Yom Kippur

I spent this Yom Kippur at my father-in-law’s shul. The Chazzan there has a better combination of nusach and sweet voice than any of the Baalei Batim that I grew up davening with. He doesn’t shlep, doesn’t repeat words and is truly a joy to listen to.

[And yet, as in years past, I found myself with tears in my eyes during some of my favorite piyutim because I missed davening next to my father.]

But back to the Chazzan. Unfortunately, the administration of the shul doesn’t seem to get it. They’ll push the start time of Mincha so far back, let the chazzan mincha shlep so badly and then do the most revolting of time wasters (I’ll get to this in a second) that by the time Ne’ilah starts, the chazzan has about 45 minutes. And he inevitably has to hurry. (Because he is a mentsh, and respects the shul’s and people’s time. He will do whatever he can not to go over). And the shul with the chazzan that brings people in from all over the community just to listen to wastes him with a Ne’ilah that has no oomph, has no power, because it is hurried. (He also hurries the end of Mussaf because they have to do so much extra stuff during layning.)

So what is this repugnant time waster? Well, right before Ne’ilah, the president of the shul stands at the pulpit, and begins to read a list of thank-yous to everyone that has helped the shul over the year. Certainly, this is a nice idea, and these people deserve respect and thanks. I, however, fervently maintain that right before Ne’ilah is NOT the time. And believe me when I say they thank everyone. This shul has a million different committees (everything that needs to get done has a committee. Thay practically have a “Men’s Urinal Cake Committee”) and every comittee has two chairs that get a thank you and several other people. And then they announce the Simchas Torah Chasanim. It really bothers me the way this shul is so involved in kavod that it has to do things like this at the expense of actual davening. (Another pet peeve: they do the chasanim before layning on Simchas Torah. For the only apparent reason: so that people are around for the chasanim, and don’t leave after their aliyah. What do you get? You get your aliyah after v’zos habracha is finished, Breishis started, maftir and the haftorah read. It is so backwards, it really bugs me. And they don’t even see it. Just so that everyone pays attention to the chasanim. Because of the kavod. Ick.)

In years past, this committee announcement came at the expense of a Rabbi’s speech. That’s right. My inspirational words before Ne’ilah were “We’d like to thank the Chairman of the Ice Cream C0mmitte, Plony Almony” (I swear that’s a real committee, though not his real name). Now, with a new Rabbi who is an excellent speaker, I was hoping for a speech. Some words of inspiration to get me in the mood. The Rabbi did speak, and very nicely. I thought we were good to go. Then the President got up. Completely ruined whatever mood the rabbi set. Wasted an extra five minutes. Even had the stones to call out, from the pulpit, to the chazzan that he “had a challenge” basically telling him to move it along.

Let’s sum up quickly: we have a highly qualified, highly paid chazzan, but what’s more important than actual davening is making sure everyone knows who was in charge of giving out ice cream at Shalosh Seudos on summer shabbosim and hears his name, and making sure that we finish on time (which is early by the way. I don’t know what time they use, but that shul ends everything MUCH earlier than everyone else. I’m a little wary of that, BTW.) At the very least (and I mean very) do the announcements before the Rabbi. Alas.

It’s frustrating because they waste the wrong time. I have no problem being in shul for a long time on Yom Kippur. Where else am I going to go? Why not start Minchah 15 minutes earlier? If the break is so important, and someone’s going to hurry, let’s make it the Ba’al HaBos doing Mincha to move it along? Why not cut out the completely inappropriate announcements (do them in Shul on Shabbos Shuva Morning)? Why not stop saying a bunch of extra tehillim (saying Shir HaMa’alos during layning, when we just said it, as instructed, before Borchu of shacharis seems redundant and waters down the value of saying it at all) during layning?

I feel cheated. I feel like my Yom Kippur davening, especially with that Chazzan, could have been so much better. I wonder how long it’ll be before the Chazzan realizes that too, and finds somewhere else to go?


9 responses to “Yom Kippur

  1. Who is the Chazzan?

    I davened at the downstairs minyan in Aish – truly awesome. Superb davening and R’ Weinberger spoke before Neilah and was just fantastic. He always manages to say exactly what you need to hear at that very moment. It really set the tone for Neilah. I recommend it for next year.


  2. I know this doesn’t belong here, but…

    Anyone else think that maybe this could be Torre’s last run, to be replaced by Joe Girardi?

