Shir l’shabbat (1962), commissioned by the Metropolitan Synagogue of New York and premiered there, was Lazar Weiner’s third full synagogue service. Its subtitle, Sabbath Service in Hassidic Style, can be misleading because the music does not draw on any identifiable Hassidic material; nor does the work pursue the most obvious stylistic features of Hassidic niggunim or d’vekut (see the introduction to Volume 6). In any case, the Reform movement—for whose format this Sabbath eve service was written—was not quite ready in 1962 to accept anything transparently Hassidic; it would be at least another decade before some of its congregations would find aspects of Hassidic melos endearing rather than inappropriate for American worship.
Shir l’shabbat does reflect, however, subtle and indirect Hassidic influences, which was Weiner’s intention as well as his boundary. For the most part, these influences manifest themselves in simple, restrained tunefulness, which itself could be new to many Reform congregations of that time. There is an overall freshness about the approach to both melody and harmony. Kernels of Hassidic elements can be unmasked by careful analysis, but they are so artistically treated in the context of classical construction that they provide an abiding flavor rather than a simplistic echo of Hassidic Sabbath celebration. One has the feeling that Weiner astutely took into account contemporaneous American perceptions of what constitutes Hassidic music—which, especially then, could often be merely playful melody.
The published score contains a supplement to accommodate traditional liturgical texts that had been omitted from Reform liturgy. The purpose of that supplement (something Zavel Zilberts also provided for music commissioned by or written for Reform congregations) was primarily to encourage the use of the service by Conservative synagogues that might find it attractive.
Sung in Hebrew
IV. MI KHAMOKHA
Who, among all the mighty, can be compared with You, O Lord?
Who is like You, glorious in Your holiness, awesome beyond praise, performing wonders?
When You rescued the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds,
Your children beheld Your majestic, supreme power and exclaimed: “This is our God: The Lord will reign for all time.”
Cause us, O Lord, our God, to retire for the evening in peace and then again to arise unto life, O our King, and spread Your canopy of peace over us.
Direct us with Your counsel and save us for the sake of Your name. Be a shield around us.
Remove from our midst all enemies, plague, sword, violence, famine, hunger, and sorrow.
And also remove evil temptation from all around us sheltering us in the shadow of your protecting wings.
For You are our guardian and deliverer;
You are indeed a gracious and compassionate King.
Guard our going and coming, for life and in peace, from now on and always. Spread over us the sheltering canopy of Your peace.
Praised be You, O Lord, (praised be He and praised be His name) who spreads the canopy of peace over us and over all Your people Israel, and over all Jerusalem. (Amen)
The children of Israel shall keep and guard the Sabbath and observe it throughout their generations as an eternal covenant.
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.
They who keep the Sabbath and call it a delight, rejoice in Thy kingdom. All who hallow the seventh day shall be gladdened by Thy goodness. This day is Israel’s festival of the spirit, sanctified and blessed by Thee, the most precious of days, a symbol of the joy of creation.
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