These thoughts explain a somewhat strange but interesting story.
The chazzan stepped up to the amud and begin to sing Tefillas Shabbos. The entire shul quickly became enthralled with the chazzan’s voice and enamored with the melodies and the way they seemed to almost become a running commentary on the poetry of Chazal’s praises to Hashem Yisbarach.
But then something happened.
The rav of the shul came up to the chazzan and motioned him to stop. The chazzan was confused. Surely, he wasn’t asking the chazzan to stop davening? What did the rav want? The rav pointed to a word in the back of the siddur, where common Shabbos niggunim were found. What was the word? The rav pointed to the word niggun, and shook his head as if to say that the chazzan should no longer sing any niggunim. They went back and forth a few times, until the chazzan got the message, and though he was confused at the rav’s strange behavior and instructions, he got the point and proceeded to melodiously lead the rest of the davening but without using any niggunim.
After the davening, the chazzan and a good portion of the members of the shul gathered around the rav to receive an explanation.
“My dear chazzan,” the rav said, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you or hurt your feelings. I love the way you sing and the way you have led our tefilos over the years. But during the davening, I was overcome with a strong feeling and I felt compelled to act. Maybe I should have waited until after the davening. Perhaps. But I also wanted to express my thoughts to the entire olam, to the entire shul, and this was the most powerful way to do so.
“Why did I tell you to stop using any niggunim during the rest of the davening? Because something dawned on me. We have all used niggunim during davening and at the Shabbos seudos for years and years. And what do we do when the niggun seems to lend itself to an interlude connecting a kind of humming or sound? Most often, we say, ‘oy, yay, yay.’ For example, let’s take the zemer Kah Echsof. Many people sing, ‘Kah Echsof Noam Shabbos. . .’ and then sing ‘Oy, yay, yay, yay, yay. . .’
“I started to feel that we should stop saying and singing ‘oy’ on Shabbos. After all, what does the word ‘oy’ indicate in our daily language and communication? It is said upon hearing bad news, when someone mentions a problem or concern. I feel that on Shabbos, we must avoid thinking about worries, stresses and problems. We must avoid saying or singing all ‘oys.’ My dear chazzan, you were utilizing the word ‘oy,’ as we all do, very often in today’s beautiful davening, and I just felt that the time had come for us to stop using the word ‘oy’ on Shabbos!”
I can’t tell you if the above story is legend or an actual occurrence – either way, I think there’s a very good insight here.
We do place lots of ‘oys’ in our Shabbos zemiros and tefilos and even if we do so unconsciously and without thought just because it fits, maybe we should change all our ‘oys’ to some other words or sounds.
Sounds trite and unimportant?
Well, what if we really tried not to say or sing the word ‘oy’ on Shabbos? If we really actively and consciously did so, surely it would force us to think about the need for us to feel on Shabbos that all is taken care of, that we are living in the Palace of the King. That is our goal – to feel that Hashem, our King, our Father, takes care of our needs and we need not worry. We are in His House on Shabbos and as Chazal (Shabbos 153a) say, “klum chaser l’beis HaMelech—nothing is lacking in the house of the king.”
During the week, we feel the burdens and stresses of life, we feel so much is lacking, so much is chaser. So much is oy. But on Shabbos, we remind ourselves that we are mere creations and that our Creator is the one providing for all our needs. And then our melacha is asuya; our work is done. There is no more oy.Rabbi Boruch Leff
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