Liturgy class 5.6.09

Logistics: Extending the time of 2 classes is not feasible.

[bumped out of class several times - missed the beginning]

- why do so many machzorim run the stanzas together?

Never eliminate the extent to which pure ignorance can be the basis of a lot of unusual things.

- paper & printing costs for previous generations were different than now

Yes. They were and remain non-trivial. It's an issue as we think about how to use the available square footage of paper.

Economy; a sense that the layout didn't matter, that it was an oral text and the meaning would come out as the person recited the text or as the hazzan would chant it aloud. Somewhere in those areas.

if you look at most modern machzorim, you see pretty clearly a substantial return to efforts to lay the text out in a way that's responsive to the poetry. Even Artscroll. One of my personal critiques of Artscroll is, because of their wish to include a fairly extensive commentary and all the trad text, I find the layout of their pages to be aesthetically unattractive, but even Artscroll go to some efforts to set out piyyutim in a way that's responsive to their poetic structure. Look at R' David Wolfe-Blank's liturgical publications in the Renewal world, the publications of the Reform and Conservative liturgies in Israel, the Reconstructionist liturgy -- all perhaps spearheaded by Koren; a return to graphic arts, to seeing layout of text as a supporting piece to the artistry of liturgy in its own right.


Never seen an academic study of this particular aspect of the history - layout and composition of liturgical publications. Truly do not know if anybody has studied this systematically or not.

There are places that have collections of manuscripts; Jewish Museum in London, Bodleian, JTS library. The issue isn't repositories of texts. The issue is, is there somebody in the history of typography and print layout who has sufficient interest in Jewish liturgy to have done a substantive study of how these texts were published?

I want to speak about Yafa's question on hatorat nedarim. To finish up with preparatory issues and then move on to liturgical insertions for R"H, Y"K and the days in between.

Hatorat nedarim: what is it?

- it's about being released from vows; it happens after the morning service on R"H, the idea is -- Klein p. 179 at the bottom talks about it. The person who wants to be released a vow that he may have forgotten about should declare so in the presence of 3 who constitute a court; then the court releases him by declaring that he's released from all of these vows. I'm interested; heard about it but never seen it done.

Klein is correct. If any of you have the Artscroll machzor it's right at the beginning. The context of this -- this will feed at a later point into reflection on Kol Nidre -- going all the way back to Torah: what's the importance with which our system treats nedarim, vows?

In trad circles there are people who might have some issue of litigation that needs to come to a secular court. To this day there are people within the serious ultra-Orthodox community who will not testify in an American court because they will not make the vow to tell the truth/wholetruth/nothing but -- "perhaps I don't know so well!" But they can't take the secular affirmation because they're obvs religious. A pious Jew will not take an oath, even if in all good faith they imagine and believe in every way that what they're saying is the truth. But in a Rashomon-like way, they're saying: who really knows? And a neder is such a serious thing.

Often in routine behavior you promise to do something. And then add, "bli neder."

- I'm telling you I plan to do it, but there may arise some unforseen circumstance, so I'm not swearing that I'll do it

- bli neder: without an oath. If I get a flat tire, if my child is sick, whatever; but barring unforseen circumstance, I'll do whatever we're talking about

- in the ceremony, we're not only releasing our vows from the year past but also from the vows we're about to make in the HHD season?

No. What makes you think that?

- because I've done it before! I thought that's what I remembered.

- different machzorim have diff formulas: some say "from last year to this year," some say "in the year to come," some say both.

The versions of the text that I know and the one I'm looking at now does not speak about a coming year. In:re Kol Nidre, there is a very well-known variance on this matter. Does it say "last Y"K to this one," or "this Y"K to the next one"? That's a K"N issue. But I'm not aware of that being an issue for this prayer.

Bli neder -- "I'll babysit for you this Saturday night, bli neder." The implication is, if I did not say bli neder, it might be thought that I'm making a neder, a vow to you, that I will babysit on Saturday night even if, God forbid, my kid gets sick and taken to the ER. When I make a neder, it means: I will do this. But in case you did make a neder and you got a flat tire and couldn't be there, or any other thing stopped you from making good on a vow, or you made a vow of $18 to your shul and realized come Y"K you never paid it -- this ritual of hatarat nedarim is to recognize that a neder is more than kind of informal behavioral commitment. A neder is a legal commitment, enforceable in the yeshiva shel mata and in the yeshiva shel mala.

Once you make a neder, halakha is involved; that brings God into it. It's a little bit like the process of teshuvah.

