Monday, October 29, 2007

Musical Instruments in the Synagogue

By Cantor Sherwood Goffin

Musical Instruments for Kabbalat Shabbat

In the years following the creation of the Kabbalat Shabbat service by Rav Moshe Cordovero of Tzfat and his brother-in-law Rav Shlomo Alkabetz (author of our L'Cho Dodi text in 1529), the new introduction to Shabbat quickly spread from Israel to Europe. There, communities debated how (or if) they would incorporate this new innovation.

Some, in Germany for instance, insisted that it be visibly seen as "outside the tefilla", and therefore to this day in some German communities, the Chazzan does not wear a talis for Kabbalat Shabbat. The general custom has also evolved to conduct it from the Torah reader's table in shuls where the service is normally read in the front of the shul.

Some communities invited their congregants to come earlier to the shul, where instruments were played during the singing of the service! In fact, an organ was installed in Prague's famed Altneu Shul just for this purpose, where between 1594 and 1716, Kabbalat Shabbat was a festive musicale. The musicians had to stop their playing before sunset, and in some communities, it was done early enough so that the congregants had time to go home, dress for Shabbat, and return for the recitation of the "real" Kabbalat Shabbat hymn, Psalm 92, Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbat.

Today, all of the Jewish world has accepted Kabbalat Shabbat as an integral part of the Siddur and our Tefilla. The musical instruments, at least for us in the Orthodox world, have alas, been abandoned for fear of losing track of the time and thereby desecrating the Shabbat. It is up to all of us to make up for their loss by singing even stronger when the Chazzan reaches L'Cha Dodi. "Uri, Uri, Shir Daberi" - "Awake, Awake, Utter A Song...!"

Daven Well and Sing Along!

(c) 2007 Lincoln Square Synagogue and Sherwood Goffin


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