By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
I have presided over congregational High Holy Day services for well over 30 years. As a rabbi, I have delivered sermons, offered commentary, and served as Torah reader. I am, however, no cantor! Happily, I have been blessed with the partnership of gifted, creative, and devoted Chazzanim – true musical talents.
On one memorable occasion, however, I realized just moments before Musaf that my cantor was absent (later, I learned, due to sudden illness). I had no choice but to assume that role myself (having never previously served in such a capacity). I sheepishly explained the situation from the pulpit, assuring worshippers that Musaf – though less splendid musically – was sure to be mercifully fast. A resounding, celebratory “AMEN!” emanated from somewhere in the sanctuary!
I began Musaf with the customary “Hinneni” – the Cantor’s personal prayer. I prayed with absolute conviction: “Here I stand, impoverished in merit, trembling… unfit and unworthy of the task… Accept my prayer AS IF it were offered by one eminently qualified and of sweet voice….”
This particularly troubled year, “Hinneni” again provides a uniquely apt and moving petition: “Turn all our misfortunes and afflictions into joy and gladness, life and peace.”
My deepest, heartfelt wishes for sustained good health… to holiday cantors… my rabbinic colleagues… and all welcoming the New Year.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)