The Official Leibele Waldman Blog

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Rosh Hashanah

High Holy Day Melodies and Motifs

From earliest times our High Holy Day synagogue chants and melodies have been the sounding board of the moods and emotions of the Jewish people. The MaHaRIL, Rabbi Jacob ben Moses Molin, in the early 15th Century, recognized this important aspect of the liturgy when he set certain standards and practices for the music in the synagogue and community. His works became the guiding light for all of Eastern European, Ashkenazic Jewry. He codified Jewish music in order to make it uniform for each synagogue and to categorize different musical modes for different daily, Sabbath and holiday settings throughout the year in order to match the particular mood to the particular day. This is especially true with regard to the High Holy Days.

For example, the opening of the Rosh Hashanah Maariv Service begins with a melody that has a majestic character. It serves as a prelude that creates the atmosphere of the day. From the very outset it proclaims that the kingdom of G-d is one of the major themes of the High Holy Day service. Early Chassidim actually called the first night of Rosh Hashanah, “Coronation Night.” The King on high has entered to sit on his throne. It is no wonder that Jews everywhere join together with this exultant theme.

Another place where the mood is evident is the next morning with the beginning of the Shacharit, the morning service, at which time we begin the service with the word, Hamelech, the King. This time, however, the mood is more somber and serious as the process of judging His children has begun. The Maharil popularized the practice that is traditional today. He began in a hushed, plaintive manner and gradually increased the volume heard by the congregation with awe and dread.

The Torah reading for the High Holy Days is also sung in a special mode unlike the rest of the year. According to the Maharil, this is done to emphasize the awesome character of the day so that the congregants might lend their ears to the reading and thus make amends for their faults. The sounding of the Shofar, whose purpose is to rouse Jews into seeking repentance, is also considered a momentous occasion in the synagogue service. The benedictions preceding them are recited in a special, almost royal, melody as one would hear from a series of trumpets heralding the entry of the King.

After the sounding of the Shofar, before the additional or Musaf service, the Cantor, known in Hebrew as the Chazzan or Shaliach Tzibbur, chants a deeply moving personal supplication, the Hineni. The chant does not have a fixed melody or any traditional motif and originally was sung silently by the Cantor. With the passing of time, he raised his voice at those words or phrases that had the power to arouse the emotions of the worshippers who quietly awaited the conclusion of the prayer. Although the Cantor today chants most if not all of the prayer out loud, there is still the tradition of increasing the dynamic at certain phrases.

The greatest and most exalted moment of the Rosh Hashanah service comes when the Ark is opened and the Un’sahne Tokef prayer begins. The text talks about how G-d judges the world on the fearful and solemn days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The prayer reaches its climax at the words Uteshuvah, Utefillah, Utzedaka Ma’avirin Et Ro’a Hagezerah, BUT REPENTANCE, PRAYER AND CHARITY WILL CANCEL THE STERN DECREE, with the congregation and the cantor crying out the phrase in unison. The congregation by this phrase calms itself somewhat from the unnatural fear that gripped it while reciting this stirring prayer.

Finally, as the service closes on the morning of Rosh Hashanah, the prayer Hayom Te’amtzenu (Strengthen us today) takes on a spirited and cheerful quality. Since this is the last prayer of the day, a happy tune is appropriate and demonstrates a lessening of the fear that prevailed for the Day of Judgment and will enable worshipers to return home with hope and confidence for a good year.

The Rosh Hashanah recordings included below are from October 6, 1967 at the Chicago Loop Synagogue.  The compositions you will hear include my father's Hineni, V'chol Ma'aminim, and portions of the Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shoferot.

L'eil Orech Din
B'rosh Hashanah
Ki Keshimicha - Adom Yesodo
V'chol Ma'aminim
V'yehehtoyu Kol L'avdecha
Umipnei Chatoeinu
Heyei Im P'fiyos
O'chilah L'eil
Al Kein Nikover
M'loch (Malchuyot)
Atah Zocher
Haven Yakir Li
Zochreinu Bezikuron
Atah Niglasa
Tika Beshofar Gadol
Areshet Sefatanu
Sim Shalom

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Cantor and the Synagogue

This Yiddish song, written by Rev. Abraham Singer, was one of my father’s favorite concert selections. The song compares the synagogue of yesteryear to the one of today.  Singer tells the story of how crowded the shuls were at the beginning of the 20th Century when the Jewish people attended religious services regularly with their families to hear the Cantor and choir.  They would leave the shul humming a new melody or discussing the Rabbi’s sermon.

But today, the shuls are empty because the Jewish people cannot find the time to go.  Therefore it remains a place just for mourners to attend.  But, the composer ends the song on an optimistic note. 