One of the most interesting pieces of hatarat nedarim -

One of the interesting pieces of Fiddler on the Roof is, the shnorrer comes to the guy and says nu, what do you have to give me? He gives him 2 kopecks. What does the shnorrer say? Last time you gave me 3 or 4. And the giver says?

- I had a bad week

And the schnorrer says, If you had a bad week, why should I suffer?

Now: what's the halakhic basis for this?

- there's a kind of precedent

I'm going to read to you from this text of hatarat nedarim. Anything I might have said... any commitment I made [like I was going to go on a diet or study a blatt gemara daily]... or any good thing I did 3x --

it's almost considered that you're making a neder that you're going to continue to do that! So the schnorrer had the halakhic right of it. If you go by him 3 times and give him a quarter, the 4th time he has the right to say, "You owe me a quarter."

You show up at minyan 3x consecutively, you're obligated to go every day. (and so on) Unless you specifically say bli neder.

You say to the judges, I regret what I did. And the judges say: may all be released. That in which you've been tied up, may you be untied.

...and: just as we release you here, may you be released on high.

My question on this is, what does the phrase ken yihiyu -- how do you translate? Artscroll has it as a conditional: just as we have done, so may it be. "May" is a conditional petition. However there is a more theurgic way to read this. We have forgiven it here; and by virtue of that, it *will* be -- not may it be, but consider it done! The beit din shel mata is the appointed agent of the beit din shel mala.

- there's a drash which connects "Elohim" with 3 earthly judges forming a beit din



- is it used at other times besides R"H?

There are places where it is more customary for this to be done at morning minyan on the days between R"H and Y"K. Avraham Holtz used to say that he remembered that the person asking for hatarah would lie down on the ground in front of the beit din, who would symbolically administer 9 lashes to the person on the ground.

- when Harley was in the hospital we did something like this

You're sure it wasn't shinui ha-shem?

- Yes.

There is a form of vidui for people who are dangerously ill; I'm not sure... I'm not aware of this particular liturgical construct being used except around the time of the HHD.


Questions looking back to Slichot?

I want to review the extent to which the kernel of slichot is really very tiny. The various ways in which the liturgy of slichot is presented and constructed in contemporary times is open and fluid to your judgement for the communities you work with.

The core element is just the text "el melech yoshev al kise rachamim," the 13 attributes, shma koleinu, the short vidui (ashamnu), and the very early piyyut Mi she-ana Avraham Avinu. Everything else is a later adornment. In Ashkenazic communities, the most classic structure is to begin with ashrei, to include a chatzi kaddish, to include psalm 130 (mima'akim), and a number of piyyutim. The 2 which are most common are the Motza-ei menucha ("The last shabbos of the year is ended") and another [blurred], the refrain line is "Lishmoa... el ha-tefilah."

There's all kinds of other items that can be included. Medieval piyyutim. Most of which I don't personally regard as being great substance or value.

This is a good context for the question Deb asked for my invitation to reflect on how a classical or modern piyyut is used in a modern context.

One example of it would be the piyyut Mi-she Ana, which trad comes at the end of slichot. The trad text of it -- there's a long list. "May the one who answered Abraham on Mt. Moriah answer us," and so on. A number of machzorim include it. It begins with Avraham; then through Jonah, Ezra, kol ha-tzaddikim. I would reflect on: why might I include that text in a slichot service or at a kol nidre service? What in my mind would that historical litany add? Because it doesn't just name Avraham; it names one event in the life of each of the people. What do we know about what God did to Jonah, e.g., in the belly of the fish? Was there an answer?

- the fish threw him up onto dry land

Yes. But nevertheless: Jonah wasn't passive in the belly of the fish. He was in poetic prayer. At the point where he recites the psalm in the belly, he says, I will commit my vows -- I will do it -- that's when God listens and the fish throws him up. So it would seem to me that as we enter into the depths of this day of Y"K (or: in slichot, as we begin to enter into the serious process of self-reflection), as we hear these words, I might say, rather than mumble through it, let's take each of these moments pictured in the Bible and take a moment to say, what was it that Avraham might have cried out? How do we understand the enigma of the answer? What was the prayer of Yitzchak in the same context?

That would be enough, on the classical version. I might say, "Our tradition gives us words for the experience of our sages going through the cycle of the Tanakh." Interestingly, there's at least one woman mentioned. It speaks also of Pinchas.

