Solving The Crisis of Chazonus

Chaim Feifel

Old fashion davening was most successful in its time because the language of the Chazan was in tuned with the language and culture with the outer community. The synagogue was an integral part of daily life. The Chazan was able to take the folk music “Yiddish song” and elevate it with his special talents. It is interesting that the Chazanim turned the Hebrew text into a Yiddish flow by corrupting the accents. People found it comfortable to bring Chazanic recordings into their homes. So there was a strong connection between daily life and what the Chazan did.

Modern davening has great difficulty because what goes on in the synagogue is not connected to modern daily life. Therefore it becomes difficult to find the mode to create an atmosphere of prayer. Carlebach seems to be quite popular in Israel synagogues. Today you can especially hear in the U.S and in Israel lots of congregational singing. The Chazan has become a song leader.

Due to modern conditions the language of the synagogue has not found the relationship between daily life and the music expressed in the synagogue. The Nusach must be maintained but the way it is expressed musically must be different for the old fashion way.

The old approach to Cazanut done today is concert oriented and nostalgic for the older generation. Today worshipers desire a short service I do believe because the musical language expressed in the synagogue is unfamiliar to them. Lewandowski wrote music fit for the Berlin crowd. Sulzer who was true to Nusah but wrote music in the Vienna style. Naumberg wrote music to be in harmony with the French community.
The answer to your questions are not easy to be found. Perhaps the answer is to teach the younger generation the language that they can relate to as they mature.
Bio: Chaim Feifel serves as teacher of Cantorial music and resides in Israel.

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