Dear Kosher Spirit,
Cantor Goffin’s article is an important document whose content should be shared with all who approach the amud to act as Shliach Tzibur. Many who approach the amud seem to forget that their “job” has a number of important facets such as Kovod HaBrios, Kovod HaTefillos and Tircha HaTzibur. They have a duty to be as pleasant and melodic as possible and, maybe, should not act as Baalei Tefilah if they do not have melodic voices. Additionally, there is a nusach tradition, which many ignore or are not aware of. There are times when the Rav of the kehillah, who we must assume is davening with true kavana, yet does not have a melodic voice, insists upon acting as Shliach Tzibur during Moadim and Shabbosim. Is there a way to get this message across without embarrassment or hurt? Should not the Rav of a kehillah be sensitive to this important caveat?
Chazzan Goffin responds:
Thank you for your interest in the very important topic of Nusach HaTefillah and the responsibilities of the Shliach Tzibbur.
The Shulchan Oruch OC 53:4 says that the chazzan must have a sweet voice and be “Mrutsah L’Kohol” – acceptable to the congregation. It also says in 53:5 that if no one with all the qualifications can be found, choose the one with the most wisdom and good deeds. Therefore, it has become somewhat of a minhag for many shuls to have the rabbi daven, even if he doesn’t have a good voice. The Rama is quoted as saying – when it comes to the Yomim Noraim one must be strict and appoint the one most qualified in Torah and good deeds (Rama on Orach Chaim 571:1). Also, when there are two candidates and one is a Torah Scholar, he gets preference-Mishna Brurah on the previous citation.
So, it has become a “minhag” to ask the rabbi to daven, and most of the time he will refuse if he has a bad voice or doesn’t know the nusach. The one area that has become traditional for every rabbi – qualified or not – is Neilah. In Europe the rabbi always davened Neilah. Hopefully, he knew what he was doing!
If we are members of a shul and its board we can make somewhat of an impact to insist on standards. It has to be done WITHIN the shul. Outsiders or non-board members cannot be and are not effective in this area. We have to educate the public, and that is what I’m trying to do with my articles.
Thank you again and Shalom — Sherwood Goffin
Dear Kosher Spirit,
Yasher Koach to Chazzan Sherwood Goffin for his brilliant and timely article “Kosher Music – The Music of the Yomim Noraim.” I read it Erev Rosh HaShanah and found it engaging and informative. Unfortunately we are witnessing a time when too many shuls are avoiding hiring a trained and knowledgeable chazzan in favor of someone whose experience with Jewish music is limited to being a singer at weddings and Bar Mitzvos and has little or no training in what is obviously a very specialized field and sacred responsibility. Like the sound of the shofar, I hope Chazzan Goffin’s article will be a wake up call to these synagogues, and that no matter where one finds themselves for the Yomim Noraim, they will hear the appropriate nusach that has been used for generations.
Marsha Greenberg, Englewood, New Jersey
Dear Kosher Spirit,
In the Tishrei 5770 issue, in the article “How Sweet It Is,” on page 15, it says the earliest recording of cane sugar collecting was in the 14th century in Arabia. The Rambam in Hilchos Brochos 8:5 describes the process of making sugar from sugar cane and discusses different opinions as to the correct Brocha Rishona to say on it. The Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah at the end of the 12th century, and he is quoting the opinion of the Geonim who came before him. Clearly the practice predated the Rambam considerably.
Don Greenberg, Lakewood, NJ
Rabbi Gornish responds:
Dear Mr. Greenberg,
Thank you for your letter regarding my article, “How Sweet It Is.” You wrote that the RaMBaM mentions sugar in the Mishneh Torah. While this is true, the sugar referred to by the RaMBaM was a coarse sugar that did not have much resemblance to today’s sugar. In fact, the earliest mention of some type of sugar was in the fourth century, around the time of the completion of the Talmud Yerushalmi! The sugar first mentioned in 14th century Arabia, on the other hand, was a refined sugar that was analogous to the table sugar we use today. That is why I wrote that the first mention of sugar was in 14th century Arabia.