Aside from Lunch with the Rabbi, I also attended Brotherhood Shabbat. Brotherhood Shabbat is like most other Shabbat, but with Temple B’nai’s Brotherhood performing the service and reading the Torah rather than the Rabbi. There is also more music, or more upbeat music played during this service than other Shabbat services. When I first contacted Temple B’nai to see what opportunities they had for me to visit, they were ecstatic to tell me about Brotherhood Shabbat, for reasons that became obvious to me once I was there. For this reason, this particular service offered a unique view into sound for this community.
When I walked into the synagogue, there were people at the door giving you a book to follow along with the service. There was already music being played in the background as we settled in, voices of the congregation added to the sound and experience while they either, caught up with people they hadn’t seen in a while or chatted with family members. I knew it was going to be similar to other communities I had visited with prayers and song, but what I did not realize was how similar it would be to my own religious experiences. The thing I found most interesting was that all of their prayers were slightly chanted, for lack of a better term. Almost the entire service was cantillated. Then when they started truly singing, the congregation came to life. They were bouncing to the beat, singing at the top of their lungs, smiling to each other, and enjoying every moment and every word they said. It was beautiful to watch them, not just experience music or sing along, but enjoy making the music.You could tell it was about celebrating their beliefs, not just following the status quo.
The sound never stopped. The Brotherhood played songs, those leading the service prayed, and the congregation whispered and laughed with each other as well as with the Brotherhood. There was never really a moment of silence until the man leading the service asked for one in remembrance of the tragedy at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and then the silence was deafening. In the silence, there was respect and mourning for those who were lost or injured. It speaks volumes when an entire service is so lively and so full of sound, and then they fall silent. It really showed how impacted they were by the hate crime and how much they believe in showing support and respect for their community.
Overall, the sound at Brotherhood Shabbat took me entirely by surprise. They used sound as background music, for emphasis on prayers, to show their excitement in celebrating their faith, along with many other ways, but I think, in some way, they used the sound as their prayer. They used their voices and their music to show how excited they were to be there celebrating their religion and their beliefs with each other. The sound was not just there to fill space or time; it was an essential part of their service, which, as a musician, I found to be incredible.
By Kayleigh Wallace