Sunday, February 13, 2011


Another Musical Note from Cantor Goffin of Lincoln Square Synagogue

MUSICAL NOTE by Cantor Sherwood Goffin

This is a response I gave to a questioner last month:

"I have been very closely associated with this song ever since I began my former folk-singing concert career back in 1962. I taught it at NCSY, Yeshiva U Seminars and everywhere I went. In 1970 I recorded a "Russian Jewry" version of the Little Bird for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, on an album that featured SSSJ rally songs and Rabbi Riskin interviewing famous refuseniks.

The Little Bird was written by a 17 yr. old Bais Yaakov Camp Jr. Counselor, Millie Steinberg. She used the tune of an old Russian folk melody that was converted in 1948 to the beautiful "B'arvot Hanegev'; words by Menashe Baharav, who was also the accompanist to Shoshana Damari. Millie married Mr. Sachs and moved to Israel in the 1970's. I had asked her if she had other songs, which she did send to me, but I never sang them. I changed some of the words for public concert use, to make it scan better. On my hit album Neshomo (1972) we merely copied the above-mentioned version in the activist style of those years that spoke to the idea of peace and freedom. Many years later, on my 1996 album "Ish Echad," I recorded the original words for the first time." Now you know!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let's pray to the Moon - not

Tonight was Kiddush Levanah, the monthly sanctification of the New Moon, as much as we can without a central court to actually establish the new moon. Lacking that, we have had the fixed calendar since about 325 CE, and we say prayers in honor of the lunar cycle each month.

My problem with the prayer is that there are one or two lines that seem (no matter how much apologists try to defend them, or say they're referring to God) to be directed to the Moon as if it were a separate (if subsidiary) Power. There certainly are midrashim that portray the Sun and Moon as self-willed entities, and since they're in the heavens, it would seem that that implies that they are powers subservient to God.

Which inspired the following:

Oh Selene, with your rays so white
Reflecting Helios' starry light.
God created you, to rule the night
Along with the stars, to whom we don't pray "Starlight, star bright."

which more or less reflects what saying the prayer feels like.

"Just as I dance towards you but cannot reach you, so may my enemies be unable to touch me." - a line from the prayer, carefully enwrapped with other lines talking about God and Israel.

Oh, well, it's an excuse to say an extra kaddish, which I'm sure Dad's soul could use during his up to eleven months in Gehinnom.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Turnabout is Fair Play

As I have been rebroadcasting Cantor Goffin's "Musical Note" columns, this week he took my posting of last week's column, with my speculations about Nusach Sfard vs. Nusach Ashkenaz, and turned it into this week's Musical Note column.

Any Nusach Sfard people over the age of 45 out there who want to chime in?