A quick and easy guide to understanding the themes and meanings of our Hebrew High Holiday liturgy.

Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our Daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

These are the notes from a class I gave entitled, “High Holiday Service Crash Course: A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding the Themes and Meanings of our Hebrew High Holiday liturgy.” There are links to some of the materials to which I referred, so all you need are some really good cookies and you can almost have the same experience as those who joined me for the discussion.

With the High Holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to start to prepare for them. Here is a quick reference guide for making High Holiday services a more personally meaningful experience. By following some of these suggestions, services can become more of an active rather than passive process for you

A Reading Readiness

* Look over the Machzor (High Holiday prayer book), borrow one from the Synagogue if you wish.* Read through a copy of our High Holiday companion See the link at the end of this post) which explains the prayers of our Machzor * Compare different versions of the Machzor; find alternate readings or translations. * Visit the Library or a Jewish book store and select a book about the prayers or about the Holidays.

B Personal Experience

* The function of many of our prayers is to place us back into the history e.g. to “feel” what it was like to get the Torah at Mount Sinai: write down and be prepared to think of a time when you felt the presence of God, or felt profoundly Jewish.

C Z’chut Avot:

* May times during service we appeal for forgiveness due to the merit of our ancestors; find out about your own ancestors/family and share the results with other family members. * Ask kids to interview grand parents etc. and discuss the results during festival meals or before services. * Find out about and discuss past Holiday experiences such as sitting next to a grand parent in services.

D Personal Prayers/Meditations

* Personal prayers/meditations are provided for at various places in the services (e.g. at the end of the Amidah or silent prayer) * Bring a list of things you want to thank God for; things you want to ask for; or things you have trouble understanding. * Write poems that you can include in the service similar to the Piyutim, or liturgical poems, that are already part of the service. * List things about your self you a proud of or would like to improve in the coming year. * Think about plans or goals for the future.* before Yom Kippur it is costmary to ask for Michilah(forgiveness) from any individual you may have harmed either intentionally or inadvertently, think about who these individuals may be – family members are always a good place to start.This is an opportunity to enter the New Year with a clear conscious and rekindled relationships.

F By CD’s or MP3’s of Holiday Music

* Playing music in the home as you prepare for a Holyday always helps set the appropriate tone and builds excitement for the upcoming occasion.

E Buy You Own Machzor:

* Paper clip in you own: prayers, readings, meditations or personal lists from above, transliterations, names of family members to be remembered at Yizkor or during the Martyrology, which is said during Yom Kippur.
F Quick Guide to Prayer book Hebrew

Hebrew, as you may know is based a system of three or four letter roots around which all of the various forms and conjugations of words are formed. By looking at a few of these, you will be able to receive an idea of some of the concepts the author of the particular prayer is seeking to convey. These roots can be expressed in English transliteration as a series of letters separated by dashes. So here we go:

  1. B-R-Ch. This conveys the concept of Praise or Blessing. Thus the word BRaCha, means blessing, as in Blessed are you our God. Any time this root is employed we are evoking the presence of the Creator in what we seek or in that for which we are grateful. So BiRCHat Kohanim, is the Priestly blessing recited on the Holidays, Festivals and on other significant occasions. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “knee” is BeReCh; we often bend our knee when acknowledging God’s presence.
  2. K-D-Sh. This conveys the concept of Holiness. God is the Holiest of all entities because there on one God in the universe. So we have KidDuSh, the sanctification of Shabbat or a Festival usually made over wine. KiDuSha, the expression of God’s holiness found during the public recitation of the Amidah. KaDdiSh, the prayer said by mourners and KiDuShin, the Hebrew word for a wedding.
  3. M-L-Ch (K). This conveys the concept of monarchy. God is described as MeLeCh Ha Olam, the ruler of the universe. We have a section of the Rosh Hashanah service that cites texts demonstrating and focusing on the monarchy of God called MaLCh Also we often sing the popular prayer, Avinu MaLKeinu, Our Parent Our Monarch, pointing out the continuum between Justice and Mercy that defines our relationship with God.
  4. Z-Ch(K)-R. This conveys the concept of Remembering. So we have ZiChRonot, a section of the Rosh Hashanah service that cites texts demonstrating and focusing on the past and the memory of the relationship between God and our ancestors. Many gather on Yom Kippur and other festivals for the YiZKoR, memorial service. Also we have the Israeli version of Memorial Day; Yom Ha ZiKaR
  1. Tz-D-K. This conveys the concept of Justice or doing that which is right. Thus the bible implores us, “TzeDeK, TzeDeK Tirdof; Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” We come to the realization before God during the High Holidays that we are not TzDiKim, completely righteous people like our great sages, but that we have indeed committed transgressions. During Yom Kippur we may be motivated to support the Synagogue or other worthy cause by giving TzeDaKah i.e. doing that which is right and just.


