web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Shabbat Morning Service: Like an Opera, Only More

shabbat service

Share Button

A sonorous voice fills the cavernous room as rapt onlookers gaze from their seats. A dramatic story unfolds on stage about love, betrayal, and other universal and timeless themes. Soaring melodies – some jaunty, some melancholy – flow through the room with accompanying poetic praises and hopeful importuning.

Pathos, plaintiveness, buoyancy, exuberance all pour from the hearts of the lead players whose incandescent renditions tug at the emotions of those present.

No, this is not a production of Verdi or Puccini or any other opera. It’s a Shabbat morning service.

Like a great grand opera, the Shabbat morning service is a great grand dramatic work. It contains sundry prayers, psalms, recitations, readings, and blessings that together constitute a single body, a unified whole, a Jewish religious service version, if you will, of a work of art.

Indeed, from start to finish, the Shabbat morning service has many of the elements of that noble art form known as opera: grandiloquent language, serious messages, dramatic underpinnings in its text and subtext, featured “performers,” dynamic singing, emotional arcs, denouements, and effusive energy.

It even shares the A-B-A structure (theme, ancillary theme, first theme repeated with ornamentation) of the Italian serious opera with its three basic components – the pre-Torah segment (akin to an overture), the reading of the Torah, and the post-Torah segment (akin to the denouement and conclusion).

There are, however, some differences between an opera and a Shabbat service. The Jewish service has a stage of sorts, called the bima. Here, on this elevated platform, the key “players” stand – the rabbi (who may be deemed the protagonist) and the cantor (the main supporting player and featured “musical artist”).

Another essential “cast member” is the gabbai, who helps run the service. There is a supporting cast too, but unlike in opera it is not made up of members of the regular “troupe.” Rather, it comprises members of the “audience,” that is, the congregation, who come up to the bima to participate in the service in the form of aliyahs and other roles or functions.

To paraphrase the old show biz adage, “The show cannot go on” (at least in a religiously certified way) unless the lead players and supporting cast number at least ten, the required quorum for a Jewish religious service, called a minyan.

Each week, the Shabbat morning service tells a different dramatic story through the readings of its Torah portions. Here, a great many stories can be found that people everywhere today can relate to. The Torah reading is sandwiched between segments that essentially extol the Almighty with occasional pleas by congregants for sustenance and blessings. There is both talk and chanting in the service.

Operas are commonly dramatic musical works that are sung in their entirety, although some have spoken dialogue. An orchestra or some form of instrumentation accompanies the performers who sing and act on stage. Some of the songs, or arias, stand out and become well known on their own. With their absorbing stories and music, operas can launch audiences into another world. Some of the more famous operas include Madame Butterfly, Aida, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Barber of Seville.

The Shabbat morning service shares many of the components of an opera, but it also has much more. An opera is not just entertaining but usually presents touching themes and messages, as does the Shabbat morning service.

But while an opera may tell a poignant story and be fascinating and memorable, religious services have these components but also a spiritual dimension. Religious services nourish one’s soul with prayers, readings of the Torah, and affirmation of faith. Other elements of a religious service may include the rabbi’s sermon, and there is also the convivial post-service meal, the Kiddush.

Share Button

About the Author: Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including “Lucy’s Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein’s Brain,” which was adapted for the long-running History Channel series "History's Lost and Found". He is also a lecturer at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “The Shabbat Morning Service: Like an Opera, Only More”

  1. An entertaining attempt but it strains a bit too much trying to make the analogy, But,,,sei gezint. :-)

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Indepth Stories
Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

Yossi Klein HaLevi

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

More Articles from Harvey Rachlin
Rachlin-040414

the observant individual has the seeds of self-discipline that can be applied to nonreligious endeavors

shabbat service

Each week, the Shabbat morning service tells a different dramatic story.

Of course, believing in God doesn’t make one Jewish. Many people identify themselves as Jews for a host of reasons other than believing in the God of Israel, and they are just as Jewish as the most pious Jew. Being Jewish is a birthright, not a belief right. According to halacha, anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. Period.

The davener stands, sits, stands, bows, straightens up, turns, takes steps backward and forward, sits, stands, sits, stands, bows, and so forth.

Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

You are a link in a long great chain of people bounded by a heritage that stretches back nearly six thousand years.

Not far from Amsterdam, in the village of Ouderkerk on the River Amstel, lies the Portuguese-Jewish cemetery called Beth Haim. Here in this pastoral necropolis repose the remains of Jews who fled the Iberian Peninsula in the wake of the Inquisition, exiles who chose banishment over baptism, who had fortuitously managed to survive the torture chambers or dodge the stake in the relentless drive by the Roman Catholic Church to cleanse the land of heretics.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-shabbat-morning-service-like-an-opera-only-more/2014/02/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: