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Make Some Noise in Synagogue

Prayer shouldn’t be a spectator sport. So why do so many shuls insist that congregants sit in silence?

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(Photoillustration Ivy Tashlik; original photos Shutterstock)

The CEO and managing director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic set off a storm of protest in the classical music world this spring when he suggested that concert halls could benefit from less audience decorum and more clapping, laughter, cheers, and other expressions of emotion. Don’t sit still so much at the symphony, Richard Dare urged: Performances of classical music need to be livelier, less hushed, less boring, and audiences can do their part in making that happen.

The idea horrified some musicians and orchestra officials. If people can’t “sit still and be quiet,” said Robert Spano, the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, “I don’t think classical music is for them.” Dare has clarified his position in subsequent articles, but has not backtracked. “I don’t want bedlam to break out,” he told reporter Daniel J. Wakin for a piece about the controversy published June 8 in the New York Times. “I’m keenly interested in not dismantling the experience we have now,” he explained. But he does want to make that experience “relevant to more people.”

I’m with him all the way. If you substitute “synagogue” for “concert hall” and “prayer services” for “orchestral performances,” you realize that Dare’s proposal is relevant—point after painful point—to the experience that many Jews have in all too many North American synagogues. Since several million Jews are about to spend a great deal of time in synagogue—the High Holidays are almost upon us, to be followed immediately by Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah—I think there is good reason to ask whether something could or should be done to alter the atmosphere in a shul in the ways that Dare wants to change it at the concert hall. I vote yes for two principal reasons.

One: Jewish religious leaders desperately need to make the experience of communal prayer much more relevant to many more people. Attendance at services has been falling steadily for decades—outpacing, I’d venture, even the decline in orchestra subscriptions. On the other hand, many synagogues are quite successful. Livelier services have consistently led to higher attendance. New and better music has proven especially crucial to generating new excitement in many congregations. Participatory services are more popular than services in which the congregation sits quietly for the most part, watching the rabbi and hazzan perform the work of worship up on the bimah.

Two: Tefillah was never meant to be a spectator sport, and by nature is the very opposite of a passive activity drained of emotion. We are talking about the attempt to stand before God, after all, however one understands God. This has never been an easy thing to do—consult the writings of religious virtuosi throughout the centuries—and is certainly not a routine matter for modern Jews in the pews. Nor is it easy to stand before oneself. The verb “to pray” in Hebrew is reflexive. Prayer is about exposing and facing up to depths of self, asking difficult questions and trying to answer them, pondering the meaning of God’s teachings for one’s life. The process can be uplifting, upsetting, or both. The tefillot we utter are meant to move us. At times the movement within has a chance to find expression in movement of the body—we bow, dance, sway, or parade around the synagogue. At other times, we keep what is inside bottled up, not wanting to reveal the turmoil.

And sometimes, I fear, the prohibition against showing too much emotion in the synagogue—laughing aloud or crying out, moving our feet repeatedly, getting up and walking around—actually gets in the way of feeling the feelings that the prayers are designed to elicit and express. These include gratitude, anxiety, need, anger, longing, fulfillment, wonder, and love. The list is not exhaustive. But it suggests the terrain on which tefillah takes place—a terrain not well suited to strict decorum. There are occasions when the liturgy explicitly directs us to “sing a new song unto the Lord,” literally and figuratively. When we say the psalms of praise called Hallel on new moons and festivals, we try to make joyful noise unto the Lord. I think our services would benefit from other expressions of emotion, communal as well as personal: cries of grief or despair, expressions of awe before the wonders of creation, hand-clapping with God’s thunder. Silence is sometimes the best vehicle through which we summon courage to face up to life or to death, but not always. The point is to be fully present before ourselves, one another, and God. Noise can help.