The text of this that's presented in the Reform liturgy of England, after Ezra it moves through history: Yochanan ben Zakkai when the Temple was destroyed, R' Akiva, Rambam when he tried to seek God through darchei ha-chochmah, the Besht who sought sanctity in the profane, the chalutzim who sought to make the desolate bloom, Moshe Mendelssohn who sought the light of the emancipation, Leo Beck, Anna Frank, refugees who rebuilt Jewish life from of old. It's very interesting -- what they did with this is a classic and masterful example of taking a classic piyyut and leaving the classic part untouched but expanding its structure to address a different array of concerns. I offer that as an example also, as a way of looking at: what are ways of taking the classic slichot service and giving it a more contemporary feel or touch?

The challenge is not just to say, who are the people you want to add to the list. The challenge of poetry is that you get a handful of words and you need to use the smallest number of words to flash up a compelling image that tells a bigger story.


- are we to write something like this and post it?

By all means. I'd like to see your own thinking. I'd like it by the end of June at the latest.

- what is it that you want?

A short paper. Not a research paper. 1.5 pages or 2 pages tops.

- I'm still not clear what the assignment is.

- we were originally assigned to do a dvar tefilah, a presentation, 3 chag visitations, and an analysis of a piyyut. I asked: what do you want in that analysis? R' Sami just answered. What I heard was, A couple of pages unpacking what the specific elements of the piyyut contribute to that particular service; what does the content of the piyyut, the names and images that are evoked etc, what does that add to our purpose in that service.

If you look on the assignments section, it's #5. For one classic piyyut and one contemporary element. Reflect on the current use, e.g. what you know is going on (how does a particular congregation use Unetaneh Tokef or Avinu Malkeinu? it needn't be an obscure one.) Not so much literary analysis, but: how does community x use this piyyut, how does it work? Or, you can say, even though it's not what's going on at the moment, now that I've really thought about it, here's what we should do with it and why.

- for an old, and a new? or just one of those two?

It's *and*. If you feel very stressed -- I'd like you to try both, but if you're really out of time, do either.


A lot of people -- rabbis, cantors, rab students included -- get very intimidated by the HHD liturgy. This is the moment where I'm trying to say: don't worry about it. It really isn't a huge thing. It's just a number of quite modest things that happen to be put together.

To the extent that you all feel very comfortable, and really feel you have an internal picture of the building blocks of liturgy, the HHDs are nothing unusual. It's just a little more of it.

There's psukei d'zimrah, shacharit, torah service, and musaf. Mincha. Y"K gets also ne'ilah.

P'sukei d'zimrah and Torah service really aren't services in a technical sense. In a certain way, a kind of avodat halev means a presentation of the amidah and everything else is an event but not a service. But don't worry about it greatly.

As you go through R"H, Y"K, if you feel lost: if you have this picture clearly in your head, it's a bit like doing a class in kabbalah: if you keep having to look at a book to see the 10 sefirot you will never be comfortable working your way through any kabbalistic text! Once you have that in your mind, the order of the four worlds, immediately when you hear "atzilut" you know which world it is in relation to the others. When you know that Isaiah belongs in Nev'im and not Torah or Ketuvim. Then you can dance with them and feel comfortable. I cannot stress to you all enough -- for those of you who did the earlier liturgy class with me, or if you havne't done it yet -- if you will internalize your understanding of basic liturgical structure you will never be lost. Even if you've done a creative restructuring you'll be able to put yourself in context. Even if it's interpretive dance: is this movement that leads into or out of the shema, or is it part of the amidah, the meditation on peace at the end? To the extent that you have that really fixed in your mind, you will be much clearer on where you are and what's going on.

In the HHD liturgy there are 2 critical textual elements, in terms of the trad matbeah tefilah. The amidah, and the piyyutim. Often the piyyutim are inserted into the amidah, which makes people get terribly lost because they forget where they are in the interminable sections which are a piyyutic insertion into the amidah. When we look at the slight variance in the structure of the amidah -- that's your textual gateway into understanding how these HHD liturgical moments are put together.

- it's like analyzing a piece of music

There are many metaphors. The framework that you've related to is what needs to be able to move with comfort.

- where does the shofar service, yizkor, avodah, martyrology -- where do those fit in to the structure you've given us?

Great question. To go through them:

Tekiat ha-shofar falls in 2 places. The halakhically principled soundings of the shofar are a part of the Torah service. Why are they there? At other times I've stressed the model that the goal of the Torah service is not simply the transmission of what's in the scroll, otherwise we could all just pull out a chumash. The liturgy for reading the Torah is designed, even on a weekday, to create an existential context, a journey back in time. To recreate Sinai.

