My First Chazzanut Experience, by Sue Pearl
On Shabbat I had one of the most profoundly moving experiences of my life. You see, for the first time in my life, I led part of a Shabbat service in my first ever Partnership Minyan. The Minyan took place in the home of one of my friends, and she knew I had always wanted to be a Chazanit. A PM follows the regular orthodox Shabbat service and where, Halachically permissible, woman take the service.
At the Partnership Minyan there is a mechitza (men and woman sit separately) and married woman cover their hair. Its the exact same service as is followed at every other orthodox synagogue round the world. However, there are also differences. There are certain parts of the service where woman are permitted to lead. And lead we did! The beautiful clear voice of a woman starting the service with the blessings (Pesukei DeZimra). Easy to follow, no mumbling and enunciated so clearly it was a joy to follow. A gentleman took over till “the Torah service”. And this, my friends, was my part! From Ein Kemocha through to Chadesh Yomeinu Kekedem was my baby! Finally a chazanit and not just a congregant singing (and being hushed or glared at) in the women’s section. The whole congregation joined in and for the first time in my life I felt truly part of the service. I was handed the Sefer Torah and literally had to choke back tears of emotion. Cleared my voice and pronounced “Shema Yisroel” “listen o Israel”. And listen they did, and responded too!
The leining was started by a man who obviously knew what he was reading. Every word pronounced clearly. How many times have I listened to the readings with only half an ear because I was bored or disconnected? Not this time. He lived the portion. Every word meant something and it was like listening to a brilliantly acted story. After the first three call ups, it was time for the woman to take over. Women read from the Torah, were called up and special blessings made. I am so impressed by the aptitude of those women. Their Torah reading was possibly the best I have ever heard. Every single note was adhered to. Every word enunciated clearly. Not one mistake or hesitation. Incredible.
A woman read the prayer for the State of Israel. And with great joy I sang the blessing for the new month, followed by the concluding prayers and putting the Torah away. I was actually shaking with emotion when I sang “Chadesh Yomeinu KeKedem”.
A man took Mussaph and two girls sang Anim Zemirot.
Thank you to my wonderful friend who invited me to be a chazanit. I’m looking forward to the next PM – and maybe someone will teach me how to sing the Haftara.