It’s telling, I think, that before reciting the so-called “silent” Amidah, we say, “Open my mouth, O Lord, and my lips will proclaim your praise.” For Jews at prayer, “silence” means lips in motion, mouth open rather than closed. Let me be clear: Gossip and idle conversation during the Amidah are rightly frowned upon. They are a harmful distraction. It’s difficult to concentrate on the work of encounter when the people in front of you are talking about their kids or the election. The same holds true when the rabbi is preaching, when the Torah is being chanted, or when the hazzan is trying to achieve and maintain a high level of intentionality (kavanah) while getting the notes right. But as you know, if you have experienced it, silent prayer is greatly assisted by murmurings of prayer all around you, by occasional outbursts of a word or phrase that strikes another person with special force as she or he prays, or by the humming of melodies that go along with particular passages in the liturgy. Cries of children are often a welcome accompaniment to the sound of the shofar during the High Holidays. Shouts of joy or pain likewise add valued punctuation.

When Jews first entered the social, cultural, and political worlds of the modern West in the 19th century, we took pains to model our notions of what should happen in synagogue on the aesthetics of Protestant churches. Architecture, music, sermon styles, language of prayer, and—above all—decorum were transformed. Synagogues were no longer places for displays of emotion, any more than concert halls or museums. Movements of the spirit took place within the self, and were meant to remain there.

There is still a place for that aesthetic, I think. I would not want to lose the moments when the congregation follows along quietly as the Torah is chanted, or listens attentively to a sermon or teaching, or permits itself to be transported by the prayers of the hazzan. There are times to rise in unison and sit in unison, to take three steps back or forward in lockstep with those around you, to say the names of friends or family in need of healing before a silent congregation and gratefully answer questions afterward about their condition.

But, let’s not lose the proper balance between quiet and noise, receptivity and participation. The rabbi will forgive you for talking to the person beside you if the point is to check in, offer support, get the news. The hazzan will not only forgive you, but thank you for singing or humming along, filling the sanctuary with the collective murmur of “davening” during silent prayer, or adding to the sense of life and movement in the synagogue. Kol Nidre’s recital is not meant to be an operatic solo before a hushed multitude; the rhythm of Yom Kippur is marked as much by congregational chants and breast-beating (and tears) as it is by the progression from service to service, confessional to confessional. And if you are lucky enough to be part of a congregation that has come together at Kol Nidre, and has reflected and sung, sat and stood, fasted and swayed together all the way through to Ne‘ilah, you can expect that communal recital of the final Avinu Malkeinu—when darkness falls, the “gates of repentance” close, and the end of the fast approaches—will be an experience of prayer that you will long remember.

I’d trade decorous silence for more noise in synagogue any day, and especially on the High Holidays. Let’s put our hearts into our davening, and strengthen each other with our song.

***

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Umish Katani says:

Synagoges have been losing congregants (including me) for years because religion is becoming irrelevant and the rabbinic hierarchy and staff are a batch of foddy doddies who never learned the art of sales. People who tend to be paid attention to in synagoges are those that donate the gelt…. others are ignored and sidelined… The kids dont go becasue they lose interest after the bar mitzvahs or confirmation.. More interetsting things to do outside of the shule, and no heavy god stuff…. … Hey. my ex shule just sold it building and move to a JCC…for a while.. Families when i started…800+ now 300 maybe… Rabbi cant make a living on those numbers… the premise that more noise and less bordom may help…Nah… its gonna take a lot more that to resurrect conservative judaism. Assimilation has done us in……

Time to time we have to rethink about our practices. This article helps us to analyze one more chapter of our contemporary history.

Michael Liebowitz says:

Our cantor promotes, and requests, what he calls “murmurei” during services. Having said that, giving a congregation free rein to make more noise could end up resulting in less participation and more “…so Judy said…,” “tsk, look at those kids…,” and “do you have plans for breaking the fast?”

