The Men Who Spoke To God

 

The Men Who Spoke To God

 

When I was a boy, my grandparents were my most significant Jewish influence. We always spent parts of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur with them, going to the great shul on Hooks Ln in Baltimore, Beth El.

 

The Rabbi then was Mark Loeb, an exceptional human being who had rare oratory skills and was a living legend until his untimely death almost ten years ago. The Hazzan was Saul Hammerman, one of four brothers, all Hazzanim.

 

I couldn’t stand it, sitting there listening to the Hazzan singing on and on the same words! It just seemed like a gigantic show and I couldn’t wait to go back to my grandparents’ comfy apartment, have lunch and be with my family.

 

If I only knew what I was missing; I’ve never regretted my ignorance in those years more than I have these past few weeks.

 

That’s because I’ve been teaching a class for Scolnic entitled “Davening with the Divine”, a look at how the greatest Hazzanim of the Cantorial Golden Age ( 1920’s-1950’s) approached their art form, the liturgy and God.  What did these great Cantors do with their voices as they approached God?

 

Cried, whispered, deliberated, wailed; expressed the gamut of human emotion in a voice that could have only come from God Godself.

 

How could I have known that, sitting in that great sanctuary as a 9 year old boy? Well, if I had grown up in a home in Boro Park, I might have, but more to the point, I am saddened that I could not appreciate the brilliance, the utter humanity that Saul Hammerman put into his High Holiday Davening.

 

The tradition of Hazzanut may never return to the pulpit as a mainstay of Jewish culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the magnitude of it’s role in expressing the wishes of the Jewish soul.

 

Enjoy the beauty of these selections by two of the greatest voices of the Golden Age. I have no doubt that Cantor from my childhood had their voices in his heart as he davened his Tfilot.

 

May the memories of those sweet singers who spent their lives speaking to God, eternally be a blessing and inspiration.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Hazzan Fradkin

 

Leibele Waldman- Rtzeh from Shabbat Evening-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gkULKMygx4

 

Moishe Oysher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIrAYnAmNC4

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Caring for Our Bodies – Our Congregational Theme

Beth El’s theme of the year is Shmirat HaGuf – Caring for Our Bodies.  Across the congregation, we will explore our physical, mental, spiritual, and relationship health.

Our lives are pulled in so many directions and caring for ourselves often gets lowest priority.  There are countless podcasts and numerous articles encouraging us to slow down, eat right, be mindful, exercise more and to discover what ‘sparks joy,’ as Marie Kondo says.  The reality is our health, in all its facets, is complicated and difficult to manage.

Rabbi Marina Yergin points us to the verse in Deuteronomy which says: “Guard yourself and guard your soul very carefully” (Deut 4:9).  She brings the classic commentator Kli Yakar who explains: “‘Guard yourself’ means taking care of the body.” Continue reading →

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The ‘Chosen’ Sport

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog. Sharing in the Nats’ World Series victory this week, let’s celebrate Jews involved in professional baseball including 3rd baseman Alex Bregman (Astros) and owner Ted Lerner (Nationals).  And for those worried about what to do in the baseball ‘off season’… pitchers and catchers report February 11, 2020 for Spring Training!

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Do a Mitzvah on Mitzvah Day – (this Sunday)

This is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. I share this article from Rabbi Danny Siegel.  Rabbi Siegel has been on a constant search for ‘Mitzvah Heros’ which he says are ordinary people doing extraordinary work, by simply trying to make the world a better place.

This Sunday at Beth El, you can join hundreds of others in Mitzvah Day activities. Click here for a link to the project list.  Others have preregistered and will join Rabbi Werbin for a one day solidarity trip to Pittsburgh on Sunday for the first yarzteit of the tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue.

Continue reading →

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All of them

There are books that can make a great impact on people. I read one such book some years ago –Like Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi.

In the book, the author describes the lives of several paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem in the Six Day War. The book focuses on their lives after that milestone event in Israel’s history. According to the author, they reunited Jerusalem and divided a nation.

I want to share with you a short story the author highlights in the book that I believe is a beautiful message, especially at this time of year.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 1 comment

What Are We Building?

In about 15 minutes my Dad is going to arrive to help me put up my Sukkah.

It takes me back to our home in Baltimore circa 1995 when we built our first Sukkah on the deck of the townhouse while I blasted Hootie and The Blowfish from my boombox .

My Dad actually worked as a carpenter for a short time before changing careers and he’s returned to it recently, building tables, shelves and other types of furniture for members of our family. So this is going to be the easiest most efficient Sukkah build in quite some time. Continue reading →

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Join Interfaith Discussion on Forgiveness on Yom Kippur Afternoon

There was a wonderful feeling throughout Beth El during Rosh Hashana. People reconnected with each other, reflected on the past year and hopefully gained new clarity on issues or struggles they may be facing. We prayed together, learned together and sang together. Our community’s vibrancy was felt.

Next week is Yom Kippur and we will come together again.  From the sounds of Kol Nidre Tuesday evening to the final shofar blast Wednesday night (bring your shofar to join together), there is tremendous opportunity to think about how we will be different in the year ahead. Now that we have experienced the past year (5779), how can we be a better version of ourselves in 5780?

Continue reading →

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Shana Tova 5780

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. I share this article from the Times of Israel as Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday night.

Let me also add that the entire clergy team and staff wish you a meaningful holiday season.  We hope you will join us not only in services but in many other events too.  Our synagogue is a vibrant community with numerous access points so we want to help you find yours.

Continue reading →

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Pittsburgh and Argentina

Two trips on the horizon.

Pittsburgh and Argentina. So distant, so close

On October 27 – Mitzvah Day –  I will be leading a trip to Pittsburgh, exactly one year after the horrible attack against the Tree of Life Synagogue. A year has passed and I feel I owe that community my support. I have never been to Pittsburgh before, but my heart hurts and my soul still suffers with their loss, with our loss. As if the attack was yesterday. I feel I owe that community a hug, a word of consolation and a moment of silence. I invite you to join me.

This trip will be a chance to bond with fellow Jews and perform an important mitzvah, but we will also make the time together an opportunity to learn. On the bus to Pittsburgh we will welcome a speaker who will be teaching about anti-Semitism and how we should respond. Continue reading →

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What are we building?

In about 15 minutes my Dad is going to arrive to help me put up my Sukkah.

It takes me back to our home in Baltimore circa 1995 when we built our first Sukkah on the deck of the townhouse while I blasted Hootie and The Blowfish from my boombox .

My Dad actually worked as a carpenter for a short time before changing careers and he’s returned to it recently, building tables, shelves and other types of furniture for members of our family. So this is going to be the easiest most efficient Sukkah build in quite some time.

But I am really looking forward to the building process, because more than anything, that’s what i remember about past Sukkots.

It’s the construction that helps us start doing the Tshuva we promised to do on Yom Kippur.

What will we build this year? Will it be sturdy enough to hold us within and help us live as we have always imagined?

Who will we invite in? What holy discussions might take place?

The process of return, of renewal, can begin with the smallest and most fragile construction.

So as you build your sukkah this year, imagine yourself on the 9th of Tishrei 5780, what change did you begin building this day?

Shabbat Shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

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