The Time-honoring music of the synagogue serves as a powerful reminder of the Jewish history and the rich heritage that they were beholder of, as per the Ashkenazi tradition. This is perhaps best proven by the widespread use of Mi-Sinai tunes, the traditional melody-types that is believed to have been transmitted to Moses on Sinai. But in actuality, there are no definitive records of music from the days of Moses for the Mi-Sinai melodies do have a long history, presumably developing in southern Germany and eastern France between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries C.E. from then these quintessential themes have come to dominate the music of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and virtually all Ashkenazi Jews throughout the world. These melodies music is heard these during the High Holy Days they serve as a successful source to the unite Jews together, who might otherwise be religiously or geographically dispersed. They are thus an audible ritual expression of a collective past.
Among the Mi-Sinai tunes that are widely played during the High Holy Day some are that of the Barkhu, Ha-Melech, Avot, Aleinu, and Kol Nidre. Each of these pieces is a seamless mixture of traditional synagogue material and modified fragments of French and German folk and secular songs. Like a biblical cantillation, Mi-Sinai tunes are also colored by melismas which are the melodic passages with several notes on one vowel. And in some of these tunes one can be trace a number of separate Mi-Sinai motifs. For instance, the Kol Nidre is not a single melody, but rather an amalgam of seven or eight distinct themes.
The fixing of these songs was particularly incited by the spiritual decline of European Jewish life in the fourteenth century, a period of Crusades, the Black Death, and other devastations. Rabbi Joseph Molin (the Maharil), a renowned rabbinic authority of the time, saw the unification of synagogue song as a way to preserve the Jewish heritage and devotion. He travelled extensively, serving as hazzan in various locales, and together with his disciples, established these melodies as traditional ritual. He further ruled out that Mi-Sinai tunes be given the same authority as if they were handed down to Moses on Sinai—that is, they should never be changed (Orah Hayyim, 619).
Thus without doubt, the great effort to preserve these melodies reflects the importance of preserving the historical continuity and group solidarity within Judaism. For instance, the Eastern European Jews gave these tunes an elevated status of skarbova, which meaning "antique" or "old." More specifically, the term also refers the songs as "official" status, thus making this song mandatorily to be sung on the occasion of the High Holy Days. No other melodies may be substituted for them. Musicologist Macy Nulman described the lasting effect of codifying this music: "To this day, these melodies that stir the heart and infuse awe and devotion in one's prayer, are essential elements of the synagogue service and remain a unifying force in Jewish life." In a very real sense, then, Mi-Sinai tunes provide the Jews a link to shared sacred past thus announcing to the community that "What we do has a history; we ourselves have a history."
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