Lanskymob says:

4-6 generations of (non-orthodox) Jews have now grown up in this “high church” world. I would guess that much of the lack of participation comes from 2 things:
1. a lack of language/knowledge focusing on the participant’s direct relationship with The Divine (to Christians, Jesus is always close to them, they have a ‘personal relationship with G-d’. For reform and conservative Jews, G-d seems far away-at least that’s how I viewed it growing up in those streams).2. Hebrew education/a real, deep understanding of the Hebrew. If you’re taught to chant prayers, yet you don’t really know what you’re saying, what it means, and how it applies to your relationship with your maker…it’s hard to cry out-either with joy or with sadness-at various moments in a given prayer.
I’m not knocking the different streams of Judaism. I’m commenting based on how I grew up and where I am now in my “Jewish Journey”.

Lauren Deutsch says:

I agree completely. Being turned off is not the same as not being turned on.

A big part of the problem I dare say is that too many people in non-Orthodox synagogues aren’t familiar or comfortable with “davening.” The result is, as others have noted here, we’ve created “high church” services to entertain and offer spiritual engagement from the bimah only. It sucks. I hate it. This committed Conservative Jew can’t sit through classical Conservative high holiday services any longer. They aren’t designed or intended for people like me. Fortunately, my shul Tifereth Israel (Columbus, OH) also offers an alternative service in a synagogue social hall that is in the round, very personable and engaging.

Lauren Deutsch says:

For once I don’t think that assimilation is the problem at all.

I have been meditating on the idea of minyan (10 people for public prayer … forget the male part) recently. Maybe the critical mass is both no more than 10 as much as it should be a minimum of 10. If 12 people are available … the late-comming two should find 8 more and make another minyan.
Further, In the “old” days, lots of people (!) had the diversity of skills (and were recognized for them) to be skilled to lead public prayer. In these times we don’t have a critical mass of people who have those capacities (to our knowledge), so we lure with competitive salaries folks who have been officially sanctioned as being graduates of the movement theological seminaries. Among those individuals who are called to the “profession”, are those who are not attending movement-sanctioned rabbinical programs, many with deeply rooted spiritual souls, who find it next to impossible to get jobs with movement – affiliated congregations.

If you seek to sideline yourself, that’s where your going to find yourself.
If you can only view Rabbis as “a batch of foddy doddies” then that’s what your going to receive. If you need a sales pitch to have a personal conversation with the creator of the universe, well, then you’re not interested in buying what’s being sold. In fact, you highlight your non-interest by stating that there are “more interesting things to do outside of shul and no heavy god stuff”.
Apathy, not assimililation, is what you describe.

Two experiences struck me as very relevent after reading this article, all that point to the benefit of congegational pro-activity during a service. In Israel, I participated in a Havdala service at the Kotel. One of the minyans consisted of a large group of Hassidim. Their service was loud, boisterous, and joyful. Young and old men singing in a circle witnessing the end of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week. One could see the personal enjoyment from those participating.
The other, was a service at a local modern-Orthodox and egalitarian congregation in Jerusalem (Shira Hadasha). The congregants, including a number of transplanted Americans, all who participated in the service, which included melodius and uplifting davening, truly a moving experience. From what I understand, the congregation takes great pains to develop the liturgical melodies used in the service.

There’s noise, and there’s NOISE. Children occasionally running up and down the aisles during a service, or screaming, or infants crying, is okay, as long as it doesn’t continue. Most parents, but not all, control their kids, removing them when they are aware that the disruption won’t stop and is becoming distracting. There’s no excuse, though, for adults who let their cell phones ring. They (the phones) should be left home or turned off or put on “silent” before one enters the sanctuary. Loud whispering by adults during any part of the service is annoying. You never know when a congregant nearby is trying to listen and really hear, or is reading or meditating. But, yes! Murmuring, singing along, expressing emotion with voice or movement (within limits — this is not a rock concert) should all be allowed and encouraged when group, out loud prayer or singing is going on, or, as in my shul, when the cantor is chanting a prayer but has urged all of us to join in.

