It always happens to me during mussaf of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. On a good morning it will hit me during Hallel. On a recent Shabbos, I thought about it while an excellent baal tefillah was davening the kedusha of mussaf.
What plagues my mind at these odd times? Basically that I am thankful to NCSY (the youth movement of the Orthodox Union). Ok, I said it.
Why, you might ask? Well, not for the obvious “opening my eyes to the beauty of Torah observance” reason (that’s for another time). I have hakoras hatov to NCSY because had I not spent 8th-12th grade as a participant of their programs (and a number of years as an advisor), I probably wouldn’t know 75% of the songs/niggunim I hear in shul during the year and at simchos. I would feel like the odd man out.
I think it’s important for both men and women to know niggunim and zemiros. It helps with inclusion and isn’t something that is stressed enough in the more popular adult outreach organizations. For me, music has always been something I’ve been into. While the current state of popular Jewish music doesn’t always leave me satisfied, I know that music is an important component part of Jewish life. Over the years I’ve been able to find musicians that I like and music that directly goes into my neshama.
If you have kids, eventually they will start singing songs they hear in school, camp, or in carpool. That’s just how it is. Personally, I find being able to sing with my children to be an incredible bonding experience. A great resource that I first saw on BeyondBT is a website called called ShirHalev, http://shirhalev.com/ , where they have posted downloads of dozens of commonly sung songs. I think you can even submit your own.
As I alluded to at the beginning of this post, on Shabbos the baal tefillah used an old tune from D’veykus IV (1990). It was an interesting moment, because I quickly realized exactly which people davening with me had been around the observant block long enough to know the tune. I did, and I was thankful.