Friday, September 11, 2009

High Holidays Tunes and Tradition

MUSICAL NOTE by Cantor Sherwood Goffin
The Musical Liturgy of the High Holidays

This Saturday night we begin to say Selichot, the Penitential Prayers that will be recited every weekday morning until Yom Kippur, the day that is in itself based on the Selichot liturgy. Every Selichot service begins with the quintessential Kaddish that we will hear once again before the recitation of Musaf, both on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

This Kaddish is one of more than 53 sanctified melodies known as "MiSinai" melodies, the majority of which have existed since before the time of the Maharil, Chief Rabbi of the Rhineland (1360-1427 CE), who declared them Holy and unchangeably fixed. These melodies of the High Holiday period set the tone for our prayers and infuse them with the ethereal and inspirational atmosphere that raises the emotional level of our Tefilla to the "high" to which we look forward each year. It is on the wings of these songs that our prayers for a good year are carried on high to Avinu Shebashamayim.

For those in the Main Synagogue who are davening with me, I pray that I will be worthy to be your messenger to plead for G-d's blessings of a good and healthy year for all of us and our families. I look forward to davening with you.

Batya and I wish all of our LSS family a Shana Tova!


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Baal Tefillah said...

Can you elaborate on how you arrive at the number 53?

thanbo said...

Cantor Goffin has an extended article on the modes of the High Holiday tunes in this year's Rosh Hashanah To Go from Yeshiva University.

He says the 53+ are given in the Maharil, an early book on Ashkenazic customs.

He gives a catalogue at the end of the article.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I'd not heard about the Maharil but my father, who has probably listened to every chazanus album ever made always drills into my head: don't go making up tunes! Every inportant piece of davening, especially on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kipper and the Regalim, has its tune and if you hear someone not using the right one it's not because they're creative but because they're ignorant.

I'm so glad to hear that there is a basis for his firm beliefs.