You may have heard me say many times that Judaism is a religion of time rather than place or objects. Our spirituality is time bound: shabbat, festivals, new moon, morning, afternoon and evening all marked by ritual, and objects or buildings help us on our way but are not holy in and of themselves. One can usually tell what festival or indeed what time of the day a service is based upon the clothes or ritual objects that are there. On a festival or shabbat evening we see candles that would not be there on a morning service. We only wear tallit in the morning or daylight hours. On Yom Kippur we might all be dressed in white.
It is not just the clothing or objects that indicate the time in Judaism, but the music too. Traditional nussach (liturgical melodies) is different for each occasion and at each time of day. The nussach is often based around a scale, and cantors would improvise the melodies for prayers around those scales. Each scale denotes a period of time. There is a different mode for the morning than the evening, for shabbat and for weekday and for each of the festivals. Someone in the know would be able to enter any synagogue in the world and know what time of day or festival it is based upon the melodies of the prayers. I must confess that the melody I and many other rabbis use for the Amidah on a Saturday morning is actually the weekday nussach.
In the Liberal siddur during the Amidah we say both ‘mashiv haruach u’morid hageshem’- making the wind blow and the rain fall, and ‘morid hatal’ – causing the dew to fall. However, in other denominations the Amidah follows tradition and separates the seasons, praying about wind and rain in the winter and dew in the summer. The festival of Passover marks the changing of the season and the shift in the liturgy. As I am sure you can imagine, such a momentous occasion is celebrated in song. Now that Pesach is over, we are officially in spring. Do not let those few flakes of snow we’ve had this week fool you! If you would like to listen to Cantor Tamara Wolfson and Cantor Jack Mendelson singing a stunning duet of the prayer Tal to mark the coming of spring, follow this link:
Rabbi Anna Posner