There’s a story, based on a Hassidic concept, about a cantor that went to his rabbi and confessed that the popular melody he used for the prayer in the local synagogue was in fact a drinking song he had learned down at the pub. The rabbi calmed him and said that it was perfectly alright, since all good melodies actually originated in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There, they had been used by the officiating priests and later picked up by the non-Jews.
I was reminded of this quasi-theological joke this shabbat. A dear friend of mine who sometimes serves as shaliach tzibbur in the shul I go to on Friday nights, asked if I thought it would be appropriate to use the melody of Amazing Grace in the shabbat evening prayers. I answered that I most certainly thought not, and consequently he refrained.
However, thinking about that joke, and perhaps even more importantly about Rabbi Nahman’s original explanation about why Gentile music can carry a spark of the Divine, I felt a little bad about my categorical limitation of this particular cantor’s self-expression.
Thus, I hereby publicly retract my earlier judgment on the issue. Furthermore, as an atonement, let me give all the cantors reading my blog a few tips of other nice melodies they might consider adding to their liturgical repertoire. This is a personal favorite of mine, and this one was particularly beloved by Diana, Princess of Wales. And, last but certainly not least, I would like to recommend this little gem. I can really see the Levites chanting the Song of the Day to that one.
Entry filed under: Judaism.