Reform Judaism was really boring when I was a teenager. Most recently (within the last 20 years) I have been attending Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Manhattan, where an amalgam of Reconstructionist and other traditions, and our fabulous rabbi, have been keeping me awake. This is my second year singing in our kick-ass choir. I’m 70. It is never too late to Rock with G-d!

wishnitz says:

Well, looks like not one of the contributors (and the writer of the column) never attended a “Shlomo Carlebach service “.It is the most uplifiting, spiritual and boisterous (yes- boisterous!) service you can find ! Nothing wrong with noise in shul- just the right noise- songs and music to fill your ears and lift your hearts!

I absolutely agree that more participation is better. As a member of a highly participatory Reform congregation, there is no way I’d attend a synagogue where I was expected to just sit, watch, and listen.

Bravo to Chancellor Eisen for pointing to an issue many have a hard time admitting, and for challenging us to fix what is a true problem. Whereas there is a diversity of ways to experience learning and praying, it is also possible to see a pattern of experiences in many shuls (not only Conservative/Masorti ones) that do not register as religious. I’d rather have what Pete Seeger calls “rascally voice” than polished ones, mostly because it engenders both personal ownership of communal worship on the parts of “normal” members and also because it demands of clergy (rabbis included) that we see ourselves as “holding the space”, not as serving a delicious meal our “guests” couldn’t produce themselves.

Mr Eisen is right insofar as classical concerts and liberal/Conservative services are performances by professionals on the stage to barely literate audiences of limited knowledge who may attend these performances a few times a year. Infrequent visitors are awkward and simply don’t know any better so they sit and rise like dummies when the actors on stage tell them to. Maybe this is why Eisen’s movement is dying a fast and painful death. Synagogue decorum is characteristic of liberal temples, not of shuls where people daven three times a day and are on more intimate terms both with davening and with God.

Umish Katani says:

No ‘Im not interested in what is being sold,Having seen the article for sale,. Es hat nit kein tam…. NOt having an interest in something is not necessarily apathy, just no interest. I still maintain organized religion has to pick the most palitable rabbi to the shule inorder to get it passed the committee…. and what you get is foddy doddies, with a backbone of a jelly fish who wont step on too many toes….and maintain the flow of gelt. @ lauren Deutsch In addition, assimilation has done the trick on the conservative movement. We dont indocrinate our kids anymore…

“The rabbi will forgive you for talking to the person beside you if the point is to check in, offer support, get the news.” I can’t speak for my rabbi, or any other, but I won’t forgive you. (Well, I will during the Ten Days.) Of course, there are exceptions: a comforting touch and a few quietly spoken words of support after the mourner’s kaddish, or at any time when a nearby congregant is clearly feeling sad; a quick “Shabbat Shalom or “Shana Tova” and a smile to greet someone; a helpful answer to a question about the page or passage; a polite acknowledgment to someone’s comment on the people present, the service, or the rabbi or cantor. Then, quickly, you should end the exchange. You can have a conversation, and get the news, later.

this “by occasional outbursts of a word or phrase” is intended during the Amidah prayer or during the repetition? if the former, here’s the Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Ahava, Chapter 9, Halacha 2: “Immediately [after the Shema], all stand and pray in a hushed tone. A
person who does not know how to pray should stand in silence while the
leader of the congregation prays in a hushed tone together with the
others…” which is based on Chana’s prayer:

Chana’s is prayer paradigm:

“To what do the nine [benedictions] said on New Year [Musaf Tefillah] correspond? Isaac from Kartignin said: To the nine times that Hannah mentioned the Divine Name in her prayer.” And “I might say that he should let his voice be heard in praying? It has already been clearly stated by Hannah, as is said, ‘But her voice could not be heard’. [I Samuel 1:13] … R. Hamnuna said: How many most important laws can be learnt from these verses relating to Hannah! ‘Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart’: from this we learn that one who prays must direct his heart. ‘Only her lips moved’: from this we learn that he who prays must frame the words distinctly with his lips. ‘But her voice could not be heard’: from this, it is forbidden to raise one’s voice in the
Tefillah.” Talmud, Berachot, mostly 31a and just prior.

