Entry into the ALEPH Rabbinic Program and completion of the Rabbinic Pastor and Cantorial programs require a basic understanding of our liturgy and its central concepts and terms. In this course, we will explore basic terms such as matbe'a ha-t'fillah, chiyyuv, sh'ma u-virchote'ha, and heiche k'dushah. We will look at what makes a shacharit service whole and how weekday, Shabbat, and holiday services are similar to and different from each other.
Courses in the historical development and theology of liturgy; the structure of the siddur; exposure to the multiple versions of prayers in different Jewish communities; the “style of Renewal davvenen’.
Comparative Liturgical Traditions
Most of us grow up with the sense that there exists “the siddur” – a fixed and universal liturgy. While most of our liturgy is indeed held in common, at least with regard to the sequence and content of prayers, there are also significant difference among siddurim from various time periods and communities. Becoming aware of these differences can open our minds to new possibilities, manifest theological nuances, and provide opportunities to opt for alternative liturgical choices in ways that are authentically traditional. This class explores these differences under several categories, including theology, the “curious,” and the contemporary. We will also variations in synagogue practices and etiquette (such as standing and sitting, bowing and stepping).
Entering Deeply into the Shema: Teachings and Practices
The Shema: Often the first prayer we learn as a child, and the last offered on our deathbed, it is both mantra and consciousness raiser. Uttered not so much to God as to ourselves, it is a reminder that beneath all the variation, all the distinctions and separations, there is a deeper Unity that binds. In this course, we will explore key readings and practices of the Shema: moving from rabbinic and philosophical notions to (especially) the mystical. All key teachings will be provided in the Hebrew or Aramaic original; English translations will also be available.
Study of the traditional Haftarot of the liturgical year.Analysis of the connection of those texts with their parshiyot and festivals, with an eye to the creation of kavannot and divrei Torah. Attention to the selection / creation of alternative Haftarot from other sources, and the challenges of setting English versions to Haftara trop. (cross listed with Liturgy)
Goal: to understand the poetic structure of the Psalms of Hallel, and the predominant themes of this sequence of Psalms of praise. The class will discuss various interpretations of these themes, looking at the text through the lens of PaRDeS: P'shat, Remez, D'rash, and Sod. We will work with the ancient custom of zogn tehilim, working with diverse customs of psalmody, and re-new it as a spiritual path to open the gates into the deep joy of praise. Study sources include Talmud references, Rambam Torah Sefer Z'manim, Rashi and others.
Two-year core curriculum in the classical Ashkenazi-Lithuanian tradition including a semest in each of: Shabbat Nusach, Rosh Ha'Shanna, Yom Kippur, Shlosh Regalim. The entire liturgical year is covered, including life cycle. The pedagogy is focused on mastery of Nusach as an improvisational medium. Study sources: an extensive collection of sheet music developed by Hazzan Kessler, based on the work of earlier authorities, particularly Max Wohlberg. Printed music includes sections of scalar and motivic analysis along with samples, e.g. multiple settings of texts. Classes include coaching of talmidim as they develop their own style and improvisational skills.
Yearly course as part of the Study Intensive Week attended by all ALEPH Ordination Programstudents and faculty. Study sources: music by Cantorial composers, e.g. Leib Glantz, Moshe Koussevitsky, Adolph Katchko, etc, plus audio tracks of the great Hazzanim. The class includes analysis and performance in masterclass format, including work on stylistic aspects, vocal issues, and emotional communication.
Hilchot Shaliach Tzibbur
Three terms that are used in our tradition to describing leaders of prayer: Shaliach Tzibbur, Baal Tefilah and Hazzan. This course focuses on the role and responsibilities of the Shaliach Tzibbur: Shaliach – from the Hebrew term for sending, or message. Tzibbur – from the Hebrew term for community. The Shaliach Tzibbur is the messenger of the community. The standards of a Shaliach Tzibbur are detailed in the legal codes of our tradition. The Shulchan Arukh (basing itself on a passage in the Talmud) states; The Shliach Tzibbur must be appropriate. What is appropriate? This person should be free of sin, about whom there must never have been ugly gossip spoken; humble and desired by the community; having a pleasant voice and able to regularly read from the Torah, Prophets and Writings. The Mishnah Berurah adds: [The Shaliach Tzibbur] should be first into the Synagogue and last out, never foolish or frivolous, and able to speak of the needs of the community. OH 53:5. Then the Shulchan Arukh (following the Talmud) goes on to say: And if you can’t find one who has all these qualities, choose the best of the community in matters of wisdom and good deeds. We will work with traditional codes and contemporary materials in exploring the requirements for leadership of prayer.