Mahzor 101 by Samuel Rosenbaum

This excellent guide to High Holiday prayers was the last creative work by Samuel Rosenbaum, z”l. The commentaries offer short explanations of the major prayers and services.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kits

A delightful, down to earth approach to understanding the High Holidy services. Written by Shimon Apisdorf.

Inspirational Readings by Rabbi Dov Perez Elkins

Collections of stories and other sources of reflection and insight that are perfect for before, during (not while the Rabbi is speaking of course) and after services. Rabbi Elkins is a world renowned motivational speaker and author.

Beth El Synagogue High Holiday Companion

I created this booklet so that it would be the equivalent of having me sitting beside you in services and explaining each prayer as it happens. I include the page number in Machzor Lev Shalem for each prayer as well as indicating particular points of interest throughout the service.

The Spirit of the High Holidays

Part of a joyous series of music CDs jointly produced by the Cantors Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism featuring music and prayers sung by members of the Cantors Assembly. Familiar favorites and new compositions, includingHebrew texts, translations, and commentaries on the selections are presented.

For example, here is a beautiful, uplifting setting from the Rosh Hashannah Musaph service entitled, “Kadosh Atah,” “You are Holy,” sung by Hazzan David Lefkowitz and the Park Avenue Synagogue Choir.

Please feel free to contact me for help with any of the above suggestions or to explore other possibilities. By doing a small amount of preplanning, the services that we experience together this year can be the most meaningful ever.

Best wishes for a Shanna Tovah – a year of Goodness and Blessing

Hazzan Michael Krausman, Beth El Synagogue hazzankrausman@bethel-omaha.org 402-492-8550


Share a Prayer: Sim Shalom; a Prayer for Peace

After several months of hiatus, I am pleased to submit this new edition of “Share a Prayer.” In the time since my last post, both personally and professionally,  I have experienced the gamut of feelings – from disappointment to despair, to discomfort to apprehension to anticipation to appreciation. I have, in the process, made a somewhat bumpy journey from Hollywood FL to Omaha NE in order to join my wonderful new congregational family at Beth El Synagogue. Now that things are starting to “normalize,” I hope to continue to post on my E-Hazzan blog with some regularity. So, that having been said, I will begin as I did in the beginning:  

Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our Daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

Perhaps more so than any other supplication, prayers for peace remain foremost in the hearts of those who seek to communicate with their creator. Not only does the core of every formal prayer service contain prayers for peace, but even the Kaddish, an Aramaic elegy that is often recited by mourners, concludes with requests for peace in both Aramaic and Hebrew. In fact, as Dr. Joseph Lowin, noted author and scholar points out in his book of insights into Hebrew language, Hebrewspeak, “Peace is such a fundamental value in Jewish Culture that the capital of the Jews, Jerusalem [city of Peace] is named for peace.”

It is noteworthy that the Hebrew word for peace, “Shalom” is derived from the same root as the word “Shalem” or “complete.” Peace, then, according to the Jewish understanding, is much more than the absence of war, strife or conflict. Shalom conveys a notion of completeness or wholeness; a state in which there is no sense of yearning for that which is missing.

At the core of every formal prayer service is the Amida, a series of 7-19 blessings. The last blessing of every form of the Amida, weekday, Sabbath or Holy day, is always, the prayer for peace. In the Morning and Additional (Musaph) services the prayer for peace is preceded by the Three Part Priestley Benediction or Birkat Kohanim: “May Adonai bless you, and keep you; May Adonai make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. May Adonai lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” This blessing, originally recited in Biblical times by Aaron the high priest, (Numbers 6:24-26) began to be offered as part of the liturgy during the time of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. In some communities it is customary to have the Kohanim, the descendants of Aaron the High Priest, formally bless the congregation using the ancient Biblical text during morning services in the context of the public repetition of the Amida. While Sephardi rites have the priests offer the Formal Blessing on a daily basis, the Askenazi rite reserves the Formal Priestly Blessing for the Musaph (additional) service of the Pilgrimage Festivals and the High Holidays. This mysterious and moving ceremony evokes memories and traditions that originate hundreds of generations ago.

