I went to Shira Hadasha on Fri night and Shabbat morning this week. Friday night was particularly special as Jess came, along with a visiting friend and sister-in-law, Miriam but for myself I was struck but how happy I felt to have her there and not be alone as I was on the Shabbatot that she was in the hospital and I came without here. She was greeted with many hugs and kisses and that was nice to see as well.
This morning, I went back for more. I went, despite the 600 people (according to Ilan the guard), despite the overwhelmingly American feel with all of the visiting groups and groupies, and despite the crowding - as a member, at least I can call some of the front seats my own when I come in, a real blessing during the tour group season. I returned, for what I like to call, the 'wall of sound,' of the tefila/prayer there.
We all struggle with tefila - the good days and the bad days. The days that we should have stayed in bed and the days where it all just feels right. The good days definitely outnumber the bad days at Shira Hadasha. This again despite the at times annoying nusach/prayer melodies, or the overly long and yuh buh buh'ying tendencies to the tunes, or the feeling that there are a bunch of Welsh men singing over on the men's side on their way home from the mines. Thing is, there is nothing like the sound of so many people singing out - singing out their stress, their weeks' fatigue, their Shabbat happiness, their pleasure in the experience of the evening.
It's what I like to call, to use a coinage from the Phil Spector era of musical arrangments, the 'wall of sound.' As if we've all been crowded into a small room (we are considering the numbers), with a planned reverb or however these things are really done for our listening enjoyment. Everyone sings, hums, vocalizes, harmonizes and somehow, magically it almost seems, it all words. Invevitably, I feel 'farklempt.' It's sort of like being at a show and feeling weepy when everyone claps at the end - it's the swelling of emotion, all those good feelings and bonhommie that almost brings me to my knees. Sometimes I think, I'm just a shameless wimp, trained like Pavlov's dog to cry at AT&T commercials and other times I allow myself the feeling of emotion, so strange it seems after years of 'dry davening moments.' Maybe they're on to something here, this post-modern version of hasidism, this joyful take on the mundane and commonplace, this happy desire to sing their hearts out week in and week out, even if they need to come up with some new melodies.
My mother and my brother may scoff at it (don't be offended when you read this, Mom). It's too long, they get hungry, why do all this singing anyway? If we went to the local shul, we'd be home already. All of this may be true but once you open yourself up to the experience, it's quite enticing and the next thing you know you're, heaven forfend, clapping your hands and swaying in the aisles. Can closing your eyes and dancing ecstatically be far behind? Beer does lead to heroin at Shira Hadasha.
2 hours ago