Dr. Jerry Glantz


































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The Man Who Spoke To God - Cantor Leib Glantz - Cantor, Composer, Researcher, Writer, Educator, Zionist leader.
Sample Essays


On the first night of Passover the synagogue glows with joy. There is a sense that the evening Ma’a’riv prayer service is but a prelude to the upcoming enchanting drama that will follow the synagogue service at our homes. This anticipation towards the festive event of the Se’der creates a unique tension in the synagogue.
  At the completion of the Ma'a'riv service at the synagogue, we arrive at home and sense this great anticipation. Tensions are high as we get ready for an extraordinary feast. This night is different from every other night in the Jewish home. The family members and their invited guests excitedly congregate together, all dressed in their finest holiday clothes ("Big'dei Mal'chut"). The master of the house appears like a king. The mother -- a queen. The sons and daughters -- princes and princesses. Everyone gathered around the table is anxious to fulfill any role bestowed upon them. In this artistic ceremony, commemorating the great exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, thousands of years ago, there is a "stage" with special decorations: the table of the feast, with a special Passover dish, wine glasses, the prophet Eliahu's special wine cup, and many other features. All these elevate the moods of the participants and create a wonderful artistic atmosphere.
  The most exciting aspect is the singing of the traditional Jewish music. The Ha'gga'da has its special Nu'sach. It is full of joy, sometimes dramatic and sometimes humoristic. It is very intimate. The children tend to raise their voices above those of the elders. There are soloists and choruses. Every Jewish home is celebrating the Se'der feast, and all together the whole community of Jewish people around the world band together, singing the songs of exodus and freedom! Every Jew in every generation must consider as if he himself was part of the exodus from Egypt. How very symbolic!
  What then is the foundation of the typical music of the Ha'gga'da? It is the familiar mode from the synagogue prayers of Sha'losh Re'ga'lim -- the Mixolydian mode. However, there is one small, if very important, difference. The recurring melody is Mixolydian, but it is different from that sung in the synagogue during the Ma'a'riv service: in place of the B flat above, which we emphasize in the synagogue prayer, we end the melodies with B natural below:
  The Man Who Spoke To God
  Excerpt from: The Nu’sach of the Passover Ha’gga’da, by Leib Glantz, 1961.
When we enter an orthodox synagogue, either in Israel or in the Diaspora, the first thing we notice is the sad, almost tearful, tones. One might get the impression that all Jewish liturgy sounds sad, even when the text expresses joy and thanksgiving.
  It might be expected that this exalted verbal content would appropriately call for jubilant music. Unfortunately that is not the case. Almost all cantors sing the passages of Ha’llel in the Harmonic Minor. The “peak” of melancholy is reached in conjunction with phrases like “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind", or "To Thee I will offer a thanksgiving sacrifice." What is there to bewail?
  I have intensively studied this perplexing question and have found two explanations:

The first explanation is extremely simple: for many generations the situation of the Jews of the Diaspora has been tragic and catastrophic; Jewish blood had flowed like water. Attention to the verbal content of the prayers was neglected. The synagogue services became a suitable opportunity for the Jews to pour out their hearts in lamentation, to cry out and complain to the Almighty about their bitter plight.


The second explanation is not quite as simple. Its source lies precisely in the music formula of the Ha’llel. The origin of this Nu’sach is rooted in the very first blessing: “He who has sanctified us with His commandments and ordained on us the reading of the Ha’llel.” The cantor opens the Ha’llel blessing in what seems to be a pure Minor key, but actually it is only an illusory Minor, and as a result both the cantor and the congregation continue with this deceptive minor throughout most of the passages of the Ha’llel. There is no thanksgiving and no praise, no song and no exultation. Instead, there are broken sounds and plaints, weak suffering voices. The more tearful the cantor, the greater his reputation…

  The great European “Choral Cantors”, such as Solomon Sulzer and his followers, reacting against this characteristic lachrymosity, changed the key from the Harmonic Minor to the classic West European Major. It was as though they were saying: What is the matter with you, wailing “Ost Juden,” that you weep with tears while singing Ha’lle’lu’ya? Go sing Ha’lle’lu’ya in a Major key, a la Mozart or Schubert?
  The truth of the matter is that neither of these approaches found the proper path to the original Jewish Nu’sach of the Ha’llel. I am convinced that both the Jewish Major and the Jewish Minor contain something characteristic and specific, that survived from the ancient modes of the oriental peoples, that is not to be found at all in the modern West European scales.
  After years of searching, examining and striving to find the musical truth about the Ha’llel, I have come to the recognition that the first blessing of the Ha’llel is not to be sung in the Minor key, but is actually a direct continuation from the end of Te’fi’lat Ha’She’va, from the Nu’sach of the Sha’losh Re’ga’lim service (the three festivals of Pe’sach, Sha’vu’ot and Su’ccot) till the beginning of the blessing of Ha’llel.

Excerpt from: Nu’sach Ha’llel and Tal, by Leib Glantz, 1961.