The idea of a standalone prayer for peace grew out of the last words of the Priestly Blessing, “… and give you peace.”  Thus, prayer for peace or Shalom concludes with the formula, “…Ha’mvorech et Amo Yisrael Ba Shalom, Who blesses His People of Israel with Peace.”  The text of the prayer for peace that precedes the concluding formula has a few variations.

During the morning and additional services the oldest form of the text beginning with the words “Sim Shalom, Grant Peace” is used. This reflects the fact that the prayer for peace originally flowed from the conclusion of the priestly blessing as noted above.  Ismar Elbogen a foremost authority on Jewish liturgy notes that the evening and afternoon version of the text of the prayer for peace beginning with the phrase, “Shalom Rav, a Great Peace…” is original to the Ashkenazi rite. Shalom Rav is not found until a 11th Century reference to the prayer by the Talmudic scholar and author of liturgical poetry, Eliakim of Speyer. During the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the paragraph, “B’seifer Haim, [inscribe us] in the book of life,” is appended to our prayer during all services. The concluding formula during this holy period is, “… Oseh Ha Shalom, Who makes peace” which, according to Elbogen, is the original concluding formula of the Prayer for Shalom.

An additional variation from the traditional form of the Prayer for Peace can be found in introduction into the text of the word “Ba’Olam, in the world.” This appearance is found in Siddur Sim Shalom, the Conservative prayer book published by the Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Rueven Hammer, a premier authority on Jewish Liturgy, in his commentary on the Conservative Siddur, explains that this addition was inspired by the works of the classic scholar and liturgical poet Sa’adia Gaon. The editors of the Siddur felt that rather than focusing on just the people of Israel as is in the case of the Priestly Blessing, their rendering of the prayer for Shalom should evoke the prophetic vision of universal peace.

Shalom, Peace is the most compelling and meaningful of all Blessings.  Machzor Lev Shalem, the new Rabbinical Assembly High Holiday Prayer Book, encapsulates the power of this Bracha in a beautiful and succinct fashion:

“When the blessing of shalom is lacking, however much we have of other blessings– wealth or power, fame or family, even health– these all appear as nothing. But when shalom is present, however little else we have somehow seems sufficient.
Shalom means “peace,” of course, but it means so much more as well: wholeness, fullness, and completion; integrity and perfection; healing, health, and harmony; utter tranquility; loving and being loved; consummation; forgiveness and reconciliation; totality of well-being.
And even all of these together do not spell out sufficiently the meaning of shalom. But though we cannot accurately translate or adequately define shalom, we can experience it.”

Here is a beautiful setting of Sim Shalom by the renowned American composer Max Janskowi performed by one of the greatest Hazzanim of our time Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi together with the choral group Selah.

This video is from a live concert with the Zamir Chorale of Boston at Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA, June 3, 2007 of Jeff Klepper & Dan Freelander and their world famous setting of Shalom Rav.

Here is the text in Hebrew and English.

I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at hazzan@e-hazzan.com or leave a comment below.

May we always be recipients in abundance of the Blessing for Peace.

Take care,

Hazzan Michael Krausman

Featured Link: The Cantors Assembly, the largest body of Hazzanim in the world, is the professional organization of Cantors which serves the Jewish world.

Share a Prayer: The Tradition of The Siddur–the Jewish Prayer Book

Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holyday Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

A wise teacher once quipped: “In the days when all the Jews went to the Synagogue, everyone used the same Siddur [Prayer Book], now, when hardly anyone attends services, there are many different types of Siddurim from which to choose. ”

Indeed, a trip to a Jewish bookstore or library will reveal an array of Prayer Books published by different groups with a variety of agendas. In fact, by examining a Siddur, one can learn a great deal about its editor and publisher in terms of their philosophy of prayer. Thus, while choosing a Siddur for yourself may be a difficult task, by understanding the History of Siddurim as well as some of the underlying concepts that are involved in compiling a Siddur, one may not only make the choice much simpler, but also come to terms with ones own philosophy of prayer.

