Thursday, September 14, 2006

Singing in Shul

I wrote here about my problem with people davening too loud during their Shemonah Esrei and I just wanted to share something else that I have a big problem with.

I like to go to Carlebach minyans and I like to sing in Shul. One of the nice things about singing in shul is that there are a lot of people singing together and you can harmonize with them. In the cover on one of the Reb Shlomo albums he quotes a teaching of Rebbe Nachman saying the following. When two people are talking to each other, they cannot talk at the same time. If they are talking at the same time there would be words flying and no communication. When people sing however, the can sing together in harmony. If more people are singing there would bring more peace and harmony to this world.

With all of that said, there is always your token guy who needs to sing louder than everyone. Not only does this person sing louder than everyone but because they are singing louder than everyone, it is impossible to sing and harmonize with everyone else. Why does this person need to sing louder than everyone else? Does this person think he or she needs to show off their voice so everyone can hear it. Its one thing if the Chazzan is singing louder than everyone but someone else should not be. When everyone is trying to sing together their is that one person who needs to come and ruin everything. Where does this person learn their middos from?

One other thing that frustrates me but doesn't bother me as much is someone stealing your harmony. If you are singing with the minyan and find a nice harmony, the guy sitting next to you hears that harmony and starts singing that harmony louder than you so you can't hear yourself anymore. When singing, there is such a range with peoples vocals that it is not to difficult to harmonize in a different way so why do you have to copy the person next to you and kill thier harmony??

The last thing that sometimes gets me frustrated is Chazzanim that are tone deaf. Why do you need to daven for everyone if you are tone deaf?? Its one thing if someone has a bad voice and they are trying really hard but another thing if you are tone deaf and are davening anyway. I would think that people who are tone deaf know that they are tone deaf. I would also like to say that ironically someone who is tone deaf is usually able to harmonize for a reason I don't know. Since this is the case, sit with everyone else instead of being a Chazzan.

Maybe I am being too harsh but I really feal that davening is something that is special and all care should be taken to make sure it is done properly with the utmost respect. The situations I mention above, I feel come from a lack of respect.


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I frequently daven in a shul with a choir and there's nothing more annoying than some guy who can't sing singing like he's part of the choir really loud when everyone else is singing softly along.

Except for people who act like they're the hhazan, saying everything out loud, when they're not the hhazan and are sitting right near me.

Litvak said...

"davening is something that is special and all care should be taken to make sure it is done properly with the utmost respect. The situations I mention above, I feel come from a lack of respect."

I agree.

However, I think the problem is also due to some ideologies that tried to empower the masses. They told them stories that promoted such free-for-all atmospheres. They said that a shepherd boy reciting the aleph bais or blowing a whistle in Shul can be more holy than those who daven properly, following the rules and proper decorum. In other words, 'do your own thing', it's not so bad if you are off key, the main thing is that you mean well. When you tell stories like that, is it a surprise that an atmosphere of anarchy, as you describe, can be the result ?

FrumWithQuestions said...

Litvak- You are way off with that story that you are talking about. First of all the story is about Rosh Hashana and the Baal Shem Tov. In the synagogue that the Baal Shem was davening, the Kehillahs prayers were not being heard or answered. All of a sudden, a boy who did not know anything came into the synagogue and did not know how to pray or get close to Hashem. The only thing he knew was how to play a flute. Once everyone heard the flute, the Kehillah got angry because the boy was playing a flute in shul on YOm TOv. The Baal Shem Tov then said that because the boy played the flute their prayers would be heard because the boy played the flute with all of his heart. The Baal Shem Tov told this Kehillah that they were not davening with all of their heart and that they should. These people were not davening properly so you are wrong about that and it was not a free for all. They knew the flute was wrong but it was all the boy knew and the Baal Shem taught him the proper ways. Never was it accepted or was it a free for all. I am not sure where you are getting your information or stories from but in this case you are way off and wrong.

Litvak said...

Whil it's true that those stories are not exactly the same as the case you mentioned, I am not way off here.

The fact is that telling such and similar stories sends a message and encourages an attitude that it's not so important to do things according to proper procedure.

FrumWithQuestions said...

Litvak- I don't know how you interpret stories but it sounds like you don't take them for what they were meant to be. You cannot find one Rav whether Chassidic or Misnagdic (since they both tell the same stories) who will say that stories "encourage an attitude that it's not so important to do things according to proper procedure"

Litvak said...

"since they both tell the same stories"

There is some crossover, but no, differences between them have not disappeared. It is less likely that a Litvak (I mean a real Litvak, not a Chassid masquerading as one) will tell over certain (if any) Hassidic tales.

Anonymous said...

FYI - I loved reading your blog about this topic, its such a debate - what do you do when someone next to you is singing so loud you cannot hear yourself sing? there is no easy answer because you dont want to cause them pain by pointing out their lack of harmony. at the same time this person may be impacting many other peoples tfilla - in a negative way - so in the end all i can say is that at the Carlebach Shul in NYC, where Reb Shlomo prayed - they allow anyone to daven any way they want, off key, loudly, crying, wailing - whatever - and many times is very distracting - but Reb Shlomo understood that you cannot tell people what to do. Shlomo taught that this was a test of your patience - and trust me it is.... so all i can say is that you must grin and bear it - change seats if that helps - but think about how much more powerful your prayer will be, because you have made yourself more tolerant of others, and sacrificed your harmony for someone elses. now thats a gesture that creates real love and peace and blessings for everyone - god luck!

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