Simchat Shanah–A (Funky?) Liturgical Innovation

Tikkun Leil Shabbat has until recently been a kabbalat shabbat minyan. This year it has started to have some high holiday services. This past week it met on Rosh Hashanah for the first time (in the evening). Like many minyanim where folks come in part for the beautiful, soulful singing, meeting for maariv can be a challenge at times when kabbalat shabbat (K”Sh) is not generally done, such as when shabbat comes immediately after a holiday or as in this case, when it is not shabbat at all.
Wanting to avoid rushing into maariv and hoping to get folks in the mode of considering their years past and future Jo and RDL figured out a very creative liturgical approach based loosely on K”Sh. We thought to call it simchat shanah, a celebration of the year. K”Sh has a psalm for each day of the week and many use that structure to consider their past week day-by-day. Simchat Shanah has a psalm or megillah passage for each season of the year and folks were encouraged to review their year season-by-season. The passages they included in v1.0 were:

  1. Fall–…ufros aleinu sukkat shlomecha…–an indirect reference to sukkot
  2. Winter–…Eish u’varad sheleg ve’kitor ruach se’arah osah devaro…psalm 148:8–one of the few (only?) references in psalms to snow. The first part of this track has the tune we used, it was written by Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit.
  3. Spring–…Dodi li Va’ani lo…several excerpts from Song of Songs/Shir HaShirim which is read on pesach and includes lily references.
  4. Summer–…Esai Enai… Psalm 121:1-2–i am not sure why this one got picked.

Like K”Sh there is some other stuff once you get through the main cannon of 7 psalms. In our case, as we were meeting during the High Holiday process, they used Psalm 27. Jo found a great piece of music to use. The mp3 can be downloaded for free here. It was performed and written by a trio of rabbis who go by Miraj. It was gorgeous and though complicated worked out well.
I think the brilliance of the new simchat shannah was not so much the choices of selections for the seasons to be included but the idea to use the seasonal framework in general. I suppose that limits its usefulness primarily to areas with this set of four seasons we have but it speaks to me and I really appreciate their work and liturgical creativity and traditional grounding. I wonder what additions will come along? what would be other good season selection choices? How about things to go before or after that 4-season core?

8 thoughts on “Simchat Shanah–A (Funky?) Liturgical Innovation

  1. Any reason you didn’t consider just singing maariv? I know a number of tunes for ahavt olam and I imagine you could find/write/adapt tunes for the rest of maariv.

  2. I really liked the simchat shana.
    I’d be curious to see what people in a two-season climate would come up with, especially where the seasons are characterized by precipitation or lack thereof.
    Avi– I was really tired that night, but I seem to remember a fair amount of Ma’ariv being sung. Besides, I’m all for Ma’ariv, but lovely singing/reflecting before hand makes things even better, so why not?

  3. my friend ethan talks about well done maariv as a hike going up and down several peaks. to loosen ones legs, scaling some hills before hand helps. maariv was quite musical but for folks used to getting Kabbalat Shabbat in a given minyan, not having anything would be both jarring and make the occasion of praying on rosh hashanah seem much less splendid (literally) than praying on a shabbat, clearly an outcome to avoid.

  4. One more thought — we called it Simhat Shana primarily because the service was on the second night of RH, and so we weren’t welcoming the holiday that had been with us for a day already. But “Kabbalat Hag” would have been the natural name for such a musical pre-maariv warmup if it had been on the first night (or only night) of a holiday.

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