Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Confessions of a Tzig

I need to get this off my chest, the pressure is just too much.

(Chazan Itche Meir Helfg-tt of the Park East Synagogue, NYC)

I attended a um, um, um, ahem, CHAZZONUS CONCERT Sunday night, and I loved it. The singing was wonderful, with the heights he reached something out-of-this-world. The crowd loved every second of it.

You see, I've been deprived my whole life, never having been to any musical concert before, and I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the absolute best. Orchestra seats 15 rows behind the stage, one row ahead of Norman Lamm and Charlie Besser, son of you-know-who. It was something special.

My question is as follows:

The Rabbeyim and Chassidim in general were not fond of Chazzonim, period. The reasons abound, especially when the Chazzen is the one leading the davenen, not just performing at a concert. Their lack of basic Yiras Shomayim was legendary, with a few exceptions, and the davenen was considered superficial, staged, and lip-synched. While I was sitting there, watching and listening to Itche Meir Helfg-tt sing, and sing he did, I couldn't help but think about the Rabbeyim, and about how they would feel about my sitting there, not to mention the other Anash sitting there.

A story that crept into my mind during the event is when the Rebbe Rashab and the FR נ"ע visited the Altneu Shul in Prague. The RR commented about the pillars of the old Shul being אנגעשטאפט מיט תפלות , (stuffed with prayers) of the Jews who prayed there over the centuries. At first it was thought to be a compliment, commenting on the fact that so many pious Jews had prayed there, but the Rebbe had something else in mind. "The pillars here are stuffed with Tefillos because of dishonest and insincere (non-erlich) Chazzonim that were supposed to elevate our prayers but did not. I am not accusing Itche Meir Helfg-tt of being non-erlich, we were actually quite impressed that he sings with his Chassidic dress, which in his case includes his pants being tucked into his socks, albeit quite neatly, but still. I guess Chazzonim have to live with that stereotype, much like accountants and lawyers.

Should I have felt bad about my attending the concert, especially on Erev Yud Tes Kislev?

[That feels better already....]


Anonymous said...

An interesting reaction . I was never a fan of Chazanuth. But I always liked Chazanim.
Lets remember that the Jews of East Europe were very poor and the "new" chazzanuth of the mid 19th century gave the poor Jews a good source of entertainment and a kosher one too. It certainly was preferable to the Yiddish theatre which also appeared at the same point in history.Chazanuth and Magidim were the amcho's source of entertainment after all not all Jews could hold "kop" in the new Brisker teyres (only in America is everyone a Massive lamdan)
Cantorial music and the cantors deeply affected the Jews and took a place in Jewish mythology. I am sure more Polsih Jews knew who Yossele Rosenblatt, Sirota, Kwartin and the Kussovitzkys were than they knew who R. Menachem Ziemba was or who The Krakover rav was. No doubt .
In the USA no rabbi ever enjoyed the popularity and LOVE Reb Yossele Rosenblatt enjoyed. And it was Charedim who finacially ruined him in Broklyn.They had him invest in DIE YIDDISHE LICHT and he lost all his money in that newspaper. And it was the "secular" Chazan Zavil Kwartin who after Yossele's death in Israel was "kone olamo beshaa achas "by supporting Yossel'es family and burying him and bringing the children home to the USA.
Just a few more notes in our times most cantors are themselves charedim or frum (Miller, Hershtik, Malovaney, Helfgott, Motzen etc).
Many chassidim in BP are followers of cantorial arts and go to Beth El even before Miller was there.
Friends can anyone tell me some stories about Chazzan Shmuel Kantaroff a tamim and US chazan. I know he sang at the dinners of TTL in the presecnce of the RAYAATZ N"E. What did the Rayaatz think of the chazzanuth ?
I have a wonderful photo of Reb Kanteroff in his special cantorial robes.
For a good read read the bio of Reb Yossele by his son the late rabbi Dr. Samuel Rosenblatt of Baltimore himself a great scholar and yadaan.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

A Graysen Daynk aich, kurenitzer.

I did not know that it was Charedim that ruined him. The part that Kwartin payed for his funeral etc. I heard in an interview with his great-grandson, Rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center.

Kantoroff also is seen singing upon the FR's arrival in NY in 5689.

Anonymous said...

Is that you in the picture? you look better in person. Why should you feel guilty? The chazzon today is in a double gulus. He is a self starter who probably didn't pick chazonis up from shul life because his cocongregants didn't go for chazonis. Now as a chazon marano he can't really daven in his shul or around town local because he is not appreciated and rather scorned and his codaveners are impatient even on yontif in a hurry to go nowhere. So a chazon with a little passion is relegated to 'dress up' for chazonis theatrics concert style...chazonis used to be much more appreciated and rather organic to yiddishkeit, shul life, and halacha instead of staged at a show...i beleive you were in a good place at the concert and perhaps with more support of the show like style, it'll over time spill back into shul life...The point is that there is now almost no real venue for chazonis except for these concerts...

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


HAHA that's not me.

Why put back something that was removed for a reason?

as far as the Chazan being a "marrano", I think some Spanish Jews would take issue with you....

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

can anybody answer the question without tangentializing, please?!

Anonymous said...

"Norman Lamm"

How about some derech eretz for him ? Would you like if someone called Rosh Yeshivas of Lubavitch like that, without any titles? Is that capricious or what ?

R. Nochum Lamm is a Chassidisher Yid, he has written alot on Chassidus and he was a great admirer of the Rebbe. His institution employs anash too. They even have a tanya club there !

