Saturday, December 06, 2008

Singing in Davening


by Cantor Sherwood Goffin


Our sages were concerned about the Shabbat prayer service, and commented on those who prefer to rush through the service for various reasons (cholent; napping; even Torah study). It seems clear from many sources that the opposite view is encouraged. In the Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 281, the Rema (1525-1572, who is the accepted authority for all of Ashkenazic Jewry*) states:"It is proper to extend the singing of Shabbat melodies (davening) and to render them pleasantly. It is wrong to protest this even under the argument of Bitul Torah (detracting from time for studying Torah)... It should not be excessively prolonged, however, to enable the congregation to eat (lunch) before the sixth hour (astronomical Noon, which is normally later than our standard Noon)."

I hope this will make it easier for everyone to


*Moses ben Israel Isserles, considered the "Maimonides of Polish Jewry," was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of Poland. Born in Cracow, he eventually became Rabbi of Brisk. [Interesting sidelight: Hestudied in Lublin at the Shalom Shachna Yeshiva where he met his first wife, Schachna's daughter. She died young, at the age of 20, and he built the Isserles (later known as the Rema) Synagogue, in her memory. That shul still stands today in the Kazimirz section of Cracow.] One of his most well known commentaries was the Mappa (the Tablecloth), a commentary on the Shulhan Arukh, written by Joseph Caro. The Shulhan Arukh focuses mainly on Sephardic rite and customs, while the Mappa emphasizes Ashkenazic customs, henceforth expanding the influence of the work to Eastern European Jewry. His decisions are followed scrupulously by all of Ashkenazic Jewry.

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