In ancient times, when the writing down of sacred texts was frowned upon, there was no such thing as a prayer book. Prayers were recited by memory or improvised by those who could do so and the rest of the congregation responded with “Amen”. The Talmud contains only outlines for the structure of the liturgy, especially regarding the Matbayah or essential core of the prayer service. Not until the ninth century do we find any thing resembling a prayer book. Compiled at the request of the Jews of Spain, the Seder Rav Amram, is a listing of the order of prayers for the year. A similar work including Arabic explanations of the laws pertaining to worship, is the Siddur of the great sage Rav Sa’adia Gaon produced in the Tenth Century. Sa’adia’s Siddur reflects Babylonian as well as Egyptian traditions. One of the first prayer books to be produced in a format similar to the Siddurim we are familiar with is the Machzor Vitry assembled by Simcha ben Samuel of Vitry, a follower of the great biblical and Talmudic commentator, Rashi. Machzor Vitry, not only contains the order of prayers for the entire year, but also the text of the Hagadah for Pesach and much legal material regarding the liturgy.

Printed prayer books as we know them can be found dating back as far as the Fifteenth Century with editions reflecting a variety of regional rites and traditions. Today, volumes of prayers reflecting traditions from Reform to Conservative to Reconstructionist to Hasidic, including various Mizrachi (Eastern) and Sephardi rites, can be found. Added to the mix are interpretive or creative Prayer Books that are independent of any particular group or formal denomination.

The first Conservative prayer book was a Siddur for the Pilgrimage festivals published in 1927. This was followed by the  Silverman Shabbat and Festival Siddur which was first published in 1946 with a revision in 1973. The Siddur Sim Shalom, first published in 1985 in compete form followed by separate versions for Shabbat and weekday in 1998 and 2002 respectively, is widely used in Conservative synagogues today.

There are many Orthodox Prayer Books available but perhaps the most popular is the Art Scroll Siddur –  first published in 1984 as a complete Siddur with an extensive commentary and now available in a variety of styles and Orthodox traditions. Other Orthodox Siddurim include the Siddur Tehillat Ha Shem published in 1945 by the Chabad Hassidic movement. This Siddur follows the Nusach Ari tradition based on the teachings of the great Kabbalist Rabbi Issac Luria. Also popular is Rinat Yisrael, an all Hebrew Siddur first appearing in Israel in 1970.

Kol Haneshama is the title of a popular series of  Prayer Books published by the Reconstructionist moment. These include weekday as well as Shabbat and Festival books. This Siddur features gender neutral English translation and a variety of transliterated prayers designed to make the service more widely accessible.

The Reform Movement is in the interesting process of introducing a new Siddur entitled Mishkan Tephila.  Currently, the Gates of Prayer published in 1975 is widely used in Reform Congregations. Unlike traditional Siddurim, the Gates of Prayer offers a variety of alternative services for each occasion.

Philosophical issues that define a prayer book include: attitude to the sacrificial cult, universalism vs. particularism and the role of women in the Synagogue. Before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, (70 C. E. ) Hebrew worship mainly involved the sacrificing of animals. While these sacrifices were replaced by prayers, many Orthodox Siddurim not only list exhaustive descriptions of the various sacrifices, but also express a longing for a return to the sacrificial cult. On the other hand, while some prayer books ignore it altogether, others speak of the practice of sacrificing animals in historical terms. Many Siddurim seek to foster the notion that prayers such as that for peace, are meant to refer not only to Israel, but to the human community at large. Such Siddurim also tend to substitute the prayer thanking the lord for making one an Israelite for a negative version found in other editions. Similarly, the prayer thanking God for not having been a woman is replaced in most non-Orthodox Siddurim with a blessing thanking the Lord for making us in God’s image.

Consideration of the role of women in the service is seen in some Siddurim which include such prayers as that to be said for a woman who is called to the Torah. Furthermore, some Liberal Siddurim adjust the Hebrew and English text of traditional prayers to include the names of our matriarchs along with those of the patriarchs. Similarly, the style and content of the translation and any commentary also reflects philosophical considerations vis–a–vis the Siddur.