Jewish Music History
(Two-semester course). This course addresses a wide range of topics under this heading, including known scholarship on early Jewish music, the cultural contexts in which the multiplicity of Jewish communities developed their musical traditions, and Jewish music in modernity. Some lecture titles (by way of example) are: The Music of the Temple; Early Jewish Music and its Influence on Early Christian Chant; Cultural and Denominational Diversity in Jewish Liturgical Music; The Basic Elements of Ashkenazi Modality; Environmental Influences upon Cantorial Music; European-Jewish Psalm Settings; Learning to Chant the Bible in the Bukharan-Jewish Tradition; Sulzer's Musical Style in the Context of 19th-century German Romanticism; A Hundred-and-fifty Years of Jewish Art Music: from the French Revolution to the outbreak of World War II.
Life Cycle Ritual Practicum Parts 1 & 2
Pre-requisite: Liturgy of the Lifecycle. In this ten full-day (two full weeks) summer residential training course wedding/commitment ceremonies, funerals, and baby-naming ceremonies, are created and enacted. Other life-cycle events are touched upon integrating traditional forms and liturgies with new approaches. Participants share experiences and resources, give and receive feedback, and are lovingly yet challengingly coached. This intensive master class uses hands-on practice of skills for using Jewish ritual tools. Practical skills, traditional structures, contemporary adaptations and mystical underpinnings of Jewish ritual tools and skills are explored in a laboratory setting.
(Liturgy of the Life Cycle and Life Cycle Ritual Praticum Parts 1 & 2 are listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy. These courses must be taken in sequence.)
Liturgy of the Lifecycle
A class to introduce and complement the Life Cycle Ritual Practicum. This sequence explores the rituals and customs of the Jewish lifecycle. Students will develop understanding of the history minhagim and halachah associated with each event in the cycle of life - and explore the circumstances and context that has led to the development of new rituals and ceremonies at various stages in Jewish history. Even as we recognize that the contemporary era is a time of great fluidity and paradigm shift, the course will emphasize knowledge and fluency with the traditional sources as the basis for exploration and development of new or innovative approaches. This class will look at halachot and customs associated with traditional and modern life cycle events, and at both classical and modern liturgical texts associated with these events, covering birth, maturation, marriage, and death. There will also be consideration of conversion, divorce and newly identified life-transitions such as retirement, leaving home, menopause, entering military service. (Cross listed in Kli Kodesh and in Liturgy)
This course offers a rigorous historical and textual survey of the liturgy of the Shelosh Regalim, Yamim Nora’im, Minor and Contemporary Festive and Mournful Days (including Yom HaAtzma’ut, Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikkaron, Tu B’Shvat, Purim, Hannukah). The critical texts of each day will be examined for historical context, and also for spiritual significance and ritual agenda. We will consider the dynamics and structure of these unique gatherings of the Jewish People, and the various strategies that have been employed by denominational streams and Jewish Renewal to construct and reconstruct meaning in the layered rubrics that have been passed down to us. The course will pay close attention to the text, but aim “beyond the text” to empower future rabbis and cantors to lead the Jewish People with learning, insight and courage.
Liturgy: Shabbat v’Chol
This class offers a literary, historical and religious approach to the daily and Shabbat liturgy. We will look at current scholarship concerning the development of the matbe’a ha-tefillah and the institutions and structures of Jewish liturgy. We will also study the texts closely, looking especially at the implications of quotation or reference to Biblical/Rabbinic sources. The piyyutim of Shabbat and the Daily service will be studied closely – and there will examination of the history and current customs of Keri’at HaTorah.
