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Karaite Cantillation

 

During services, the Hazzan prays standing, kneeling or bowing (as required) on a carpeted floor facing the Heikhal or Aron (the Ark for the Torah Scrolls), and the members all stand in rows behind him (traditionally, there are no seats or pews in a Karaite synagogue). Most of the prayers are read in responsive succession by the Hazzan and the Qahal (congregation).  There are differences between weekday mode, the mode for Shabbat, and the mode for lamentation. The mode for lamentation differs from the weekday mode not only in its intervallic patterns but also in its much wider melodic range. The Hazzan varies the melody according to the number of syllables and his way of stressing important words. The alternating response of the congregation remains unchanged. A few climactic sections are rendered as metric choral songs, such as Shirat HaYam [the Song of the Sea]. 

There are few professional Hazzanim in Karate Judaism. Any competent lay member may be called upon to be the Hazzan and lead a service. During the service, certain members of the congregation may be entrusted with chanting certain important verses or blessings. No musical instruments are ever used in the synagogue.

We read the Torah in Maqam Sigah (so called from the Farsi "Se Gah", third place, i.e., the Maqam [mode] that begins on the third note [G], which is similar to the Rabbanite Near Eastern communities), even though our reading is not always faithful to the Maqam.  That’s because the Maqam is not quite exactly the equivalent of the Torah mode, but only very close to it. We distinguish 21 cantillation accents, ignoring the Shalshelet, Merekhah Kefulah, Telishah Qetanah, Yare’ah Ben Yomo, and Munah LeGharmei, which are not considered musical accents, but stress accents and punctuation. While the Etnah lacks a clear melodic motif, the Pazer Gadol ranges through a seventh, and the Rebi’a‘ an octave (with about 20 notes). In the cantillation of the Haftarah [portion from the Prophets], we observe only eight accents as musical accents, all the others are considered stress accents and punctuation. The reader ignores the remaining accents, "drawing" the other parts of the text into the eight motifs. The outstanding characteristic of the reading of the Haftarah is the frequency of actual motifs amid a kind of dramatic recitation.

Maqam Sigah is used with the Torah, Meghillat Rut [Ruth], Qohelet [Ecclesiastes], and Meghillat Ester [Esther].  Maqam Bayyati is used with the prophetic books and Eikhah [Lamentations].  Maqam ‘Ajam, is associated with exaltation, magnificence, and actual or symbolic wedding functions and ceremonies, with the Simhat Torah ceremony of Yom Shemini ‘Aseret [Eighth Day of Assembly]; Hagh HaShavu‘ot [Pilgrimage Festival of Weeks], and the seventh day of Hagh HaMassot [Pilgrimage Festival of Unleavened Bread].

All the above are unwritten conventions.

Below are a few examples of our liturgy in musical notation:

 

 

Audio examples

Click here to hear an example of the reading of Haftarat Sos Asis (Yesha‘yahu [Isaiah] 61:10-63:1) with the Berakhot for Shabbat Hatanim [a Shabbat when a new bridegroom is called to the Torah].


Click here to hear an example of the reading of Meghillat Ester, chapter 1, by Hazzan Avraham Kefeli from Ashdod.


Click here to hear an example of the Tefillah for Thursday evening lead by the late Hakham Hefes Ben-Hayyim Levi, of blessed memory, from Ashdod, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the ZemirahAmen Yehi Rason” sung by Hakham Mosheh Firrouz from Ashdod, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of Havdalah for Mosa’ei Shabbat.


Click here to hear an example of the Qedushot from the Tefillah for Sunday and Wednesday.


Click here to hear an example of the Qiddush over the wine for ‘Erev Shabbat.


Click here to hear an example of the Qiddush over the wine for the daytime on Shabbat.


Click here to hear an example of the Zemirah “Ekon LeMul Shabbat” for Shabbat song by Hakham Mosheh Dabbah of Jerusalem.


Click here to hear an example of the Zemirah “Eloha Ram BeKhol ‘Illah” for Purim song by Hakham Mosheh Dabbah of Jerusalem.


Click here to hear an example of the Zemirah “Shiru ‘Am Zakai” for Purim.


Click here to hear an example of the Shema‘ Yisrael at the beginning of the Torah reading ceremony on Shabbat and Holy Days led by the late Hakham Hefes Ben-Hayyim Levi, of blessed memory, from Ashdod, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Tefillah for ‘Erev Shabbat led by the late Hakham Hefes Ben-Hayyim Levi, of blessed memory, from Ashdod, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Tefillah for ‘Erev Hol HaMo‘ed of Hagh HaMassot led by the Hakham Yosef Murad from Jerusalem, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the ZemirahYahid Be‘Olamo” sung by Hakham Mosheh Firrouz from Ashdod, Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the SelihahLAdonai Eloheinu HaRahamim WeHaSelihot” for ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] chanted by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Selihot service for ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] led by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Selihah “Hasdekha Elohim Asihah” from the service for the second night of ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] chanted by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Tahanun “Adon ‘Olam” from the service for the second night of ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] chanted by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Tokhehah “Elohai Male’u Motenai Halhalah” from the service for the second night of ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] chanted by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the recitation of Wayyehal Mosheh from the service for ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] led by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.


Click here to hear an example of the Widdui “Eikh Eftah Sefatai” from the service for the second night of ‘Aseret Yemei HaRahamim [the period between Yom Teru‘ah and Yom HaKippurim] recited by Hakham Hayyim Ben-Yishaq Levi of Ashdod, past Hakham Rashi [Chief Hakham] of the Karaite community in Israel.