Someday, the Jewish people will start attending again and once again begin to follow the Laws of the Torah.  Only then, will our Creator forgive us and we will no longer suffer.  This particular rendition was sung on one of his broadcasts on W.E.V.D.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


The year was 1933 and my father (z"l) was about to officiate at a wedding. Dressed in his formal robe and walking swiftly toward the beautifully adorned chapel, a lovely young woman crossed his path. Since there were several moments before the ceremony was to begin, my father took the opportunity to exchange some pleasantries with her. Whether it was love at first sight, I do not know. What I do know is that wasn't quite a year later that the lovely young woman, Mollie Saroff, became Mrs. Louis Waldman.

In April 1936, twin boys Harvey and CB, (as he was called), were born, followed by Morton five years later. The Waldmans lived in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn where the boys grew up and attended school, and later moved to Belle Harbor, Queens. As one would imagine, the Waldman home was filled with music and interesting visitors from the Cantorial world as well as the entertainment field. 

Just a word about my dear mother. I believe she was very unique as most children feel about their mothers. But in many ways she was not typical. When my father met her, she was in her mid twenties and after her graduation from Pace University, she was a practicing accountant. Three months before the birth of her twins, she gave up her job to become a full-time housewife to devote herself only to her family. Needless to say, keeping track of my father's work, traveling with him on special occasions and holidays while taking care of her twins was not an easy chore. Not only was she supportive of her children and husband but devoted her time to her mother and two sisters. Her mother lived with us and her sisters and their children were always in our home. Those were the good old days when families were always together, which I'm sure sounds familiar to many.   

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Live - Yom Kippur Service

Below are selections from a Yom Kippur Shabbos Service recorded at the Chicago Loop Synagogue on October 14, 1967.

This posting completes the third installment of the “live” davening from Chicago Loop Synagogue (S’lichos, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur). The fourth and final set of recordings, which are from Rosh Hashanah, will be posted soon. I have received many inquiries as to what will be included; among the selections will be Hineni, V’chol Ma’aminim, and portions of the Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shoferot.

El Moley Rachamim
Zochreinu L'chaim
Eimru Lay Ehlohim
Un'sahne Tokef
Umipnei Chatoeinu
Heyei Im P'fiyos
O'chilah La'eil
Eleh Ezkerah
Shema Koleinu
Ki Anu Amecha
Neilah - Avinu Malkenu

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Three Dictators

Over the years, hundreds of composers of Jewish music sent my father their original compositions in the hope that he would sing them on his radio show and consequently make them famous. Many in the field were aware of his sense of humor and that his preference was for the unique selection rather than the standard Yiddish tunes of the day including some that were quite humorous, an example of which was “Dus Fleschel” – The Flask - sung from the point of view of the flask. Another, written specifically for my father that he sung on the radio and at concerts but unfortunately never recorded, is called “The Three Dictators” which is a spoof of the famous Yiddish song, “A Chazzan Auf Shabbos.”

So how does a serious Cantor pull off a spoof of this kind? Perfect Yiddish, a theatrical flair, and a twinkle in your eye, was all that was needed, and indeed my father possessed all three.

Friday, March 2, 2012

ELEH EZKERAH (Martyrology Prayer)

As part of the penitential prayers of the Musaf Service on Yom Kippur, the traditional prayer book includes a martyrology of the death of the ten Rabbis for the Sanctification of G-d's Name. The events referred to, took place during the Hadrianic persecution following the year 135 C.E. With the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, in the year 70, the Jews had lost their Temple and their country, but not their independence. The fate meted out to the ten Rabbis is graphically depicted in the following version attributed to Rabbi Judah. *

It is not common today to hear the entire story in poetic form recited aloud.  While listening, follow along with a Machzor as my father interprets this meaningful prayer.

The prayer Sarfei Maloh, which is in the middle of ELEH EZKERAH has become a favorite amongst today's cantors.

* Background written by Rabbi Morris Silverman

Monday, February 20, 2012

WALDMAN sings the Sheva Brochos at wedding

I was fortunate to have found a cassette of my father (l"z) singing the SHEVA BROCHOS (seven blessings) at a wedding ceremony at the Plaza Hotel with the Abe Nadel Choir. I will attempt to improve the sound but this version will give you a good idea of the Waldman wedding ceremony, which always included a choir and soloist accompaniment.

After the Sheva Brochos, a boy soloist sings Veemahlei Mishaloseinu accompanied by the choir as he walks down the aisle and raises his hands as if to bless the newlyweds. The meaning of the prayer is "may HE abundantly fulfill our desires and grant us salvation and mercy".

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wedding Ceremony

Siman Tov U Mazal Tov - Leibele Waldman's Wedding Ceremony

As his weekly radio programs, recordings and movies gained in popularity, Leibele Waldman soon became a household name. In addition to requests for Shabbat & Holiday "davinings" and concerts in the country and Canada, there was great demand for him to perform at weddings that he always did with a choir, most often at many of the famed hotels and leading catering halls in New York and in cities around the country. The Waldman wedding was unique in that those present felt the sanctity and beauty of the ceremony with each note he sang.

Note: The brachos begin at T:5:45.