web analytics
December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Shabbat Morning Service: Like an Opera, Only More

shabbat service

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.

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.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

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

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Prosecutor in Ferguson Case: ‘Witnesses Lied Under Oath’
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Harvey Rachlin

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.

Everything I imbibe is with my inimitable fervor for being Jewish.

For our purposes, we will focus on Jewish-related subjects and call it “What’s Your Jewish Perspective?”

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

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.

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: