Nusach- It’s not just for Cantors anymore

Tomorrow night  I will be teaching a class for Tikkun Leil Shavuot on the beauty of Nusach ( The Soul of Jewish Music) as I call it.

Before we continue, some definitions are in order.

Like many concepts in Jewish practice, Nusach can have a few different meanings.

It can refer literally to the text of the siddur you use, be it Askenazic, Sephardic, Chabad Hasidic, or to the melodic setting in which you chant the prayers of the Siddur.

Naturally, the chanting will be my point of focus here.

Part of attending Cantorial School, is attaining a mastery of all these forms of chant in different services, for every holiday from Purim to Tisha B’Av.

It’s true that an important part of my job is to be the guardian of these sacred musical traditions, but of equal importance is to teach and share it with the Jewish community.

For instance, did you know that all weekday evening services are to be led in the same Nusach as “Shalom Aleichem” or “Hava Nagilah?”

Or that the Trope for Megillah Esther and Eicha ( lamentations) are nearly identical?

Or that we use the same Nusach for Jewish wedding music as we do when chanting from the 3 Megillot of the Shalosh Regalim ( Ecclesiastics, Song of Songs, and this weekend, Ruth)

As Jews, we have always painted our traditions with the beauty of music, and had great intentionality about which music befits a particular occasion.

That knowledge is for all of us to treasure, guard and practice down through the ages.

And for those of us who lead, it is so vitally important that we carry on the tradition of pairing the text with its proper musical vehicle.

I’m excited to share some of these treasures tomorrow evening, and i hope some of you can join me.

In any case, I ask you to take notice of our sacred melodies, ask questions about the different types of chant in services and know that every note you hear in may possibly come from centuries away.

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach

Sent from my iPhone

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin

Hazzan Asa Fradkin is the hazzan at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, MD. He is a native of Baltimore.

Leave a Reply