The Carlebach Revolution

Probing the Carlebach Phenomenon by Rabbi Avraham Trugman

In the article above, Rabbi Avraham Trugman, one of Rav Shlomo Carlebach’s students for over 20 years, describes the influence of Rav Shlomo in the following way:

“Rav Shlomo became a rallying point for those seeking to express a new vision of what a Torah experience could be.” One of Rav Shlomo’s focus areas was re-energizing Tefilla around the world, starting with Kaballat Shabbat.

The Kaballat Shabbat experience, only 500 years old, was founded in Tzfat by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (The AR”I z”l, as better known) and his students, and has changed Tefilla on Shabbat universally. The brilliance of Rav Shlomo Carlebach was changing the way most organized Minyanim design their Kaballat Shabbat Tefilla with one simple, yet phenomenal, change – song. Rav Shlomo’s songs can be heard in any Kaballat Shabbat Tefilla service in any setting, or denomination, especially for minyanim looking to “spice up” their Tefilla on Friday nights and draw a crouwd. Some will be singing “Mizmor LeDavid”, while others sing, clap and dance during Tefilla. However your Kehilla incorporates Carelbach Style Tefilla into Kaballat Shabbat, it’s definitely a wide-spread phenomenon today.

This begs the question, why has the Carlebach Minyan caught on so quickly? Why are flocks of people coming to Kaballat Shabbat and Rabbis everywhere taking on the Carlebach style Kaballat Shabbat for their students and congregants? To better understand the true simplicity of its success, we must revisit a fundamental concept in crowd engagement – People are engaged when they are active. If you ever do “Shul hopping” in your area, whatever city you live in, look at the trending Synagogues that have singing, dancing, clapping and a more up-tempo Tefilla on Friday nights.

“The Carlebach Minyan” reenergized Kaballat Shabbat, and made it a sought-after Tefilla experience for everyone. How many educational programs try and host Friday night Tefilla now that the Carlebach Minyan is a widespread phenomenon, and most of the songs are well known? How many students have experienced a Kaballat Shabbat Tefilla because of the incorporation of song? This was only made possible because of incorporating song into the Tefilla. Saying it Out Loud!

Why can’t we take that same energy and put it into our daily Tefillot for students, or even for Synagogues for adult davening during morning Tefillot? Why can’t we do more singing on Shabbat to create a more lively environment for Tefillot? Let’s take the Carelbach Minyan platform and use that principle of song and creating a positive Tefilla energy into our other Tefilla settings, and adapt the model to each setting appropriately. It’s possible, if we make it possible.


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