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Cantor, you changed the melody and now I can’t sing along!

07/25/2022 12:03:59 PM


 Every Cantor, upon beginning a new position, has the challenge of discovering the “Musical Minhag Hamakom”. “minhag ha-makom” loosely translates to “the custom of the place”. I have learned that Adath Shalom has some lovely customs unique to this community, such as reporting on recent events in Israel as we are about to offer the prayer for Israel after the Torah service. I observed that the person who holds the Torah  after it is taken out of the ark, also recites the Shema and Echad. I was introduced to the Adath Shalom MINHAG (tradition) of lighting shabbat candles just before singing the last stanza of L’cha Dodi. 

    Every congregation has its long standing musical traditions, their “musical minhag ha-makom”. When a Cantor, new to a congregation, tries to introduce new melodies, with the best of intentions,  it can cause some resistance and discomfort. For many, the new melody interferes with the ability to join in, and a sense of alienation.  Others may enjoy the change in pace and welcome the variety. This past Friday, one of our upcoming b’nai mitzvah was at services and informed me that it was hard for him to sing along with me because I “changed the tunes”. I asked him exactly which prayers they were and which tunes he preferred.  I was very impressed as he rattled the names of three prayers and easily 

sang the melodies he learned. And, that student was correct. There is an imperative in Judaism to respect the minhag hamakom. If there is a melody you really miss - please don’t hesitate to point it out and I will certainly try to accommodate. I hope, however, that as we grow together, you will allow me to teach a few new melodies so the “minhag hamakom” can keep expanding.

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784