Oh, I live in Shiloh, where the Tabernacle, where Channah prayed, stood.

madams12 says:

In the Bible, the story of these two endangered brothers continues into a passage that has traditionally been read on a regular Shabbat but not on the sacred special days when synagogues are filled with spiritually thirsty and responsive Jews.”Rosh Hashanah traditionally begins with a profoundly disturbing story: Abraham and Sarah insist that Hagar (a name that means “the stranger” in Hebrew), who has been Abraham’s second wife and the mother of his first son, Ishmael, leave the family. Sarah says that Ishmael has been “making laughter” (in Hebrew, mitzachek) at her son Isaac (in Hebrew, Yitzchak), whose name means “Laughing One.” (en 21: 1-19)
One way to understand the story is that the two boys are so much like each other, though not identical – Making laughter/ Laughter – that they are clouding each other’s identities, and must separate for the health of them both, even though the separation is painful.
But the story gets more painful. Abraham, who has been reluctant to expel Hagar and Ishmael from the family, sends them into the wilderness with a jug of water. But it runs out, and Hagar, fearing her son will die, begins to cry.
The Holy One Who is the Interbreathing of all life becomes visible to her. As her eyes open, she sees that her tears have themselves watered a wellspring -– the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me –- and not only are their lives saved, but they become the forebears of a great nation: the Arabs and Islam.
Abraham’s other son, Isaac, in Jewish understanding becomes the forebear of the Jewish people.
Here pauses the story as we read it on the first day of Rosh HaShanah. On the second day, we read how Abraham takes his other son, Isaac, up a mountain-top, preparing to make him a burnt-offering to God, who he thinks has asked this of him. At the last moment, the compassionate aspect of God intervenes to spare Isaac.
In the Bible, the story of these two endangered brothers continues into a passage that has traditionally been read on a regular Shabbat but not on the sacred special days when synagogues are filled with spiritually thirsty and responsive Jews.
I believe the completion of the story should be read aloud in every synagogue on Yom Kippur. It is a story of reconciliation, which is what Yom Kippur is all about. And just as the story of estrangement presages the vituperative video and the violent response of the last several days, this tale of reconciliation should be our teaching for next week, next year, next generation.
It appears in Gen. 25: 8-11. Abraham has died and his two sons come together to bury him, the most dangerous person in both their lives. It seems they have forgiven him, and now they reconcile with each other. For Isaac goes to live at the very Well of the Living One Who Sees Me that has been life-giving water for Hagar and Ishmael.
At last, the two brothers can fully see each other.

thanks to Rabbi Abraham Waskow…

Rachel_Mirelle says:

Where do these silent people go to shul? Now I don’t feel bad about talking! ;)
In my childhood, the rabbi used to pound with a gavel to shut people up; now the rabbi “shushes” people when it gets out of control. Silence is never a problem….

Thanks for this! Reminds me of how often there’s talk about capturing the joy and interactivity of summer camp prayers (erev Shabbat, havdalah, etc.) and bringing it into synagogue life. Well, we certainly didn’t sit like proper silent beings there! Here’s to singing together as a community (rather than watching a performance), to swaying to the music, to letting the spirit out! And if that comes with some walking in and out, some quick hugs and smiles to people you haven’t seen for awhile, and tolerance and welcome of people not 100% confident on the bimah, so be it. Shana Tova!