Liturgy: Yamim Nora’im
This course offers a rigorous historical and textual survey of the liturgy of the Yamim Nora’im. The critical texts of The High Holidays will be examined for historical context, and also for spiritual significance and ritual agenda. We will consider the dynamics and structure of these unique gatherings of the Jewish People, and the various strategies that have been employed by denominational streams and Jewish Renewal to construct and reconstruct meaning in the layered rubrics that have been passed down to us. The course will pay close attention to the text, but aim “beyond the text” to empower future rabbis and cantors to lead the Jewish People with learning, insight and courage
Middle Eastern Maqam
Exposure to the classical modal tradition of the Middle East, in which most Jewish music is grounded. A number of basic modes will be studied, with access to online resources. As part of the work,talmidim will be expected to demonstrate their knowledge by composing their own melodies in these modes.
This is a 1/2-semester course (6 full sessions). The material covered will be basic harmonization of modal melodies in terms of chord choices, modulations, and harmonic rhythm/speed, with a concentration on harmonizing melodies in the classical liturgical modes (e.g, freygish) using litiurgical material and niggunim. Competence in this skill set will be recognized as part of completion of the music theory requirement.
Music of the Jewish Liturgical Year
Basic nusach and melodies for non-cantorial students. Jewish liturgical music is based on sets of musical modes with melodic motifs for different types of prayer. It is calendar-linked to event and time of day. Folk melodies, niggunim, compostions for cantor and choir, and contemporary liturgical songs have supplemented or supplanted traditional nusach as synagogue life has changed. This course covers the basics of nusach, melodies and niggunim, with the goal of competence in leading services that are traditionally grounded and melodically accessible. It is intended for both music readers and non-readers. Participants should be able to download mp3 files and have a working knowledge of the siddur and machzor. (Cross listed in Kli Kodesh and Liturgy/Hazzanut).
Mystical Piyyut as a Gateway to Deep Practice
Chanted at the festive table, in Shabbat and High Holiday prayers, at dawn vigils or in hitbodedut, Piyyutim, the alliterative prayer-poems of Jewish tradition, are are at once a literary and an embodied art. Some piyyutim express longings for the Beloved (Yedid Nefesh), the mystical joy of Shabbat (Yah Ekhsof), the music of the heavenly spheres (El Adon), while others are stately and mysterious (Adon Olam), trance-formative (L’Chei Olamim), or trace a quiet blossoming into devekut (El Mistater). In this course, we will focus on a selection of mystical piyyutim, especially those that have entered into the liturgy and zemirot. We will decode their deep meanings, their performance context and kavvanot, and will learn chants (spanning the Jewish world) that enliven and transform the semantic meaning. Students in the course will have access to a website that will provide historical and literary analyses, sound clips, and visual dimensions of these prayers.
The Chassidic realm of Niggun (wordless melody) is a vast, deep tradition of pure melody as a vehicle for spiritual ascent. This course explores the classic niggunim of the major dynasties. The goal of the class is to become a baal niggun: someone who can teach and transmit the essence of the process in contemporary settings.
Non-Ashkenazi Jewish Music: Sephardi and Italian Music; Moroccan; Iraqi; Yemenite
These courses are exposure to the musical styles of communities whose traditions are not part of the American mainstream. They are taught by teachers native to those traditions, and include a range of styles: nusach, piyyut singing, and folk melodies. The courses may be of less than one semester duration.
Pedagogy: Teaching Tefillah
This seminar establishes a methodological approach to the teaching of the Siddur and the Mahzor. Theological issues arising from these prayer books will be discussed. Affective approaches that complement cognitive and skill learning will be explored. Observation and micro-teaching are required.
Study of Tehillim from the daily and weekly liturgy. Attention will be paid to the poetic structure, linguistic aspects of Psalms, theological and spiritual messages of the Psalms, and the relationships between the Psalms studied and other passages of Biblical narrative and poetry.
This six session (1/2 semester) seminar will explore the background and overall message of some of the Piyyutim known as Zemirot. These table songs have enriched the Shabbat experience of Jews throughout the world and continue to be the basis for musical creativity today. We will engage in literary and rhetorical analysis of the texts including attention to the value-concepts which are explicitly mentioned or embedded in them. Sessions will be conducted with the assumption that assigned readings have been completed in advance.