Friday, October 10, 2008


I was brought up the son of a cantor.My father of blessed memoey, was well known in cantorial circles.For a while he was President of the Cantorial Association.He could hardly read music,but was well known for his voice and his understanding of the meaning of each word in the prayer book.Thus he could perform with large choirs, because he memorized the music with the aid of my mother who now nears 98
The "nusach" or melody of the prayers have been handed down from generation to generation.Each holday and portion of the service has a different melody.I don't know where the word comes from,however knowing which melody and which nusach applies is called "Scarbova". My old time friends laugh at me when I mention that term.
Primarily they know NO nusach,and their criteria for prayer is rapidity.
Today a new phenomon has taken place.With records and CD's and the introduction of hebraic new pop songs,young people take the melody from these hit songs,and apply it to the prayers.
Thus you can now sit through a Yom Kipper service and never see the chazan cry or bring a tear to your eye.He is too busy clapping his hands ,stomping his feet with glee as he brings us the "Chasidic Song Festival".
Our children like it because they are accustomed to it.They mistakenly feel that that this is the proper nusach.As a personal joke,I have put Kol Nidre (which has an enchanting melody accepted throughout the world ) to the tunes of "Old Man River and Don't Cry for me Argentina".
About 20 years ago they introduced a sweet song about a sefer Torah that was hidden in the ground during the Holocaust,dug up aferwards,shipped to America and displayed in a cabinet in the hall of a Temple in the U.S. That little tune and melody has been turned into the modicum for countless prayers.Most young people who use it to conduct services probably do not know its origin.Unlike the nusach -the famous melody that starts the evening prayer(Barchu)of Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur which dates back at least 900 years,this tune is not Skarbova.
We live in a new world, and old people like me,who not only listened to the Skarbova, but for a good part of my life acted as a Shliach Tzibbur(leading the services,without a great voice) will have to accept that WHAT ONCE WAS,IS NO MORE.