I grew up a New York Conservative in Whitestone, Queens, and from my understanding, it was “a sin” to make any kind of noise in the shul. Now, I’m in a small city northwest Washington State, and we attend Chabad services, where singing and dancing on Shabbos and holidays is a regular thing. It gets downright raucous on Simchas Torah. I wish Chabad did this kind of outreach to the entire spectrum of the Jewish community when I was a kid, but I’m glad they do it now, because my closest family is five hours away by car, and Chabad is the only family we have to share simchas with.

mridhasolayman says:

I HAD NO ANY IDEA. JUST NOW I HAVE READ IT. IF I READ IN FUTURE THEN I WILL COMMENT. JUST SAYING IT IT IS GOOD, I HAVE KNEW NEW. THANKS ALL

Rachel Lavoie says:

I agree with the lack of familiarity and comfort with davening. My dear friend is a Syrian Jew, raised in a Sephardic synagogue, who ended up affiliating with the Reform movement. She says that Sephardic synagogues are very segregated still and there is no music – as a very musical person with a gorgeous soprano voice, and a feminist, she didn’t feel as comfortable there when she became an adult. However, she still holds onto pieces of her culture, like wearing skirts to every service, and she davens. It is particularly noticeable during the Mourner’s Kaddish, and she said she used to be self-conscious of it because not a single other person does this rocking and swaying that she does consistently. It IS a shame to me that we don’t! It seems like such a beautiful way to feel the prayer in your whole body. But as a recent Jew-by-choice, it isn’t part of the temple experience I’ve been shaped by and unfortunately does not come naturally.

Rachel Lavoie says:

I agree with the lack of familiarity and comfort with davening. My dear friend is a Syrian Jew, raised in a Sephardic synagogue, who ended up affiliating with the Reform movement. She says that Sephardic synagogues are very segregated still and there is no music – as a very musical person with a gorgeous soprano voice, and a feminist, she didn’t feel as comfortable there when she became an adult. However, she still holds onto pieces of her culture, like wearing skirts to every service, and she davens. It is particularly noticeable during the Mourner’s Kaddish, and she said she used to be self-conscious of it because not a single other person does this rocking and swaying that she does consistently. It IS a shame to me that we don’t! It seems like such a beautiful way to feel the prayer in your whole body. But as a recent Jew-by-choice, it isn’t part of the temple experience I’ve been shaped by and unfortunately does not come naturally.

Rachel Lavoie says:

I don’t think davening three times a day automatically makes someone more intimate with God than someone who attends weekly Shabbat services… that’s quite a broad generalization.

Jerry Blaz says:

I have always asked the question Arnold Eisen posits about this penchant for “decorum” in a Synagogue service. While I rejected much of the ideology of my traditional background, I always felt that the congregants were participants rather than spectators; I have spoken and wrote about of this phenomenon in our synagogue bulletin over 50 years ago. On the other hand, I understood the impulse for strict decorum in a service as a subtle aspiration to Epicopalianism.

My God! Does acculturation mean becoming bloodless when we speak to God? We are Jews, lively and excitable, full of the whole blood of life.

I recall reading about the problem of closeness in Jewish culture and gentile cultures and describing the “appropriate” distance between two people speaking, one Jewish the other British. Jews stand about six inches apart, while British stand about 24 inches apart with conversing. However, when in close quarters, the Brit will stand at a right angle to someone closer than 24 inches so they are not speaking in “each other’s faces.” The Jew, on the other hand, feels more natural standing at about six inches. So the Jew stands close, and the Brit, to avoid the close head-to-head experience turns at a right angle. Then the Jew turns so he is facing his British conversation at six inches, and the Brit turns again to be standing at an angle and it becomes an impromptu dance.

So Jews have particular cultural propensities that make us Jews, and one’s prayer neighbor may not be a Brit, but the decorum of the Jews is not the same as our non-Jewish neighbors.

rebmoish says:

That’s like saying that a man who spends time with his wife once a week produces no less intimacy than one who spends time with her 3 times a day. What utter nonsense.

rebmoish says:

“Rabbi’ Eisen should look in the mirror. First, there’s a difference between lack of decorum when attendees are conversing with each other as opposed to when people are conversing with HaShem.

