Rabbi Ora on Elul and Elul Playlist

This year, the Hebrew month of Elul begins September 1 — a nice coinciding of the secular and Jewish calendars. I think of Elul as a kind of pumping-the-brakes on the freewheeling expansiveness of summer; even though it’s usually still warm outside, Elul is a whispered reminder: Fall is coming. Slow down. Get a little quieter. And begin turning inwards. 

Why? Because there is work to be done.

It’s tradition to dedicate the 29 days of Elul to reflection, study, and preparation for the coming Days of Awe. Elul challenges us to use each day to re-connect with our values and attune to the yearning of our souls.

Conceptually, the idea is noble, but acting on it is a bit more challenging. Here are a few resources to help you get started: 

Learn more about Elul from Rabbi Yael Ridberg at Reconstructing Judaism

Psalm 27 (“Achat Sha’alti”) is traditionally recited every morning in Elul. Here’s Rabbi Brant Rosen’s interpretation of Psalm 27 

Listen to a special episode from the Judaism Unbound podcast, Unbounding Elul

Here’s a simple calendar that helps you set a single intention for Elul and track it throughout the month

Thinking ahead? Sign up now to receive a daily email prompt for reflection during the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur

Is your favorite part of the High Holy Days the music? Here are 2 new niggunim we’ll be using this year – you can get a head start on learning them by clicking the links below:

Micah Shapiro’s Hashiveini

The Klezmatic’s interpretation of Shnirele Perele

About Lincoln’s Nigun

Cover of Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble’s 2014 album, “Nigunim Vol IV Brooklyn Spirituals.”

At our October Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Ora introduced a new to us nigun [a mystical musical melody] for “L’cha Dodi.” Composed by Joey Weisenberg, it is called “Lincoln’s Nigun,” which immediately generated speculation, Why Lincoln?

Evidently, we are not the only ones curious about the nigun’s title. Just last month, Tablet Magazine published a story on the background of “Lincoln’s Nigun,” “If You Like the Music at Brooklyn’s Hippest Shul, Thank Abe Lincoln.” If you have the time, read the article. But to summarize, Weisenberg’s composition was inspired by both a story related in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln about respect the troops showed President Lincoln (the soldiers would part to the left and right to make way for Lincoln) and a phrase in “L’cha Dodi”: “yamin u’smol tifrotzi/to the left and to the right they part ways” expressing respectful welcome for Shabbat.

Weisenberg also characterized the music as influenced by Civil War Americana, as well as traditional Jewish melodies. For some, the melody brought to mind the song “Ashokan Farewell” from Ken Burn’s Civil War miniseries, composed by Jay Ungar, the only song in the soundtrack not composed during the Civil War. (In writing this blog, I also found out that Jay Ungar played at Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s wedding!)

May we enjoy singing this together for many Shabbats to come.

 

 

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Musician’s Workshop

Earlier this month six or eight AARC musician-members and about 20 other local musicians joined at the JCC for a workshop with three members of the Maxwell Street Band.  We played for about 90 minutes, putting together two pieces, Freilechs fun der Hupe and Zol Zayn Gelebt.   Photos and audio are below.

Comments from participants

  • What an incredible morning. Hope there’s a chance to do it again!
  • What terrific fun to play music with these folks!  They took a couple dozen amateur instrumentalists, fired us up with enthusiasm, and helped us play with spirit and character. An amazing morning.
  • Alex expertly assessed the abilities of over 20 musicians – from novice to skilled – who had never played together before.  By the end of the workshop we were playing as a group; Alex, Don and Gail gave each of us a new challenge or musical gem.  What fun!!!  It was a real treat to play with Maxwell Street.  Participants were all asking when the band will come back.
Freilechs fun der Hupe

Zol Zayn Gelebt

 

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The Klezmer Concert & Workshop were organized in part by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation with support from the Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and an Impact Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, as part of the Ann Arbor Yiddish Festival.