Naturally, the title of today’s post implies that there’s something about the word “chant” that I want to talk about today.
Don’t be scared. It’s not ominous–it’s sacred.
One of my favorite parts of going to Jewish services, especially on Friday night, is the musicality of them—the spirited singing, whether the tune is hauntingly beautiful (such as ידיד נפש [Y’did Nefesh]), overtly festive (such as תהילה צ”ו [Psalm 96]), or a wild card each week (i.e. לכה דודי [L’cha Dodi]).
Last year, several musical aspects of Judaism beyond just the usual rituals in services became salient to me. On the last weekend of every month, there was a song-singing session called “O.Z.Y.” (Ozi v’Zimrat Yah), where we sung nigunim (wordless melodies), two- or three-part rounds, and though the gatherings were usually small, they really embodied the spirit of the day, and was something that I always eagerly awaited.
In February of 2016, I went to an event called ENGAGE! at St. Paul’s Talmud Torah, and one of the sessions was “Sacred Jewish Chanting.” It was partially meditative, and partially spiritual. All of the chants that I learned were catchy one-or-two-line versions of liturgy, repeated over and over. This session, like O.Z.Y., I met with strong enthusiasm.
I also went to Eau Claire once during the summer before I left Menomonie for their synagogue’s Sacred Jewish Chanting, and enjoyed a different experience there.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a poster in the division office at work, advertising a concert by Mikolot Mayim at Kenosha’s Beth Hillel Temple, in honor of Israel’s independence day which was on Tuesday. When I saw the poster, and noticed the subtitle on the image, I thought, “This sounds like it will be wonderful.” Additionally, since Dina was out of town this weekend, I had no availability constraints.
Ah, it was a nice concert! Just like the previous Sacred Chanting events that I attended, many of the songs were indeed one-to-two-line chants of prayer or piyyut (poem) excerpts, with repetitive structure. Though it was a concert, Feliza and Or encouraged us (the audience) to participate, and I frequently accepted that invitation, because I think that for chanting to really enchant (ha), you have to participate yourself!
(Actually, I did a little bit of sacred chanting when davening this morning as well, so perhaps it was on my mind in more ways than one!)
Additionally, besides the nice spiritual feeling of the concert today, it was really nice to meet them in person, as a way to get to know some more Israelis face-to-face. During the reception, there was some nice conversation about the movement toward more spirituality in Israel, even if not strictly religious… and several conversations talked about the structure and musicality of the Hebrew language.
They say that Italian is the language of love, but I think that Hebrew is a beautiful language, and a language of song!
By the way… the count-down is now just 29 days!!
Finals Week: 9 days
ארץ ישראל: כ”ט ימים (Israel: 29 days)
אתמול היה חמישה ועשרים יום–שהם שלושה שבועות וארבעה ימים לעומר
Today is the sixth day of the sixth round of M.A.P.L.E.