Second, he knows well, that the compromises of the Conservative (what are they conserving?), Reform and Reconstructionist lack-of-movements has produced a laity that is abjectly ignorant of Hebrew and therefore cannot independently participate in the davening. Indeed, there are few communities amongst them that have a participating laity.

But go to any Orthodox synagogue and there you find everyone actively participating. Here in Israel, most are raucous because out-loud davening is a necessary part of the service. All your krechtzing should be done as a guilt-offering to HaShem because you have so emasculated Yiddishkeit. And you know it. Go ahead – turn back the clock. Or start to stand up for a real Yiddishkeit. But you can’t. The congregation would fire you for demanding more.

Rachel Lavoie says:

You’re right, it IS like that – and still makes sense to me. I am tearful and emotional at every single Shabbat service, every single week – and a colleague of mine who is technically “more observant” has admitted to phoning in the rituals in a way that is customary and habitual for her and her family, while not always connecting to God through it, and in fact, often taking it for granted. Obviously this isn’t true for everyone, but my point stands that one cannot make such a generalization for everyone – that those who spend more time doing ______ must be closer and more intimate with God.

To use your example which perfectly supports my point – A man can spend time with his wife three times a day but be doing it out of obligation, with his heart not invested, possibly not even loving her, mindlessly watching TV and thinking he is having “quality time” with her because he’s home a lot with her, yet never being interested in deep conversation, talking about her feelings and dreams, etc. Whereas another man may be away on business regularly and come home only once a week but be so appreciative of his wife when he is home, spending true quality time with her, invested in every moment, affectionate and sweet and intense.

Faith, like love, cannot be measured only in time spent going through the motions.

Will S says:

Bravo!!

Will S says:

Not enough people have been exposed to Carlbach davening out loud and in unison. But it is important for people to search out leaders who promote this. If it means going to a michitzah minyan that you might not agree with, get over it and expose your self to this infectious style of prayer. Effective Carlbach davening means that you have to listen and learn from the people around you, accepting faults and strengths of the individual’s. It is a great learning experience. If it is a weekday, bring along a tambourine or a kazoo to add some spice like we do on Sunday mornings.

There are now more user friendly prayer books that have honest translations right under the Hebrew, for those of us who are not fluent translators of Hebrew. Until interlinear prayer books were developed, the translation was a synopsis of what the editor thought you should hear. Now you can pray and question the meaning of a prayer that you do not completely understand. It takes getting used to these books, but it is worth it.. Also switch off prayer book traditions or change what prayers you do each day. Mechanical davening is not as meaningful.

Those who love and understand Classical Music will continue to go and hear it, and enjoy it … with no need to turn performances into a Carnival … Those of lesser intellect, and stunted capacity to appreciate, will push for, “Fusion” … and try and turn Classical Art into Rap, or worse (Alice Cooper does Verdi) but none of them will ever grow, learn, or truly understand Classical Music, and an evil profanity will be created ……. Turning the the practice of Judaism, and the Synagogue into a Black Southern Baptist occasion, would be no less blasphemously profane …

Jo Merrick says:

I’ll agree with the notion that making noise for the sake of heaven is gratifying. Saying the prayers out loud-chanting or speaking is the conversation. Even silent meditation is noisy if you accept the notion that the subconscious is demanding its wants and desires constantly.
My disagreement is probably more in the venue of talk not for the sake of heaven: work related, school related, and naturally tales of others.
What I might even say is useful is the notion that gasps of expression are not unJewish like when in response to prayers, sermons, and music that moves you. It’s a mitzvah to be joyful on Shabbat and it’s a mitzvah to praise the Creator out loud-so where does the line need to be drawn–are we but children needing discipline or can we, the community be trusted to know the difference between the sacred and the profane.

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Make Some Noise in Synagogue

Prayer shouldn’t be a spectator sport. So why do so many shuls insist that congregants sit in silence?

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