Song in the Sanctuary

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, February 27, 2019

Dear Fellow Solelniks,

One of the beautiful aspects of prayer at Solel is the sound of voices lifted in song in our sanctuary. New and old melodies, voices rising in prayer join us together in breath and praise.

At our annual “Invite your Neighbour” service this past Shabbat, one of our visitors asked the question: Where does your music come from? These aren’t all ancient melodies are they? How do you learn and sing contemporary settings of the prayers? After the service another guest came up to engage me in deeper conversation about this. She happened to be a musicology student whose focus was on instrumentation in worship and she was curious about the use of guitar in our prayer service.

How to make it new? In our Torah service we pray words from Eicha/Lamentations 5:21 “Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha v’nashuvah, Chadeish Yameinu K’kedem”– This can be translated as “Cause us to return to You O God and we will return, renew our days as from the start.”Our rabbinic teachers understand this to mean that we also have to make God’s teachings new again each day. Although the words are the same words that have been prayed by Jews throughout history, we bring our own kavanah – our own intention – to the keva – fixed – parts of the prayers. In this way, we make it new for ourselves, even as the words spoken by generations connect us all.

Praying in song is good for you too! Scientific research shows that there are many health benefits to communal singing and praying in community – social connections to community, spiritual uplift, reduction of stress and stress hormones, breathing awareness and improved lung function. This is also personal spiritual renewal, renewed every day.

Contemporary composers set the words to new melodies, and inspire our intentions in prayer through their musical interpretations and translations. Reform Jewish composers continue to gift us with beautiful melodies. We continue to sing our prayers in settings that date back many centuries, then to the early Reform movement composers of the 1800s and to the early contemporary songwriters and songleaders, such as Debbie Friedman, Jeff Klepper and Kol B’Seder, and newer composers who have been influenced by their summers at our Reform movement camps and retreats.

Solel is excited to welcome one of the most dynamic, and influential Jewish musicians of our movement on Sunday morning April 7, 2019! Dan Nichols is a singer, songwriter, and performer for all ages and stages of Jewish life. Instead of Bet Sefer classes that morning we will meet at our Solel building for the Dan Nichols Concert. You don’t want to miss it!


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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