Culture, Religion

Shteeblehopper strikes again: Kol Zimrah, NYC

As was pointed out in the last Shteeblehop, the hopper has become a team.  This week, we take you to Kol Zimrah.  I’m blessed to share my thoughts with you this week, and you are invited to share in the blessing.  If you’d like to visit synagogues or minyanim in your own city and write about it, post a comment here, or email the Shteeblehopper – shteeblehopper – at – mac – dot – com. Also, drop us a line if you have suggestions of shteebles (or other minyanim, wherever they may meet) for us to hop.

The most direct means for attaching ourselves to God from this material world
is through music and song. – Rebbe Nachman

There is a hoodie (available from the Jewschool store), which shows 10 turntables in arranged in the shape of the sefirot. According to the Zohar, one of the main goals of prayer is the tikkun (restoration) of these sefirot, where the pray-er ascends through the Divine emanations. Through praying, we are unified with God as we unify God’s various aspects.

That being said, what does this image of turntables-as-sefirot represent? From the time of Rebbe Nachman through the present, the role of music in prayer is central. Our singing unites us within ourselves, it unites us as a community, and we travel into the upper worlds together.

Kol Zimrah, an egalitarian independent minyan in NYC and Jerusalem (overlapping in involvement with Jewschool), bills itself as "Meaningful Prayer through Music." 
This past Shabbos, I was fortunate enough to join the NYC-KZ crew for Kabbalat Shabbat.  Weary from my lack of sleep and long day of traveling, I found my way to the social hall of the SAJ in Manhattan. 
Greeted with a warm smile and a Shabbat Shalom, I sat in the innermost of the concentric circle of chairs, and watched the room fill with yidn,eager to greet the Shabbos bride together. 

Aged mid-twenties and up (skewed toward the younger), friends greeted one another with smiles, and took their places among the 100 or so chairs. The room filled until there were more people than chairs, and we all began to sing.  The melodies of the davvenen were a mixture of Carlebach niggunim and familiar melodies from my days in the youth movement and camps of the Reform movement, guided by two participants with guitar and doumbek (with no amplification). 

As our voices rose, the air grew thick with harmony, voices not always singing exactly the same words, but the sound was one (As BZ is fond of saying, E Pluribus Unum).  KZ represents stage 3 pluralism at its best and most welcoming.  Sing what and when you want (they make a point not to announce page numbers) and rise and sit as you see fit.  Each participant was free to let their own liturgical choices and kavannah guide their davvenen

From Ps. 95 through the Mourner’s Kaddish, everything was sung in Hebrew (with appropriate silences) – there were a handful of announcements and a one-minute dvar Torah after the conclusion of the service, before Adon Olam

I didn’t have a sense of who were my fellow first timers and who were regulars, but it didn’t matter.  While expressing our individuality, we become unified in praise of the One.

Services were followed by a delicious pot-luck vegetarian dinner and more music – a handful of folks gathered in the center of the tables with guitars and a sax, and sang and played until it was time to lock up the building.  It was, as always, a relief that Shabbos had finally come, and there was nowhere I would rather have been.

The next KZ will take place on May 12 (I believe it has been exclusively a Friday night gathering).  As this was the 49th KZ-NYC, May 12 will be the Jubilee Kol Zimrah!  I’d be there if I could.  You should. As Rebbe Nachman also
teaches, "Music is the foundation of true attachment to God."

A Shteeblehopper

4 thoughts on “Shteeblehopper strikes again: Kol Zimrah, NYC

  1. Great description! Can someone explain why ommitting page numbers is significant and praiseworthy? I feel like this is a known issue to the author, but I’ve no idea…. (if no one told me the page numbers, I’d get lost many times over, even though I’m fluent in Hebrew….)

  2. from the KZ website:

    Why don’t you announce page numbers or when to sit/stand at KZ?
    Kol Zimrah encourages people to pray at their own pace, and recognizes that not everyone shares the same custom of when to sit or stand. Interjections such as page numbers and stage directions can also harm the natural flow and rhythm of the service. All are invited to sing, harmonize, hum, sit, stand, or dance whenever the spirit is moved, and should not feel compelled to follow the leader or the rest of the community.
    However, we realize that not everyone knows where the leader is at any particular point in the service. Therefore, a sheet has been provided with page numbers for nine different siddurim. Participants are also encouraged to ask their neighbor for help if they want to find out where the leader is.

    Additionally, anyone who requests a ‘prayer buddy’ will be provided with someone to sit next to in order to help keep you on track of the page numbers of the leader, if that’s what one would prefer.

  3. Thanks for the explanation. I’m realizing that I really like the stage direction. In the past, I took it for granted and didn’t think about it much.
    Hey! BJ is having an oneg soon… Fri. May 19th. It’s our first after a long time. It would be nice to have a shteeblehopper come by!

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