Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Is The Amud For Everybody?

I'll admit it: I'm an amud snob.  I don't think just anyone who wants to lead services should do so.
I'm not the worst snob though.  My personal requirements are limited.  I think a person who leads services should believe in God, have a decent command of Hebrew and be able to carry a tune.  Am I asking too much?
In the shul I daven in, apparently I am.
Perhaps it's just me but when people who fail to meet the qualifications I just mentioned go up to lead services it grates on my nerves.  A few years ago, for example, we had a guy saying kaddish for his mother.  This is a gentleman who will happily explain to you why he doesn't believe in God, the hereafter, etc.  When asked why he was making the effort to come to shul every day to lead services and say kaddish he said he was doing it in memory of his mother.  Not because she was watching from the Heaven he didn't believe it but because he thinks it's what she would have wanted.
Would you want to be part of a congregational service lead by this guy?
And then this weekend it got worse.  On Friday afternoon one of the teens in the congregation who belongs to a Frum-for-fun (see prior posts for explanation) family decided he wanted to lead Mincha.  He decided this and was given the opportunity despite barely being able to have read Hebrew and (I overheard him saying this after) not even having looked over the Amidah he had to repeat out loud.  He stumbled over pretty much every word except "Baruch attah" and a couple of times looked over at the Rav and asked "Did I say that right?" 
And then on motzei Shabbos we had another congregant who is now starting to say kaddish for a parent.  A nice guy from the FFF crowd he also can barely read Hebrew and stumbled over almost every word.
Give me some credit.  I sat patiently through both "performances' without saying anything but by the end of it I felt like someone was dragging their nails across the chalkboard.
The leading of services should be something special.  A shaliach tzibur isn't just up there because he has a chiyuv or because it's "his turn" but to serve as the spiritual uniter for the congregation's prayers.  Shouldn't that mean meeting some kind of minimum standard of competence instead of giving over to anyone who wants it as a form of outreach or keeping people interested?
Or is it just me?

10 comments:

Michael Sedley said...

You should get together with Nusach Freak (http://nusachfreak.blogspot.co.il/) he wants to institute a Gabbai-Gong to gong sub-standard shlichei tzibur from the stage - I mean Amud.

Princess Lea said...

Unless someone out-and-out says so, one cannot claim to know if someone else believes in God. In your case, yes, he said he doesn't, but was still saying kaddish for his mother. He will be saying it for a year (hopefully) and who knows what sort of difference that will make in the long run?

There are people out there who fast on Yom Kippur but don't keep much else. That is also a madrega.

Look, I am a daughter of a baal tefilah and baal korei. Luke is also a baal tefilah. There is nothing I hate worse than a guy going up there and not knowing what he is doing.

But there is a difference between saying kaddish (required) and davening for the amud (not required). (I thought those in the year can't daven for the amud, unless you mean it is the yartzheit?)

In the cases of someone who can't say Hebrew properly, it is more that I am embarrassed for them. Seriously, why would they put themselves in that sort of situation that advertises their lack of proficiency? Does no one have busha?

FrumGeek said...

Perhaps they ARE embarressed, but have no choice in the matter. I know a guy who can't read hebrew well, but had to daven for the amud anyway, b/c he promised his dad he would do so after he passed away.

The Professor said...

As my great grandfather obm once out it "אז זיין טאטע איז געשטארבן איז ער געווארן א יתום נישט א חזן".

Re people who are not qualified to go up due to spiritual matters, it does bother me. There is this guy that loves going as chazan in the shul I daven in who will tell you straight out he does not believe in G-d. Additionally, he trims his beard (which I understand does not mean anything to most people, however, as he was born and raised a lubavitcher, and still considers himself one it does show on a definite lack of yiras shamayim). He loves the sound of his voice however, and therefore goes as chazan all the time. I get rather uncomfortable when he goes up...

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Michael: A gong? I love it!
Princess: actually someone in avelus, either during the shloshim or the 11 months has a chiyuv to lead services on weekedays. Just not on Shabbos or holidays unless there's no one else qualified. And no, the kid had no insight. He thought he did pretty well actually!

Shira Salamone said...

Well, since we're talkin' Ortho here, obviously the Amud isn't for *me," which makes it all the more upsetting when I know that even I, the world's slowest davvener, could do a better job than the guy leading. For the record, our chazzan's voice is not much better than mine--he just *thinks* he's Yosele Rosenblatt. :(

JRKmommy said...

Well, the fact that those in avelus have a chiyuv to lead weekday services says it all, doesn't it?

In your congregation, that obligation takes precedence over more subjective factors.

In your example of the mourner who was just "doing it for his mother", who asked him why he was doing it? Depending on the personalities involved and how the question came up, I can see it potentially coming across as being really insensitive. Instead of questioning someone's motives, I think it's more useful to give someone credit for at least following this mitzvah, and perhaps see it as a sign of the "pintele Yid" being expressed. [In plain English - see this is the Jewish soul deep within being expressed even if there are surface issues clouding his relationship with G-d.]

T.P.V said...

Some shuls wont let any chiyuv daven unless hes approved.

Copy and paste, frum sites boring you?

Friar Yid said...

I think the most important requirements for a service leader are ability (Hebrew and tune) and, for lack of a better term, middos-- which is to say, don't honor someone who engages in bad behavior by elevating them over other members of the community.

Theological positions, IMO, are not relevant to the position. The leader is not wrapping everyone else's prayers and Fed-Exing them to God. Your prayers will not get lost in the mail if they have a crappy voice, or Heaven forbid, don't believe the correct theology. I don't believe that's how prayer works (starting, of course, from the premise that prayer "works" at all).

As I see it, the leader's role should be to inspire others to daven with as much spirit, sincerity or purpose as they can. If they are able to do this, it shouldn't matter what they believe. As I understand it, the focus for Jews is on actions, not beliefs. We don't have a thought police or a telepathy reader. How can you *really* know what someone believes in or is thinking about during davening, or leining, or giving a drash, or studying Talmud, or anything else? For all you know your shaliach tzibur could be fantasizing about bacon, or your rebbe could be planning his next vacation, or your Torah reader could be picturing Noah on a surfboard. I just don't see it as a useful (or measurable) metric to focus on.

Sorry if I seem overly pedantic on this point. I'm leading Kabbalat Shabbat at my shul this week :)

Daniel B. Schwartz said...

http://www.jewishideas.org/articles/i-dread-going-shul