Diana Brewer is a cantorial student in the aleph ordination program. she leads prayer services regularly at the jewish community of amherst.

Ordination - My Thoughts on Being a Hazzan

Well, it’s finally happened… On Sunday, January 13 I received smicha (ordination) as a Hazzan b’Yisrael after nearly five years of study in the Aleph Ordination Program. I find myself in the midst of a process of reintegrating into my life with a new name. I’ve never been a person with a title before. I am wading through all the things that it means and that it doesn’t mean, hoping that I get it right at least half of the time.

I share with you now my remarks on being a Hazzan, given during our ceremony, almost three weeks ago now. In addition to giving you some insight into how I see this deployment, I hope reviewing this will also serve as a good reminder to myself what it is that I signed up for when I said, “Yes, OK G-d. You win.”

אשירה ליהוה - Ashirah l’Ad-nai

I will sing to The Source.

“Holy One of Blessing  you gave me my voice. Now show me what to do with it!”

Years of doubt….  Is singing really my path?

With years of prayer… Clarity came.

With this clarity came a master’s degree in music, and tours here and abroad.

I thought I had my marching orders….

Then further clarity!

It seems G-d had more thoughts on the matter.

“What do you do?” A normal question.

When I answer, inquirers are often surprised. “You’re allowed to do that?”

I suppose they missed some years of egalitarian trends in liberal Judaism.

Or  they’ll ask: “What does it mean? What do you , a hazzan, a cantor, actually DO?

What do I do? I’ll try and explain...

I am a swimmer. I swim in the river of song.

I am a jeweler. I craft golden links between us and the Mystery we seek.

I am an architect designing rooms inside the Palace of Time.

I am a decorator. I adorn these rooms with filigree of sound.

I am an archer, when I aim for the silence.

I am an electrician! I repair faulty wiring and restore short circuits.

I am a paver. I lay stones for those who pray with their feet!

I am a doula, as I accompany seekers through the tight places of transition.

I am a douser. I sing water from flinty hearts.

I am a sounding board. .. a vessel. … a channel… a mirror.

אשירה ליהוה - Ashirah l’Ad-nai

I sing G-d’s songs. I am…  a Hazzan.

Shabbat Shalom


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