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Wednesday, February 01, 2023
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My wife and I bought a CD of Shabbos zemiros. To listen to during the week, apparently.

Zemiros. They’re not just for Shabbos anymore.

The reason we bought a CD is that we want our kids to learn zemiros, which they haven’t really been doing until now because we don’t sing them often enough. We just sing them on Shabbos, tops, and even then, we don’t usually get to all of them.

It also doesn’t help that when I sing the kids leave the table. I don’t blame them. But my hope is that they sing with me and try to drown me out. I know they can be louder than me.

So right before we drove up to my in-laws for Yom Tov, we went out to buy a CD. We found a two-volume set that not only had all the zemiros, and, for some reason, part of Kedusha, it had several versions of each zemer (zmirah?), all in a row, so that you can spend a half hour straight listening to, say, “Yom Zeh Mechubad.”

A side benefit of getting the CD, we figured, was that we’d finally be able to settle age-old arguments as to which of us is right about which words to put together. My wife always says her way is right, because it’s how her father sings, and I say my way is right, because that’s how my father sings. Even though neither of our fathers can actually carry a tune. But I went to yeshiva, so that might make me an authority. Except that in yeshiva, everyone sings the harmonies, no one sings the actual songs, and every zemer fades out a few words before the very end, because no one wants to be the last one singing. In fact, over the course of the year, the song keeps ending earlier and earlier, until we’re leaving out the entire final stanza.

But as it turns out, the guy on the CD puts some of the words together differently from either of us. So we definitely can’t use him to settle arguments. Not only that, but this is how our kids are going to be learning it. His way.

Here are some other things I realized while listening to this album of zemiros on a long car ride:

—I have a Pavlovian reaction to Eishes Chayil. Apparently, every time I hear it, I crave fresh challah.

—I don’t know what’s weirder—that there’s one guy singing the zemiros, or that there’s an orchestra accompanying him. He doesn’t seem to mind being the only one singing. He definitely doesn’t fade out of every song a paragraph early.

—Listening to these CDs back to back is like having a really long Shabbos meal where they keep singing five versions of each zemer without ever serving out the next course. I wanted to go play in the back seat.

—I’m thinking that after we learn all the zemiros, my next goal is definitely to look into pirush hamilos. Like, for example, why are we singing about Yonah resting? I don’t remember reading about this on Yom Kippur. What happened with the big fish?

But the kids are enjoying it. One of my sons asked if he could follow along in the jacket. But there was no jacket.

Luckily I had a bentcher in the glove compartment. It turns out that we have hundreds of bentchers—too many to fit into our breakfront—so we’ve taken to keeping them in more creative places, such as in my work desk, my night table, and even the door of the fridge, for those midnight snacks when you just pull in a chair.

We have bentchers coming out of our ears. I wish the people we know would stop getting married so much. One wedding for every two people, please.

I’m sure you have the same issue. Every simcha you go to, you come home with a bentcher, and your spouse does too. I always take one because I have pockets, and my wife always takes one so she can remember the kallah’s new last name.

And no, I don’t know why she takes them at bar mitzvahs. But we never look at the table and go, “Oh. We already have bentchers.”

It’s gotten to the point where, if we made a wedding, we wouldn’t have to print bentchers. We can just give out the bentchers we already have. Or give them back—use them as place cards for the people we got them from. After all, we have two of each.

But every wedding gives out bentchers, because people bentch at weddings, and no one thinks to bring their own, because the simchas always provide them. And they can’t just write on the invitation, “BYOB,” because people will get confused.

But that’s bentching. How about zemiros? I’m not actually sure why they give out Shabbos zemiros at a wedding. Most weddings are not on Shabbos. Maybe they should print the songs that are actually played at a chasunah. (“It’s Oid Yishama? I thought it was Oiz Yishama!”)

Of course, one can just as easily ask why we have Shabbos zemiros in the glove compartment of our car. Maybe it’s in case we get stuck on the side of the road on the way to my in-laws, IY”H.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press, and Aish.com, among others. He also has four books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]

By Mordechai Schmutter

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