Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gilu Biradah

Harry Maryles has an interesting post over at Emes Ve-Emunah regarding appropriate tunes for the prayers of Yomaim Noraim. Regarding such matters, generally the saying of taam v'reiach ein l'hisvakeiach is appropriate(there is no point in disagreeing over matters of the senses).

However, there are songs which would clearly be inappropriate for the mood of the day. We don't recite Hallel because it is inappropriate to do so on a day of judgment. Nevertheless, there are schuls and yeshivos that sing upbeat melodies, such as a chassidic marches, for the last kaddish of mussaf, or for ein kitzvah following unessaneh tokef.

Obviously, eimas hadin, fear of Divine judgment on Yomaim Noraim is the overriding theme of the day. Nevertheless, the theme of gilu biradah, from Ivdu es Hashem B'Yirah V'gilu Birada (serve G-d with fear and rejoice in trembling,--Tehillim 2:11), requires a paradoxical combination of both happiness and somberness. This is reflecting in minhagim, like taking a haircut on erev Rosh Hashanah to display our confidence in a good judgment, while at the same time, the day is a day of extra slichos, and by some, fasting as well.

I saw the term "Gilu Birada" applied to Yom Kippur in the commentary of the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor in the section after Kol Nidrei. The commentary quotes the verse in connection with a story told about Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev's conduct on Yom Kippur which epitomized this dichotomy.

Rav Avroham Eliyahu Kaplan Zt'l, in Bikvas Hayirah, as quoted in an essay by Rav Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, has a fundamental essay on this idea in general:

...But one who has not traversed the actual pathway of illumination [that of the prophets and the sages],he who stands opposite the rays of light, at some distance, possesses little understanding of this term [yir'ah]. It would be better had he never known this term, and was now learning it for the first time. But this is his problem: He knows it, but does not know it properly. He possesses a dangerous translation of the entire concept, and cannot avoid its negative ramifications. For example, when we mention yir'ah to this person he can only translate it thus: Bent head, wrinkled brow, glazed eyes, hunched back, trembling left hand, right hand clapping al cheit, knocking thighs, failing knees, stumbling heels. And he does not know that this translation is heretical for the one who knows what yir'ah is and what it means, the source from which it flows, and from whence it comes... There are times that demand tears and eulogies... It is necessary then to stoop like rushes and take up sackcloth and ashes. Times come upon the world when our sins require these. Such, however, is not Yir'as Hashem, not it and not even part of it. It is not yir'ah's essence, but only preparation for it...

Yir'ah is not anguish, not pain, not bitter anxiety. To what may yir'ah be likened? To the tremor of fear which a father feels when his beloved young son rides his shoulders as he dances with him and rejoices before him, taking care that he not fall off. Here there is joy that is incomparable, pleasure that is incomparable. And the fear tied up with them is pleasant too. It does not impede the freedom of dance... It passes through them like a spinal column that straightens and strengthens. And it envelops them like a modest frame that lends grace and pleasantness... It is clear to the father that his son is riding securely upon him and will not fall back, for he constantly remembers him, not for a moment does he forget him. His son's every movement, even the smallest, he feels, and he ensures that his son will not sway from his place, nor incline sideways - his heart is, therefore, sure, and he dances and rejoices. If a person is sure that the "bundle" of his life's meaning is safely held high by the shoulders of his awareness, he knows that this bundle will not fall backwards, he will not forget it for a moment, he will remember it constantly, with yir'ah he will safe keep it. If every moment he checks it - then his heart is confident, and he dances and rejoices...

When the Torah was given to Israel solemnity and joy came down bundled together. They are fused together and cannot be separated. That is the secret of "gil be're'ada" (joy in trembling) mentioned in Tehillim. Dance and judgment, song and law became partners with each other... Indeed, this is the balance... A rod of noble yir'ah passes through the rings of joy... [It is] the inner rod embedded deep in an individual's soul that connects end to end, it links complete joy in this world (eating, drinking and gift giving) to that which is beyond this world (remembering the [inevitable] day of death) to graft one upon the other so to produce eternal fruit.


Returning to the topic of songs on Yomim Noraim, there is no right or wrong way, as long as one is within certain bounds. A person should daven where he or she feels most comfortable, and will be inspired by the tefillos and niggunim.

(While this is not a music blog, while on the topic of music and the machzor, I would like to link to the Mostly Music website which contains a a brief, thirty-second section of Chamol from both London School of Jewish Song(1973), and from Shloime Dachs(1996), songs #'s nine and seven respectively. Enjoy !)

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