The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, January 07, 2008

Shul Musings

1. Friday Night Lights.

One of the things that makes my shul special is the Friday night davening. Each week, well over 300 men (and about 50 young women, mostly high school and post-seminary girls) join us for Kabbalas Shabbos. (Many of the men are freeloaders; they come each and every week but are not members or associate members and don't give us a dime; but I digress).

Our Kabbalas Shabbos is not nusach Carlebach. The nusach is the regular ashkenazi nusach. What separates our davening is the intense L'cha Dodi, which is usually put to one of many popular Carlebach niggunim. L'cha Dodi is usually done to two different niggunim, with the first 6 stanzas done to a heartzige, slow niggun and the last four, starting with Lo Siavoshi, to a much more upbeat tune.

The place really rocks, especially towards the end, and even after the last four stanzas, when we usually sing the niggun without words, three or four more times.

In two of the last three weeks, the ba'alei tefilah, decided that rather than a Carlebach tune, they would employ complicated shinny shoe niggunim that about ten mispallimim knew. Talk about taking the air out of a balloon. This is especially disappointing because many of us, who have very intense work weeks, look forward to the L'cha Dodi which serves as a transformation of sorts from the chol to the kedusha of Shabbos.

As I like to say, Ich Kenesht.

So please. If you're going to take the amud at our shul, please stick to the basics. It's not about shlugging up the shul to show them how clever you are that you were able to put L'Cha Dodi to the latest Shweki tune. It's about rocking the olam. In as simple a way as possible.

2. The Schnorrer Problem.

Sunday morning shachris was inundated by 8 schnorrers. I felt as though I was davening at the Kotel. Our shul has not adopted a "no schnorrer in the sanctuary" rule and it is becoming more and more of a problem. Besides the issue that many of the schnorrers are probably outright frauds, it is getting more difficult to concentrate on davening because the schnorrers do not have the courtesy to wait until after the amidah and, instead, collect during all parts of the davening, including kriyas Shema.

As I like to say, Ich Kenesht.



  • At 9:53 AM, Blogger David said…

    Perhaps their collection during krias shema and shmoneh esray is proof that they are frauds who don't recognize the different parts of tefilla. And for the record, we are associate members, not total free-loaders.

  • At 9:56 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    I said most, not all!

  • At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What does Ich Kenesht mean?

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger The Anchorite said…

    look on the bright side, Ashrecha that you have a shul like that. living in an "out of town" community I don't really have a choice of shuls its either the Young Israel'ish local shul or nothing at all. Like you, I look forward to a hertzig Kabbalt Shabat, unfortunately its mostly a zombified "night of the living Shul".
    I'll take your shul, Shiny Shweky and all, any day.

  • At 12:13 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    loosely, "I can't take it anymore"


    I hear your point. I am generally very grateful; I guess we have high expectations.

  • At 12:35 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said…

    1) I thought it was just me ... but I have sensed the inaudible whooosh of pent-up enthusiasm deflating, everytime the first bars of Lo-Sayvoshi are sung to a less-than-classic Carlebach, Chaim Dovid, et al tune.

    2) My feeling about collectors is shaped by the following:

    a) During a wedding in Williamsburg, having endured nearly a dozen collector shoving stacks of singles into my face while I was eating, I said to the latest of the string, "You lost your chance. I gave all my money to the first 20 guys." My father's cousin, who happens to be loaded, was sitting across the table, and not looking too impressed said, "I'll hope you'll always have enough money to give anyone who asks." I felt pretty stupid and since then, before walking into a simcha in Brooklyn, mentally budget at least $20 to the collectors."

    b) I once heard Rabbi Weinberger say that Tzedaka is a d'oraisa, and tefillah is not

    c) It recently occurred to me, and then I read an article saying as much (leading me to wonder if my brainstorm was really mine) that as long as I'm davening (i.e. schnorring money, health, and happiness from God), and He KNOWS that I'm a complete fraud -- I may as well offer some professional courtesy to my fellow schnorrers.

  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Shira Salamone said…

    We don't have the money-schnorrers, we have the food schnorrers, the ones who magically show up just as Mincha/Afternoon service is ending to grab a bite at the seuda shlishit/the third Sabbath meal, then often vanish equally magically before Maariv/Evening Service. Nu, they could at least come early enough and stay late enough to make a minyan?

  • At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tefillah not being deorassia is a dispute between the RaMBaM and RaMBaN. Rav Soloveitchik says that both agree that during an eis tzarah (time of distress) that tefillah is a torah obligation and that now a days we are in an es tzarah all the time. I am not arguing not to give to collectors but pointing out that saying that tefillah is not a torah obligation is not a fully true statement.

