arranged) wife for his childhood sweetheart in the mid-1920s. (yes, I know it sounds like loshon hora, but I learned it from a biography written by one of his grandchildren; my late cousin, whose parents remained friendly with their brother even after the "scandal", confirmed it.)

Samuel was the author/composer of "I Have a Little Dreidl"; Israel composer of a lot of things, most notably that Mogein Ovos, Sholom Aleichem (the one that everybody uses) and Vene'emar at the end of Aleinu.

MP said...

"Samuel was the author/composer of...V'ne'emar at the end of Aleinu." Did he also compose the "ushmo, ushmo, ushmo" part? ;-)

thanbo said...

I'm pretty sure, yes. I'd have to check the books at home, if they have it.

Which contradicts the "no repetition in a verse" rule. But in those days, repetition for artistic effect was much more the rule.

Listen to Yossele Rosenblatt, or in modern times, Malovany. I heard Malovany do Selichos once. Repetition out the door and around the block. Really not my cup of tea.