Today I almost wept at Bogrim Tefillot

Today was the last day this summer we had a chance to hear the amazing tefillot leading skills of Cantor Gaston Bogomolni. Gaston has been leading Bogrim tefillot every Friday this summer and you could just sense that the hanikhim were beginning to learn what it means to be spiritually engaged with our tefillot. There were moments that at least for me bordered on transcendental. I’ll tell you about just two of them.

The first was Ashrei. The entire niggun themed song is only the first line–Ashre Yoshve Betekha, Od Yehallelukha Selah. The tune is soft, a chant more than a song. The kids know it already so they join in immediately. There are parts that are responsive but not in an organized way. Its spontaneous. As we’re singing, the voices rise and fall, sometimes loud (but not screaming) and sometimes barely more than a whisper. Happy are those who dwell in Your House, May they continue to praise You. I realize that for many of the kids in this room, this is the last Shira beShishi (Singing Tefilot on Friday) they will have this summer. Next year they will be older, slightly different. So will I. But for now, how happy and lucky we all are to be sitting here and singing together at Camp Ramah (oy–I might almost cry just writing this post).

The second song was Halleluyah. This is a faster melody. Again, the kids all know this song. They’ve been singing it with Gaston all four weeks and they sing it other times as well. Hannah Melman,the Rosh Edah, breaks out a little egg shaker thing (no idea what this thing is called, but I’m sure you get the gist) and starts dancing in the middle of the room. Halleluyah betof umahol–we praise you with drums and dance. This is what it’s all about. Dancing, singing, beating out a tune on the bench (not banging, but just keeping a rhythm). It’s not about who can make the most noise, or who dances the best. This isn’t hadar ochel ruah. It’s about letting the spirit, the ruach flow through you (I can actually picture these tunes in a Woodstock setting). Hannah passes the egg shaker thing to some other kids. Some of them shed their natural sense of embarrassment and start dancing. It’s hard for a 13 year old kid not to be self-conscious dancing in front of a crowd. It’s hard for me not to be self-conscious. But still, the moment, the music, the repetitive words seem to take over and some kids do manage to lose their inhibition and let the words of the last Psalm in the book take over. Kol Haneshamah tehalel yah–Every breath praises Adonai.

There were other moments, too many to put in a blog. And too many to capture on video. I have no idea if any other person there was moved like I was. I wish I could look into their young souls, into their hearts and see what they’re thinking, but I can’t really do that. But I do know that in moments like these, at a place like Ramah (where my soul has been since I first started coming over 30 years ago), when we come together to sing, true communion with each other and with God take place.

Eyn Od.