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The Milken Archive of Jewish Music continues its partnership with Craig ‘N Co. by offering one free musical track for each week of the month of Elul, as part of a sponsorship of the Jewels of Elul project. This week’s “musical gem” comes from Herman Berlinski’s Shofar Service. Though rabbinical mandate holds that Jews “listen to the sound of the shofar” on Rosh Hashana, and its prescribed number and types of intonations (t’kiatot) or “blasts” at specific points in the service, early Reform congregations seeking to distance themselves from its raucous and unrefined sound had replaced the ritual ram’s horn with a trumpet. Berlinski’s Shofar Service, composed in 1964, was deliberately designed to reintroduce the shofar into Reform congregations. His juxtaposition of two modern trumpets against an authentic shofar reflects the practice in antiquity in which the Mishna refers to sounds of the shofar being augmented by “two ḥatzotzrot” (Heb., pl.: an early trumpet) in the Temple on Rosh Hashana. After destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 C.E., the ḥatzotzrot were no longer part of the Rosh Hashana ritual, which thereafter included only the shofar. Download the track.
In the Ashkenazi rite, the formal First S’liḥot service takes place at midnight on the Saturday prior to Rosh Hashana. It functions as a prelude to the coming Days of Awe that focus on repentance and renewal, culminating in the Yom Kippur observances. The Milken Archive provides a two-part program, first broadcast on NPR affiliates in 2004 and featuring the entire service from beginning to end interspersed with commentary by Rabbi Ismar Schorsch and Milken Archive Artistic Director Neil W. Levin. The first part of the recording was made available last week. Hear the second half of the recording.
David Schiff, who turns 67 on August 30, is a highly respected and accomplished composer as well as a distinguished writer on music and culture. Schiff’s deep commitment to his Jewish heritage has left its stamp on a number of his works, including, of course, the obvious and most famous example of Gimpel the Fool. Based on a beloved story by the only Yiddish author to ever win a Nobel Prize in literature, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gimpel is a parable about the true believer who appears foolish in the eyes of the world. Researching the story of the simple man -- who, like Schiff’s grandfather, was a baker – also served as a means for Schiff to satisfy his growing urge to explore his ancestral roots in Poland. Listen in.