Public recital of Tephilot not for amateurs

Our Rabbinic SAGES eschew Volunteers, when the remedy is easily a paid individual. In every Halakhic situation imaginable, a paid professional is preferred. So every week, the Volunteers who ascend the Bimah to lead us all in Prayer on Shabbat and Yom Tov, the Singer/Songwriters who really can only sing with the aid of a microphone and cannot be heard in the best acoustic situations without one—these are not NOT Shlikhei Tzibbur! The Shaliakh Tzibbur on Shabbat and Yom Tov stands mimkom the Kohain Gadol. Our Services are NOT to be reduced to a Farbrengung, Malaveh Malkah, Kumsitz, or Mishteh. Judaism is NOT SING ALONG WITH MITCH! There are occasions for that, but Prayer in the Public Sphere is glorious song, gloriously sung. Individually do what you will! But aloud, we need to put our best Representation forward. Like L’Havdil the CAR KAROKE of a popular late night talk show host, hitch your star when singing along publicly to a glorious voice. The Volunteer whose last professional gig was singing in his/her/their shower, the Rabbi singing yet one more insipid Congregational tune, has no place in Shul as a Leader of Prayer. This was TOTALLY understood just 20, 30. 40 years ago!

Since the 1960s, we have adopted this faux populism. Before introducing the Guitar into Synagogue Services, we had a less than 10% intermarriage rate. We are now fast approaching 90% in many of the Major Movements of Judaism! I have a Guitar, I play it (in)adequately from time to time to placate foolish and deluded Synagogue Leadership, but please KHaverim, the 60s HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING!

Now to Parshat SHEMINI. It’s very clear. When the Sons of Aharon mess up in their Leadership of Prayer—G-d kills them. And they ARE Professionals. If G-d pours His/Her wrath on Professionals who mess up, He clearly has complete disdain for Amateurs who pretend that they ARE Professionals. What clearer message do we need than this as proof text of all that has just been previously said!

Heartfelt Individual Prayer is one thing! But it is the Professional’s heartfelt prayer leading us out loud that sets the tone and standard for what we should demand of ourselves when we pray as individuals. If as in practically all Modern Orthodox Synagogues we are subjected to okh un vey leading us in Prayer on Shabbat and Yom Tov, what glorious voice do we ever have in our head and our heart to guide us?

Now there are exceptions. There are Rabbis who are not Cantors nor claim to be, who are capable of leading us in glorious prayer, there is sometimes an inspired individual Volunteer who is wonderful, but for the preponderant part of most Services, after my wife and I have toured extensively over the past two years visiting Synagogues of every stripe in the Northeast, Volunteers and Rabbis who are leading us in Prayer are painfully inadequate. Please engage a professional. Your obvious contempt of G-d and your contempt of the humans subjected to your caterwauling—is heartbreaking! I can think of no other profession or occasion where an incompetent individual denies a professional of his/her/their livelihood for no good reason whatsoever under the guise of “I feel like it!” and an entire Congregation joins in this abominable behavior by saying “Yasher Ko-Akh!’–condoning and approving this KHillul HaShem!

Does anyone acknowledge that no less an Authority than the KHofetz KHayyim in the Mishnah Berurah told Shuls for good reason that if funds are limited, it’s the Professional Cantor you engage–NOT the Rabbi. A Congregation MUST HAVE ITS SOUL!

Let’s get back to that! And please, Conservative and Reform Shuls, stop the practice of electronic soap and water dispensers in the Restrooms and no single sheet toilet paper—forcing unsuspecting Shomer Shabbat Jewry to possibly be M’KHallel Shabbat. I once had a MaKHloket during a Synagogue interview when I informed the Search Committee that the automatic light coming on in the Aharon Kodesh when it is opened on Shabbat and Yom Tov was a grievous situation to inflict on their fellow unsuspecting Yidn who received a P’TiKHa and KHas v’KHolileh could become M’KHallel Shabbat! And B’Ezrat HaShem, no more lights that automatically come on when you enter the Restroom!

About the Author
A son of Concentration Camp Survivors who were originally from Bendzin, Poland, Rabbi Cantor Sam was the only member of his immediate family born in the USA. Originally on a trajectory towards being an Actor, a chance encounter with a Synagogue Choir Member at a Pittsburgh Dinner Theater production of Guys and Dolls, had him studying Voice with a leading Cantor of the day, Moshe Taube, and a love of interpreting the Prayers of our People ensued. A lifelong active Member of the Habonim/DROR Socialist Zionist Youth Movement, a return to Judaism did not take much awakening. Being a keen observer and participant in the life of Our People, motivates him to invite dialogue on where we go from here!
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