Besides the above information, the format of the Prayer book is an important factor in selection of a Siddur. A Machzor (cycle), is a prayer book specifically for the Holy Days–Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah or the Pilgrimage Festivals. At one time “Machzor”referred specifically to a more complete edition of a prayer book meant for the Prayer Leader.

A prayer book which contains prayers for the entire year is referred to as a “Siddur Shalem”, or complete prayer book. Finally there are Siddurim specifically for week days, or solely for Shabbat and Festivals; Siddurim with or with out commentaries; Siddurim with or with out the weekday Torah readings; Siddurim with prayers regarding “modern” events such as the creation of Israel or the Holocaust and Siddurim specifically for Israel or the Diaspora.

Perhaps it was a trip to the bookstore to purchase a Siddur that motivated my teacher’s lament for simpler times. Certainly the multiplicity of Siddurim reflects the wonderful diversity among the Jewish People and shows that prayer is a vitally important issue to which much care, reflection and consideration must be paid by each of us. Whatever Siddur you choose, the goal of the prayers contained therein is to serve as a vehicle to help the worshipper feel the presence of God in his/her daily life.

Take care,

Hazzan Michael Krausman

Share a Prayer: Ochila La El


Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holyday Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

Unique to the High Holiday liturgy are personal prayers designated to be recited solely by the Hazzan as Shaliach Tzibur (Prayer emissary of the congregation) to the Almighty. While the best know of these personal petitions is Hineni, the prayer during which the Hazzan, with great trepidation and awe approaches the Bima from the midst of the sanctuary, other such prayers can be found in the Shacharit (morning) and Musaph (additional) services.

It is during the Musaph service that we find the brief but moving personal petition known as “Ochila La El, I shall put my hope in God.” Ismar Elbogen, the unparalleled scholar of Jewish Liturgy, places the origin of this anonymous prayer in the time of the Amoraim, (approx. 210-500 C.E.) the magnificent scholars of the Talmud. Elbogen characterizes this time as a period of great liturgical creativity.

Through the text Ochila La El, and its ancient plaintive melody, the Hazzan passionately expresses a yearning for the ability to communicate the feeling of being in the presence of the Divine Countenance through the Hazzan’s chanting of liturgy. The Hazzan prays for the gift of “Manei Lashon – Eloquence of speech.” As Rabbi Nosson Scherman, the editor of the Artscroll Machzor, points out, the text of the prayers are prescribed by the Machzor but the Hazzan must use the eloquent language of Jewish Music resonating from the depths of the Hazzan’s soul to express the innermost meaning of the words.

I have often said that my mission as a Hazzan is not only to be the representative of the congregation in prayer to the Almighty but also to be the representative of the prayers to the congregational family. Ochila La El, provides insight into how the Hazzan approaches this task; “Ma’archei Lev” (the function of the Heart) – a deep and abiding love for our Jewish Musical and Liturgical Heritage and for the members of the congregational family the Hazzan serves.

It is this mission, this resonance of the soul that guides the Hazzan on and off the Bima. Whether teaching a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student or sitting on the floor with religious school students and sharing thoughts together about our prayers or opening up an adult’s eyes to the beautiful world of Torah reading, or writing articles about liturgy, or comforting an ill or bereaved individual or family or even singing the “Dinosaur Song” on a Friday morning with the Early Childhood Center students, it is with “Ma’archei Lev,” this deep and abiding love that the Hazzan approaches every facet of his role in the community.

The bottom line of Ochila La El  is “Y’hiyu L’Ratzon Imrei Phi… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable unto You my Rock and my Redeemer.”  As your Hazzan, “Ochila La El”; I pray to God that I May succeed in transmitting the true Ma’archei Lev – the meditation of my heart, the Nesahma (soul) of our sacred heritage through my chanting of the liturgy and through all that I do. May God hear the supplications of all that approach the Almighty with sincerity and grant all of us a year of blessing.

I wish all a G’mar Hatima Tova – may you be sealed in the book of life for a year of health, peace and prosperity.

Take care,

Hazzan Michael Krausman

Here is a link to the text in Hebrew and English.