Can a Lamm and a Tzig not get along ? How will we get to the days of lion and lamb living together if a goat and a lamb can't get along ????

Anonymous said...

You sound like an extreme snag when you refer to him like that !

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This posting sounds somewhat familiar:

Anonymous said...

Tzig on Chazzanus - December 1st

Anonymous said...

I plan to catch it again in less than 48 hours... Wanna join me? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I assume you are using the term "chassdim" loosely defined... or will there be someone at the door only allowing only truly chassidic folk?

Anonymous said...

dont think any (spanish) jews would have a problem with me characterizing chazonim by calling them maranos, because (i think) it means chazer in old spanish)...
what do you mean..."it was removed for a reason"? chazonis is the victim..don't victimize the victim has approached near death and is certainly worthy of resusitation because it is authentically jewish (music) ...whats the problem with going off on a tangent? conversations die answer to your question, don't feel do the rest you feel?

Anonymous said...

we need a facilitator, how about Reb Bpunbound?

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Ph.D.


Thanks for connecting us all to that old post........

It's amazing to me that out of 23 comments maybe 5 are relevant to the thread!

Anonymous said...

Don't remember where I heard this, but the Rebbe enjoyed listening to Chazanos records in his home - especially Yossele Rsoenblatt

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

when you remember come back and tell us, and if it's from Chesed Halbersam forget about it. Sell it to someone else.

Anonymous said...

Re chazonnus - we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water, as the saying goes. Just because some chazonim were not frum and insincere, doesn't mean that all chazonus is necessarily that way.

Regarding Chazan YMH who performed - I heard high praise of him. It seems like he is now considered the leading chazan, or just about that, or am I missing something ? Zol er zayn gezunt un shtark ! I heard him on the radio a while back and was quite impressed. He was interviewed and there were call-ins, in addition to music.

I understand that he identifies as a Gerrer Chossid. However in photos I saw of him, the tallis he's wearing has an atoroh. I believe that Gerrer Chassidim don't have atoros (except for the Rebbe perhaps). So where did the atoroh come from ? My speculation therefore would be that he doesn't shtam from Ger far dayres, but he or his mishpocho became a Gerrer more recently. I think the name Helfgott is usually Ungarish rather than Peylish.

It could be interesting if you gathered and made a study of statements of Chassidishe Rebbes related to chazonus. Does the negative attitude you speak of go back to the beginning of Chassidus or is it a later development ? I don't think the modern type of chazonus goes back too far, as Kurenitzer mentioned above. The fact is that among non-Chassidim as well there were those who had issues with chazonim. One reason was the sheila re repeating words, but also because of general frumkeit issues.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


Zolstu zein gebensht! soon you'll tell me that he's not Ger now because he wears a Chazzan hat! It's only for the costume and pictures that he wears an atoroh, I'm sure in his private life he doesn't. As far as his herutage goes; dos veis ich nit.

I did just hear from a Gerer Yungerman who told me that before he left for Frankfurt years ago for his first shtelle he got a brochoh from the Pnei Menachem z"l who wished him luck but asked him not to change his levush, which he didn't change.

However, the present Rebbe is upset with him because he performs for mixed audiences, therefore they don't use him for Gerer functions.

Anonymous said...

"However, the present Rebbe is upset with him because he performs for mixed audiences, therefore they don't use him for Gerer functions."

A Yid darf machen a leben ! They want him to be frummer than the heiliger Yossele Rosenblatt ???

Do they use any other chazan for Gerrer functions ??

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

I don't know. They do have other great tenors in the fold. I've heard some of the old Gerrer tapes from Nun Aleph and Nun Beis and they have an amazing voice there. Nobody as good as him however.

בנוגע מאכען א לעבן
Freg nisht kein Kashes af Ger!

Anonymous said...

Kurenitzer - "in our times most cantors are themselves charedim or frum (Miller, Hershtik, Malovaney, Helfgott, Motzen etc)."

Limaaseh, there is a large (lihavdil) heterodox cantorate. The Conservative, Reform, etc., employ many Cantors, some of whom are women. I suspect that they have many, many more cantors on their payrolls than there are frum chazonim on payrolls of frum Shuls. Years ago, there was a large group of people who attended Orthodox Shuls, but were not really frum. So mimeileh maybe some chazonim were like that to. Nowadays as that type of Jew has almost disappeared from regular Orthodoxy in the USA, so have the non-frum chazonim from Orthodox Shuls.

I suspect that one reason most heterodox Temples employ cantors is because, on the whole, their members are not that advanced Jewishly and would have trouble leading the services. Mah she'ain kein by frum Shuls, where many people can do so. That's not necessarily the only reason, but I think it's an important one.

Anonymous said...

c, you have a shpitz there. the whole inyan of shleach tzibbur is because the hamoyn am couldn't follow.

Anonymous said...

I learnt in 770 during 5752-54, and I remember hearing from teh Rebbe's room Avroham Fried's
"Yiddish Jems". I have confirmed with older Chasidim that the Rebbe and Rebbetzen did enjoy "Cahzanos" in their home.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...


Ich gleib dir afen vort. However, the fact that the music played may have been for the Rebbetzin only, and may have been for both.

Did the Rebbe listen to the original YT Erlich tapes as well?

Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, the Frierdike Rebbe allowed someone without a beard to daven from the omud on teh Yomim Noroyim