By Cantorial Soloist Jodi Blankstein
To prepare all of us for a musically rich experience each week, we begin our Shabbat services with a niggun, a wordless melody. This is done for both practical, spiritual, and historical reasons. Practically speaking, we all love to schmooze when we see each other in synagogue and chanting a niggun is a polite and festive way to gather a congregation together. Niggunim (the plural of niggun) also relax us and warm us up to the notion of participating in song and prayer. Historically and spiritually however, niggunim have a very specific origin. The Chassidic developed the niggun, a sacred folk art form, as a way to achieve a state of oneness with G-d. The term D’veykus, meaning clinging to G-d, is said to be realized by chanting vocables such as yi di or la la that have a mystical meaning, rather than a dictionary meaning, thus making the music primary, not the text. Singing niggunim prepares us to embrace fully the music of each service.
Often a niggun will serve as a thematic introduction foreshadowing the essence of a particular service... Please join on us on Fridays, December 7th and 14th, for two very different services, beginning with respective niggun styles. On December 7th, the Congregation B’nai Torah Family will celebrate Hanukkah together with a multigenerational service including both contemporary and traditional melody. Rabbi Eiduson, Adam and I are looking forward to sharing in song and prayer with our grade 6 leaders for what promises to be a wonderful night of light and celebration for our entire community.
Friday, December 14th, another Kick Back and Relax Shabbat will begin with a niggun with a hint of Fleetwood Mac or The Beatles or Ella Fitzgerald or Joan Baez... so many choices… Come join us at 7 PM that evening to hear which secular pieces will be woven into our music and prayer. And please know, we would welcome suggestions for composers/songs that you would like to have included in our Kick Back Shabbat services.
Sending Song and Strength,