Share a prayer: Tavo L’Fanecha T’Filateinu


Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holyday Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

Introducing one of the most poignant prayers of the High Holiday liturgy; the breast-beating, alphabetical confessional, Ashamnu (we have sinned) during which we publicly admit guilt to a litany of transgressions, is the tiny but powerful prayer, “Tavo L’fanecha T’Filateinu – our God and God of our ancestors, may our prayers come before you.” Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld, who as we mentioned in the past  is a noted complier and editor of prayer books notes that this prayer dates back to Talmudic times and can certainly be found in the collection of the 9th century prayer book pioneer, Rav Amram.

Two components make up the Vidui (confessional,) an essential section of Yom Kippur liturgy; Ashamnu as noted above, which is also found in the Selichot service and Al Cheit (for the sin…) a longer catalog of sins with a recurring refrain. During the Vidui, all sins are expressed in the plural to demonstrate that all members of the Jewish community are responsible for one another and for the global community. The Vidui is recited 10 times over Yom Kippur, both individually and communally, always in the same order, to remind us that we do possess the ability to take control of our internal impulses.

Ismar Elbogen, the celebrated liturgical scholar cites a Talmudic discussion by two third century sages, Rav and Mar Samuel (B. Yoma 87b) in which they mandate that each element of the Vidui (confessional) is to be introduced by a specific formula. Al Cheit is introduced by the phrase “Atah Yodei Rozei Olam, You know the secrets of the world,” while “aval anchnu chatanu, however we have sinned” the conclusion of Tavo L’fanecha T’Filateinu  introduces Ashamnu.

Long before Freud or any modern psychology, the author of our prayer, shows a deep understating of the human psyche. Through this text, the worshipper is given the opportunity and guidance to go through the process of “teshuvah or return to the path of personal fulfillment. In order to change a behavior one must first come to point of self awareness wherein one can recognize and acknowledge that a problem exists.

“Our God and God of our ancestors, may our prayers come before You and may You not ignore our pleas. We are neither so arrogant nor so stubborn as to declare that we are righteous and have not sinned; for, indeed, we have sinned.”

Thus before we can sincerely confess our sins and make a heartfelt plea for forgiveness, Tavo L’fanecha T’Filateinu guides us to the point of humility where we can acknowledge that none of us are “tzadikim“, completely righteous people. However, after enabling us to recognize the need for improvement, Tavo L’fanecha T’Filateinu paves the path to forgiveness through the confessional which is to follow.

Samuel Naumburg (1871-1880) one of the greatest compoers of synagogue music of all times, exquisitely expresses the theme of Tavo L’fanecha T’filateinu in his magnificent setting of the prayer.  This is a link to a  recording of Naumburg’s masterpiece by the group, Lachan, conducted by Hazzan Ben Maissner. Note the climax of the composition with the setting of the words: “We are not arrogant or stiffed necked enough to say; “tzadikim anachnu v’ lo chatanu… We are truly righteous people who never sin.” The final section of the opus exquisitely paints the moment of recognition that we in fact have sinned by passing the word “Chatanu, we have sinned” throughout the individual sections of the choir until finally coming to unified tacit conclusion. OurtempleChoir presents a beautiful and sensitive rendition of this piece during the Selichot and Yom Kippur services.

Tavo L’fanecha T’Filateinu is truly a powerful prayer that encapsulates the essence of Teshuvah; we must first acknowledge a problem and then come to terms with it before we can work on modifying our behavior. Our sages were indeed wise to mandate it’s inclusion in this pivotal section of the holy day prayers. May we be inspired by this text and its moving interpretation by our talented choir to find deep meaning and fulfillment in our experience of the Holy Days prayer services. May we also merit through our process of Teshuvah to be inscribed for a year of peace, blessing and fulfillment.

Here is a link to the text in Hebrew and English.

I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at cantor@sinaihollywood.org.

To learn more please check my Ehazzan Blog and subscribe to my Tephila Tips Podcast: https://ehazzan.wordpress.com/

Take care,

Hazzan Michael Krausman

Share a Prayer: El Melech Yoshev


Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or High Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look.

The official liturgical kickoff of the High Holy Day season is the Selichot service. Selichot is a poignant collection of prayers of repentance and supplication that is recited for a week preceding Rosh Hashanah in the Ashkenazi community and for an entire month by the Sephardim. In most Ashkenazi synagogues, the beginning of the period of Selichot is marked by a special late night service held on the Saturday evening preceding Rosh Hashanah. Selichot prayers facilitate the worshipper’s ability to acknowledge those areas in which improvement may be required and embark on a path that leads to forgiveness or Teshuvah.

