Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amud Ettiquete Part I

Any davening community needs a plethora of shlichei tzibbur (public emissaries who lead the t'fillot). Assuming the role is not a responsibility that anybody should take lightly, as you are literally representing the congregation before God. Additionally, you are leading the community in prayer, and must be sensitive to their needs if you hope to lay the groundwork for meaningful prayer. I'll just share two recent davening environments that were damaged or enhanced by the shaliach tzibbur.

The first was on Yom Kippur. Last month I wrote plenty about Yom Kippur, and even touched briefly on the musaf service itself. The gentlemen who served as shliach tzibbur on that day had such a command of the t'fillot, and such presence in the room, that it did not matter that his voice was neither cantorial nor particularly melodious. Rather, he knew the nusach, he knew what should be extended in the form of communal song, and what areas of the service are better suited for chanting in the traditional nusach. I left musaf overflowing with the emotions of Yom Kippur as well as with reverence for this congregant who had just stood before God on my behalf.

For the final mincha service of sukkot, I attended davening in the same synagogue as on Yom Kippur. The acoustics were the same, room set-up the same, and my location within the room, more or less identical. The man who ascended to the amud began Ashrei (Psalm 145, plus two additional opening verses)with a booming voice, full of character and emotion. However, it became fairly apparent that he did not know the appropriate nusach for the festival, and was unfamiliar with the arrangement of the festival amidah. And while I certainly do not fault him for trying, I was a bit dismayed at the fact that he had not prepared properly.

I hope that this is just the beginning of the conversation, Part II is coming later this week.

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