  • At 1:33 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    I hear your point. In fact, I think this schnorrer thing is a way that G-d is testing me. Unfortunately, I'm failing the test miserably.

  • At 3:38 PM, Anonymous qqq said…

    maybe your niggun issue can be solved by each chazan who davens friday nite, get his niggunim approved beforehand by the gabbai. or post an approved niggun list !!!

  • At 4:38 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 8:45 PM, Anonymous DovMichalBear said…

    Your shul (AK, right?) davens ashkenaz??

    This, I did not know.

  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    no, it davens sfard. I meant the nusach is one that ashkenazim rather than sefardim use.

  • At 10:26 PM, Anonymous talmid said…

    Still Wonderin' - Maybe you should double check with Rabbi WEinberger shlit"a about the ramifications of tefilah not being d'oraysa before posting on the blog. Even according to those who hold that tefilah is d'rabanan, kerias shema is certainly d'oraysa! Also, most rishonim pasken that somebody doing even only a mitvah d'rabanan is pattur from a mitzvah d'oraysa (oseik b'mitzvah pattur min hamitzvah). According to many rishonim it is even assur to leave the mitzvah you are currently doing (tefilla) to go do another mitzvah (tzedaka). Again, I am not paskening, but merely suggesting that you double check with Rav Weinberger shlit"a

  • At 11:45 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said…

    Talmid --- please be assured that if I understood even half of R' Weinberger's point, I'd still be ahead of the game.

    And, while I took what I did and made some practical use of it, please don't regard my interpretation as even remotely representative of what Rabbi Weinberger says or thinks.

  • At 4:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You should adopt the practice of the Carlebach shul in Givat Shmuel (probably the largest shul davening full-time Carlebach). To avoid the problem of chazzen cluelessness and grand-standing, for all purposes relating to picking niggunim, the chazzen is basically a figurehead. One of the founders of the shul stands next to the amud the entire davening and he picks all of the tunes.

  • At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    speaking of the shul, the fire alarm went off twice today. somebody should tell them to shut it off because if it happens again they will be fined. it would be a shame for the shul to have to lose money on something as silly as that.

  • At 5:56 PM, Anonymous cyberdov said…

    Whoops - David - being unfamiliar with davening does not make one a fraud about being in need of help! I'm sure you don't mean that only frum yidden are deserving of charity in shul.

  • At 6:11 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    they were frum yidden. at least they dressed the part.

  • At 9:13 AM, Blogger David said…

    Cyberdov- In our community we're used to seeing people dressing the part who clearly are not frum. Speak to them for a moment and you'll see. I don't mind giving to non-frum aniyim, but it's a real chutzpah to put on a "costume" with the intent of using the garb to collect more money.

    Plus I have seen the same people all over the tri-state area-- from Woodmere to Monsey to Riverdale. Something I wonder if these people are really poor or if they're just professional beggars.

  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger yitz said…

    As someone deeply into Negina, I have to disagree with many of you. [I'm not gonna get into "shiny shoe vs. whomever" here either, please!]. What makes a niggun special is that it is NOT used over & over again, week after week, month after month, in the same setting in davening. The Carlebach minyanim have caught on, to a large extent, because the Tefillos in the regular shuls became so much "rote." However, some of them fell into the same trap, and use the same "Kah Ribon" niggun for the first part of Lecha Dodi, and "Siman Tov" for the second part. Nothing wrong with that [I know, that's how Reb Shlomo sings it on the tape/disk!]. But after doing that for a few years, people became bored, so lo & behold, ba'alei tefilla learned to VARY the niggun that are sung. And you know something, it works!
    Of course, Modzitz Chassidim always knew this [we never lost it!]. B'kitzur, variety is the spice of life!
    OTOH, I understand the need for SOME familiarity to be present in the niggunim, so the best "mix" is to have a bit of both!

  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    We do vary the niggunim from week to week but the niggunim are those that people know AND THAT ARE SIMPLE TO SING. It is ridiculous to use a complex niggun that no one knows AND that can't be easily picked up.

  • At 4:35 AM, Blogger yitz said…

    MOC - Agreed. I was more objecting to the Givat Shmuel description of someone standing next to the Baal Tefilla giving orders as to what to sing. I've seen that elsewhere, & suffice it to say I try to stay away from such scenes!

  • At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    its funny that people from one of the fanciest shul buildings on the planet complain about people collecting pocket change.

  • At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "(Many of the men are freeloaders; they come each and every week but are not members or associate members and don't give us a dime; but I digress)."

    Mean comments like this only exist in Flatbush and the five towns.

    Since when is being able to pay for use of a welathy synagogue a prerequisite to pray on friday night? Freeloaders?

  • At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

  • At 4:31 AM, Blogger Yaro Gabriel said…

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