Although many of these prayers originate from earlier times, some as far back as the time of the Mishna, the first collection of Selichot, can be found in the Siddur of the great Ninth Century sage, Rav Amram. Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld, who served for many years as a Hazzan is a noted complier and editor of prayer books. In the introductory section to his comprehensive, annotated compendium of Selichot prayers first published in England in 1956, Rabbi Rosenfeld indicates that although some of these moving supplications date as far back as the seventh century of the Common Era, the service compiled by Rav Amram is very close to the Selichot service we still perform in modern times.

The various types of poetry which make up the Selichot service; some have repeated refrains; some are alphabetical acrostics, are comprised of biblical verses stitched together by some gifted liturgical poets. These writers include Sa’adia Gaon (882-9420) and Rav Amram Gaon (821-875) who also authored texts that appear in our Machzor (High Holiday prayer book.) Also included in the Selichot service is the Vidui or confessional and portions of Tachanun – prayers of supplication. Serving as a refrain between all of this prayer and poetry is the recitation of the Thirteen Attributes of God introduced by the prayer “El Melech Yoshev Al Kisei Rachamim, God is the Monarch who sits on a thrown of mercy.”

El Melech Yoshev is first found in the siddur of the 9th century liturgical pioneer, Rav Amnon Gaon as noted above. As the introductory verse suggests, this composition depicts God as a merciful, compassionate ruler who forgives our sins and mitigates the severity of the punishment we really deserve. The image is evoked of Moses as he conferred with God in on Mount Sinai. Moses asked how he, as a human, could approach our Creator. The answer can be found in El Melech Yoshev. God instructed us to recite [and model] His attributes. Just as the best way to honor our physical parents is to practice and follow their qualities, principals and values; our divine parent requires that we strive for holiness by being guided by Gods characteristics. Mercy, compassion, justice, slowness to anger, performance of acts of loving kindness and the pursuit of truth are examples from the litany of divine qualities that are recited throughout our services. Moses learned that not only is this emulation the best way to serve the Lord but also the path which can lead to developing a personal relationship with God.

As we prepare for and experience the Holy Days, we can be mindful of the fact that since there are many ways to communicate with the Almighty, possessing a tremendous knowledge of the prayer service, while being a goal towards which we should strive, is not an absolute requirement. By participating in the silent meditation or humming a melody along with the Hazzan or choir, or by offering sincere personal prayers, one can be a vital part of the communal offering of prayer. Most importantly, as we to enter the Holy Day Season, we must bear in mind the lesson learned and transmitted by Moses as described in the El Melech Yoshev Prayer: striving to reach closer to the Almighty by emulating Gods Holy attributes is the essential way to approach God.

Here is a link to the text in Hebrew and English.

Here is a  modern setting of  El Melech Yoshev by Joshua Lind (1890-1973),  Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi, one of the most talented and influential Hazzanim of our era. He is joined by New London Children’s Choir and Schola Hebraeica conducted by Neil Levin. This piece is available on the recording entitled, Introducing The World Of American Jewish Music (Milken Archive of American Jewish Music.)

 [audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/141011/sharedmusic/eyomfiles/El_Melekh_Yoshev.mp3]

I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at cantor@sinaihollywood.org.


To learn more, please check my Ehazzan Blog and subscribe to my Tephila Tips Podcast: https://ehazzan.wordpress.com/

Take care,

Hazzan Michael Krausman

Tephila Tips #11 Holiday Relationships

Holiday Relationships

During the High Holiday period we spend a great deal of time pondering relationships; how we relate to friends and family members, coworkers and others.



These are short audio tidbits of information that help you to understand the meaning and structure of our prayers and services.  If you have a question, suggestion or comment; feel free to add a comment on this post or to send me an e-mail to hazzan@e-hazzan.com. You can also call me at 754-273-8613

Subscribe to the eHazzan Tephila Tips Podcast on your computer in iTunes.  Click on this linkeHazzan Tephila Tips PodcastTo  subscribe manually, click on “advanced” on the top menu bar. Select “subscribe to podcast” from the drop down menu. Paste the following link into the window that pops up; http://feeds.feedburner.com/wordpress/flUtThanks very much