Monday, October 22, 2007

Musical Note: Nusach vs. Nigun

MUSICAL NOTE By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
Nusach, or Singing Nigunim . Which is Primary?

There are some shuls that “sing” everything, and there are some who don't “sing” anything, and each one is passionate about their style. I have heard that this was actually said by a shul representative (not at LSS): "We don't want nusach here, we just want singing." In other words, don't bother us with tradition, or even the halacha of Tefilla. If the chazzan sings a snappy tune, that's all that matters.

That's quite amazing when you think about it. We didn't sing
nigunim in shul for 18 centuries because of the destruction of the Temple. Now that we are doing so once again, our sacred traditional chant is out the window! Every one of you at LSS knows how much nigunim mean to me. It makes the Tefilla come alive; it warms the soul and inspires. But we can never ignore the davening - which must come first. It is akin to serving the frosting without the cake! I know there are many who might prefer the frosting, but the foundation is an absolute necessity for the sake of the whole.

Nusach, our traditional chant, is the foundation, the structure upon which our Tefilla is built. Nigunim, as desired and appreciated as they are, must be subservient to the structure upon which it all rests.

We at LSS understand this, and when the Chazzan is not here for Shabbat (as this week, when we are at our daughter's new home in Silver Spring, MD), the shul always shows its respect for Tefilla by choosing qualified Baalei Tefilla who understand and respect the nusach, as well as who can sing a beautiful nigun when appropriate.

Our motto is different than the one quoted above. We say: "We want and insist on nusach here at our shul, enhanced by beautiful nigunim." In this merit may all our prayers be acceptable before the Creator of the world who hears all prayers, and may we be granted our wishes for health, success and fulfillment in the world He has created.

Daven well and sing along!
(c) 2007 Lincoln Square Synagogue and Sherwood Goffin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great !

May more Shuls and congregants recognize the importance of this point.