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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Opinion Please: What Makes a Good Chazan/Cantor?

We've just finished the two Jewish Holidays which demand the most time in a synagogue listening to and singing along with a chazan/cantor.

Here in Shiloh, all of our "cantors" are volunteers. They are mostly neighbors and don't get paid. Personally, I don't miss the professional chazanim, who sometimes perform more than doven.  Listening to those lovely voices is fun on a rare occasion, but since I like to sing along, our amateurs suit me better. But I'd like to know your opinion, thanks.

Please vote in the comments, thanks.
You can rank the choices here, too.

  • Voice
  • Soul
  • Tunes
  • Choir
  • Speed
  • Innovation
  • Other
Chag Sameach


Netivotgirl said...

My husband has been a chazan for 50 years. He's got a stunning voice. But THAT isn't what makes a good chazan. According to halacha he must say each word clearly, understand what he is praying (i.e. the סדרה העבודה ot the Cohen ha'Gadol) and pray with FEELING from his neshama!. I've heard several chazanim who 'swallow' words (don't pray clearly) and that is awful!!

Batya Medad said...

Yes, it's so important to be clear and not too fast. I get lost too easily.

Mr. Cohen said...

Lessons for Chazanim from Sefer Shevet Mussar
(all quotes collected by Mr. Cohen)

Shevet Mussar was written by Rabbi Eliyahu ben
Avraham Shlomoh HaKohen Itamari of Izmir (Turkey)
who was born in year 1650, and died in year 1729 CE.

Shevet Mussar was written close to year 1722 CE.
Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 1:
In this paragraph, the author teaches that if a chazan acts LeShem Shamayim,
then he is rewarded greatly, but if he only acts to please people, then he is like Korach.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 2:
A righteous man from an undistinguished family is a better shaliach tzibur [chazan] than an unrighteous man from a great family (yichus).

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 3:
A chazan should not pray quickly, and he should not listen to stupid people who want him to pray faster so they can leave the synagogue sooner, because synagogue attendance is a burden for them, because this causes him to reduce the praises
of G_d and to pray without concentrating on the meaning of the words.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 3:
The shaliach tzibur [chazan] should not spend too much time on nigunim [melodies].

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 6:
The chazan should not hate any congregation member, even if he was wronged by him.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 7:
A shaliach tzibur [chazan] is more obligated than other people to avoid arrogance and jealousy.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 7:
When a chazan is joyous and happy, this an cause Ruach HaKodesh [Divine Inspiration] to settle on him when he is praying, and his prayer will draw influence of blessing and favor.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 8:
An arrogant person disgraces everybody,
and through this, he causes people to hate him.
How can the prayer of this person be acceptable to G_d...

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 12:
The Chazan needs to keep his eyes open, to look at the four corners of the synagogue, to see if any person is talking to his friend or napping, and to raise his voice to wake him
or make him stop talking.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, end of paragraph 13:
It is good and pleasant for the chazan to not sing any nigunim [melodies] at all.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 21:
How great is the embarrassment in this world and the punishment in the World to Come of a congregation that appoints [a chazan] to discharge their obligation, who trusts in human beings.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 22:
It is not good for a chazan to pray too long,
because this burdens the congregation.

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 34, paragraph 24:
How great is the praiseworthiness of a Shaliach Tzibur [chazan] who asks the congregation to replace him with another because his strength and voice have been lost to old age.
This is complete proof that all his years of service were from sincere motives [LeShem Shamayim]. The opposite is also true.

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Mr. Cohen said...

Lessons For Chazanim from Other Torah Books
(all quotes collected by Mr. Cohen)

Sefer Chasidim, chapter 254:
A person who does not recite Birkat HaTorah or other blessings loudly robs [others of] good deeds [because they cannot answer amen if they do not hear him].

Written by Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid who died in year 1217 of the Common Era.
Responsa of Rashba, Volume 1 of 8, chapter 215:
Therefore, a prayer leader [Shaliach Tzibur] is praiseworthy if he is happy and stands in fear [of G_d], as it is written: SERVE G_D WITH FEAR AND REJOICE WITH TREMBLING [Tanach, Tehillim, chapter 2, verse 11]. But if his intention is to make his voice heard so people will hear him and praise him, then behold, this is despicable.

Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (Rashba) was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1235 CE and died in 1310 CE. He was a successful banker and leader of Spanish Jewry of his time. He served as rabbi of the Main Synagogue of Barcelona for 50 years. His teachers were the Ramban and Rabbeinu Yonah. Among his numerous students were the Ritva and Rabbeinu Behaye.

Rema commentary on Shulchan Aruch,
chelek Orach Chaim, Siman 53, Sif 25, Sif Katan 81:

…A prayer leader [Shaliach Tzibur or Chazan] who defiles his mouth with words that are crude or obscene, or sings songs of Gentile religions, it is correct to protest that he should stop.
If he refuses to listen, then he should be removed.

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Batya Medad said...