  3. I expect that I have slightly different tastes than you. I have a very hard time enjoying chazzanus. It’s not just that I spend so much time in shul. Like you, on Yom Kippur I can deal with that. But I’d rather them add 50 pages to the davening and say it briskly, with quick, up-tempo tunes, rather than banging my head against the table listening to the chazzan impress everyone. Go Mets.

  4. It’s not chazzanus. This guy doesn’t repeat words; repeating words makes for a potentially infinitely long line, because just when you think he’s done, he says the next word 47 times. This guy doesn’t do that. I couldn’t put up with that.

    Also, he doesn’t whine, he davens. There’s a tremendous difference.

    The only thing about him that’s chazzan-ish: his sweet voice and his hat.

    My guess is that you would appreciate his davening.

  5. The only thing I slighlty disagree with you on is the upbeat tunes (and I think we had this conversation before). Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur are generally somber days; an upbeat tune can sometimes be out of place. There are certain parts of the liturgy that must be done in a somber melody (like the Asara Harugei Malchus or Unesaneh Tokef). On the flip side, there are times that call for upbeat tunes, like after Unesaneh Tokef or after the Avodah.

  6. First, some business: your link to last year’s post – in which you laud ‘Yaaleh’, a masterful selichah – reminds me of a great Yaaleh I heard recently. I urge Noyam, and any readers, to visit http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/jm , select the show for 9/25/06 and scroll to the 0:27:49 mark.

    Now that we got that out of the way…Noyam, you are absolutely right. Not leaving enough time has been a repeated problem in YIH for years. It is a two-prong problem: 1) Poor Scheduling – they never schedule enough time. They need to add an extra 15-20 minutes more than they allow. 2) The overemphasize mincha and de-emphasize neilah.

    You know, I davened in Hakotel for 8 straight Yom Kipurim. Most years they would almost rush through mincha, to ensure they allowed enough time for Rav Katz’s pep talk and for Neilah itself (they also had a brikas kohanim issue for neilah, but that is a topic for a different forum). They would not say most of the small-print piyutim during mincha, and the pace was brisk. In fact, about half those years, they skipped Avinu Malkeinu in mincha altogether!

    This is a bad problem – you should never have to rush through Neilah, particularly when you have a really good chazzan leading it. I think the best way to deal with it is to repeatedly and respectively lodge complaints with the President, and to rally support amongst those in the minyan who are also disturbed with this (there has got to be some of them out there).

    As for the “Thank you” announcements leading in to Neilah, nothing could be more inappropriate. Announcing Chassanim? This is not the time for a Color War Breakout type of ceremony. What they should really do is mail out a letter with the text of those announcements and thank you’s. If it must be announced in shul, almost any other time would be preferable than just before Neilah. We know this doesn’t need to be done: the Young Israel of Woodmere is a flagship YI with a much larger membership, and they somehow manage to limit any speaking between Mincha and Neilah to the Rabbi’ pre-Neilah pep talk.

    Also – people put way too much emphasis on “the break” during Yom Kipur. You can have a break the day after yom kipur. There is one day a year when you are supposed to spend the entire day in Shul, praying to God to be inscribed in the Book of Life etc. – davening will take as long as it takes to do it nicely. Neilah should never be sacrificed or compromised in any way because of the break.

    As for the chazzan, perhaps I’m cynical, but I imagine he’ll stick around as long as the price is right.

    Adam – Noam is right. This guy isn’t a real chazzan. He’s what I refer to as a crossover chazzan. He wears the garb, has the voice to be a chazzan (actually, sweeter than most chazzanim), and throws in falsettos, but he is equally a ba’al tefillah: no repeating, nice nusach, nice nigunim. He is really a pleasure to listen to.

    Oh, and I don’t agree with your Torre hunch. While I would love for Joe G to be the next Yankee manager (and I have been saying that for a while), Joe T will be back next year, and I imagine Joe G will be managing somewhere next year…

  7. As for the chazzan, perhaps I’m cynical, but I imagine he’ll stick around as long as the price is right.

    I think you’re right, but I don’t think that bodes well for the shul. They aren’t rolling in dough, and I think he takes less from them than he could get somewhere else. I know every year they pay him slightly more (and I think he gives them a discount, since he got his start there, and made a name for himself there, and he’s appreciative). But at some point, I think the discount runs out (if he gets frustrated enough) and he bolts for the same (or more) money and greener pastures.

  8. If they lose him, it’s bad news for the Hillcrest Jews. He’s the one thing that shul truly gets right all year…

  9. Pingback: Forgiveness? « The Noy G Show

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