I spent this Yom Kippur at my father-in-law’s shul. The Chazzan there has a better combination of nusach and sweet voice than any of the Baalei Batim that I grew up davening with. He doesn’t shlep, doesn’t repeat words and is truly a joy to listen to.
[And yet, as in years past, I found myself with tears in my eyes during some of my favorite piyutim because I missed davening next to my father.]
But back to the Chazzan. Unfortunately, the administration of the shul doesn’t seem to get it. They’ll push the start time of Mincha so far back, let the chazzan mincha shlep so badly and then do the most revolting of time wasters (I’ll get to this in a second) that by the time Ne’ilah starts, the chazzan has about 45 minutes. And he inevitably has to hurry. (Because he is a mentsh, and respects the shul’s and people’s time. He will do whatever he can not to go over). And the shul with the chazzan that brings people in from all over the community just to listen to wastes him with a Ne’ilah that has no oomph, has no power, because it is hurried. (He also hurries the end of Mussaf because they have to do so much extra stuff during layning.)
So what is this repugnant time waster? Well, right before Ne’ilah, the president of the shul stands at the pulpit, and begins to read a list of thank-yous to everyone that has helped the shul over the year. Certainly, this is a nice idea, and these people deserve respect and thanks. I, however, fervently maintain that right before Ne’ilah is NOT the time. And believe me when I say they thank everyone. This shul has a million different committees (everything that needs to get done has a committee. Thay practically have a “Men’s Urinal Cake Committee”) and every comittee has two chairs that get a thank you and several other people. And then they announce the Simchas Torah Chasanim. It really bothers me the way this shul is so involved in kavod that it has to do things like this at the expense of actual davening. (Another pet peeve: they do the chasanim before layning on Simchas Torah. For the only apparent reason: so that people are around for the chasanim, and don’t leave after their aliyah. What do you get? You get your aliyah after v’zos habracha is finished, Breishis started, maftir and the haftorah read. It is so backwards, it really bugs me. And they don’t even see it. Just so that everyone pays attention to the chasanim. Because of the kavod. Ick.)
In years past, this committee announcement came at the expense of a Rabbi’s speech. That’s right. My inspirational words before Ne’ilah were “We’d like to thank the Chairman of the Ice Cream C0mmitte, Plony Almony” (I swear that’s a real committee, though not his real name). Now, with a new Rabbi who is an excellent speaker, I was hoping for a speech. Some words of inspiration to get me in the mood. The Rabbi did speak, and very nicely. I thought we were good to go. Then the President got up. Completely ruined whatever mood the rabbi set. Wasted an extra five minutes. Even had the stones to call out, from the pulpit, to the chazzan that he “had a challenge” basically telling him to move it along.
Let’s sum up quickly: we have a highly qualified, highly paid chazzan, but what’s more important than actual davening is making sure everyone knows who was in charge of giving out ice cream at Shalosh Seudos on summer shabbosim and hears his name, and making sure that we finish on time (which is early by the way. I don’t know what time they use, but that shul ends everything MUCH earlier than everyone else. I’m a little wary of that, BTW.) At the very least (and I mean very) do the announcements before the Rabbi. Alas.
It’s frustrating because they waste the wrong time. I have no problem being in shul for a long time on Yom Kippur. Where else am I going to go? Why not start Minchah 15 minutes earlier? If the break is so important, and someone’s going to hurry, let’s make it the Ba’al HaBos doing Mincha to move it along? Why not cut out the completely inappropriate announcements (do them in Shul on Shabbos Shuva Morning)? Why not stop saying a bunch of extra tehillim (saying Shir HaMa’alos during layning, when we just said it, as instructed, before Borchu of shacharis seems redundant and waters down the value of saying it at all) during layning?
I feel cheated. I feel like my Yom Kippur davening, especially with that Chazzan, could have been so much better. I wonder how long it’ll be before the Chazzan realizes that too, and finds somewhere else to go?