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shabbat lectures/sermons


Music, Magic and the Spirit  
In this sermon we will examine the power of music to elevate the spirit. We will hear Biblical accounts of music’s ability to alter moods and topple walls, ancient theories of the music created by of the heavenly spheres, Rabbinic opinions on the divine sources of music, modern studies on the use of music to relieve pain and even promote the growth of plants, and Hassidic practices of elevating the soul through a particular type of music.



How Jewish is Jewish Music?  
In this entertaining lecture we will examine the music we hear in modern American synagogues, and attempt to determine where this music came from. We will also discuss the function of music in the synagogue, including the important symbolic role of certain melodies. We will attempt to answer the questions: Is there an authentic Jewish Music? What was our music like in ancient times? Has the music of the synagogue been influenced by non-Jewish sources?



How Can I Keep from Singing? 
In this Devar Torah (sermon) we will learn how music enhances the spirituality of our conversation with God that we call "prayer." We will find out why we sing our prayers rather than just speak them. We will also try to understand the goal of our singing, and what role the cantor can play in helping us achieve that goal.



Jews and Music 
There has always been a close connection between Jews and Music. How do we explain this phenomenon? Why do Jews comprise such a large percentage of performers and composers? Why is music such an essential component in Jewish worship, holiday celebrations and life-cycle events? Why is it that Jews have always turned to song, even in the depths of the Holocaust?




shabbat workshops


Unlocking the Cantillation Code 

This is an investigation into the syntactic system underlying the melodies we use for the chanting of scripture. Why do we cantillate the Torah? Why don’t we just read it? What are the functions of the accent marks on the words of the Hebrew Bible? How ancient are they and who made them up and why? We will identify errors that are made by nearly every Torah reader and see how they can be easily fixed. We will learn about a more logical and effective way to teach cantillation. 



Parshanut Illuminated by Ta'amey Ha-mikra  

One of the functions of the te'amim (trop) is to indicate the syntactic structure of  the Biblical text: a highly detailed system of punctuation. Thus, an understanding of this system can help us elucidate potentially ambiguous passages in the Tanakh. We will see how this applies to several key passages. 



We Hung Up Our Harps: Rabbinic Attitudes towards Music. 

Two thousand years ago the music of the Jewish liturgy was elaborate, expensive, professional and beautiful. It involved an orchestra and a choir. But after the destruction of the Sanctuary in 70 c.e. the Rabbis drastically curtailed this practice. We will examine the original texts and probe their intent. 


Classical Hebrew Diction for Liturgical Singers. 

We will look at some classical Hebrew texts (from the Bible and the Siddur) and analyze and correct some common pronunciation errors. This workshop should be of interest to every shaliah tsibbur, hazzan, ba’al keriya, vocal soloist, choral singer and liturgical composer.




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