If you read Exodus 19, what is one of the key ingredients of Sinai?

- we're all together

- the sound of the shofar

So kriat haTorah is always recreating Sinai. How much more, this one time each year (with the poss exception of R"H on shabbos) is even more to recreate Sinai by adding the experience of hearing shofar, which is part of the Sinai experience and one of the paradigmatic descriptions of R"H as well.

The remainder of the soundings of the shofar (malkhuyot, zichronot, shofarot) take the musaf amidah and add the nuancing of the shofar to make the musaf amidah what it is for R"H. Many Reform synagogues don't do musaf but include the shofar service during shacharit, but to my mind that's odd, because it diminishes the classical system of hearing Torah during the Torah service.

I would say that when you speak about the seder ha-avodah, the martyrology: in the classical structure, just as on R"H malkhuyot/zichronot/shofarot are within the musaf amidah, and on many holidays, the musaf amidah reflects the special understanding of that day -- that especially for R"H and Y"K, musaf is the place where the real themes of the day are introduced. R"H those themes are malkhuyot etc, and Y"K it's seder ha-avodah.


- in machzor chadash they moved the martyrology to mincha

I'm looking at it; it's not within mincha! There are things I like about Machzor Chadash and things I do not like. If you look at the bottom of any page, it will tell you what service you're in. It's very clear that their understanding of mincha terminates on page 727; then they have two un-numbered pages, which would be 726, called azkarah l'kedoshim; and then they have martyrology as a separate unit. I concur with you completely that it does a disservice by marooning the martyrology from being contextualized within one of the moments of Y"K. They're clearly saying, between mincha and neilah is a time to do this, but they're not calling it a piece of mincha. But I believe it does a disservice to make it float like that; still, different rabbis have different ideas about how they want to structure things.

- may also be in reaction to the problematic mincha for Y"K, which does include martyrology, in Harlow...the al chet of mincha is "Before You and before their memories."

I know the text you're speaking of in Harlow... which annoys me too... but it's in musaf, not mincha. In terms just of the nature of the martyrology, the Harlow rendering of the martyrology is profoundly problematic!


All of the extra stuff is trad subsumed into musaf. It might be that you don't want to do that. That you want to do either the avodah, or eileh ezkerah, or a slichot element as a rubric unto itself, outside the context of an amidah. Understand: I'm not suggesting that you should not do that or that it's a mistake. But by stressing for us here the way in which the items have fitted into the classical structure -- when you move away from the classical structure I hope you can still retain a map in your head of how you're piecing elements together.

That's the strength of Hoffman's commentary. He knows very well where malkhuyot, zichronot, and shofarot comes from; even if he chooses to reconfigure and put them in shacharit, he knows their origins.

- why is the prostrating aleinu inserted where it is? looking at KHN.

- isn't it part of the avodah?

- it's what the priests did?


- and it's in between -- the regular text of kedushat hayom, and the aleinu, and then second confession.

There are a number of slightly different ways that this whole thing might be constructed. Think back -- I don't want to anticipate in a certain way what Deb might reflect upon. But you're right to notice it. Every trad version of the machzor for musfar on Y"K will have the beginning of the amidah, the kedusha preceded by unetaneh tokef, and then a couple of paragraphs and then aleinu which comes before the seder ha-avodah. Aleinu is not a part of the seder ha-avodah. Liturgically how would you know that?

- it's included in the shofar service?

Because we know that aleinu is included as a liturgical element in the service for R"H, and because we know that the service for R"H has no connection to seder ha-avodah, the assumption is that aleinu is thematically attached to the liturgy of the high holidays in general. Unetaneh tokef and the great aleinu alike are essentially a piece of the generic experience of yamim nora'im liturgy. Just like Avinu Malkeinu. The interesting question is, why is that the case?

If you look into the history of aleinu you see that it is originally a piece of the HHD liturgy which grew from being unique to the HHD to spreading from there because it became so beloved a text into the daily liturgy. This is its original home, from which it migrated to the end of every service.

The questions you're asking are all critical, and what I discern is that each of you has had slightly different experiences and responses to HHD services and that's impacted you in different ways. All of the standard books, Waskow's or Greenberg's or Steinsaltz's, all of them cover the same ground; whichever is the one you are most comfortable reading (or Jacobson's if you're comfortable reading in Hebrew) -- please reread whichever overview you like the most. Also pick up your machzor; turn over the pages in a more reflective student-way rather than the davener-devotee way of the holidays themselves.

[at this point, had to leave class early]