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5 people every shul must have to survive
by David Sheril
1. The Candyman
The candyman deserving of this list is the gentleman who does the job properly. He doesn’t chat to the children during davening, but smiles warmly and hands them a candy when they excitedly arrive at his seat to wish him a soft-spoken “Good Shabbos” and collect their reward. If he’s a real pro, lollipops (a.k.a. candy on a stick) will be his weapon of choice so that each child will be so engrossed with trying to fit the whole thing in his/her mouth they will forget the primary reasons their fathers brought them to shul in the first place – A. To disrupt the services. B. So that their mothers, back at home, will be driven a little less crazy.
G-d bless the candyman for instilling even an arbitrary reason in 5 year olds to come to Shul on Shabbos.
2. The “Shusher”
Before I expound on this personality, I must again make a distinction. I praise the “shusher” who aids the decorum of a Shul. But the overly zealous nut, who hisses at you every time you as much as cough, has no place in my ideal congregation. Now back to business.
“The Shusher” is the (usually) self appointed Guardian of the Noise Level. Rather than disrupt the flow of davening/leining with a Wimbledon umpire-like “quiet please”, he prefers to use the fast but potent hissing sound so familiar to us all. Sure, there was a large chunk of your life during which you hated this man with a passion, but by now you understand the importance and sanctity of not talking incessantly during davening. Let’s be honest – it’s thanks to this individual’s vehement shushing (often partnered with an icy stare) that even the most pioneering yapper is silenced. Also, his accepting this duty relieves you of this somewhat unpopular chore, making sure that it’s not your tires slashed or house burnt down when Purim comes around.
3. The All-Star Chazzan
This individual is kept in the figurative dugout for that shacharis + hallel situation. Never one to schlep (very important!), nor obsessed with hearing the sound of his own voice, this chazzan delivers a well paced davening full of upbeat, fun tunes which are popular/traditional enough that everyone knows them and can sing along (see article “10 people every Shul has, and shouldn’t” under category “Unknown Tune Chazzan”). This person almost single-handedly keeps the “geshmak” in davening time and again, and should be highly appreciated for his efforts.
4. The Professional Gabbai
While it’s true that these men are usually veterans with a good half decade or so of the job under their belt, but that doesn’t deter from my point. This individual is the essence of a smooth running service. He knows who’s going to lead which tefillah and who’s getting which aliyah (with only a cursory glance at the “gabbai files” ahead of time, to remind himself of the prospective oleh’s name). He calls people to the Torah in a loud, clear voice and delivers 5 “Mi Shebeirach”s in 45 seconds flat, including within them everyone from the oleh’s wife to their best friends pet. This is the top of the Shul’s true hierarchy, the real man in charge.
5. The Particular Ba’al Koreh
By particular I mean a man who is “makpid” on correct pronunciation, and even knows some basic Hebrew grammar. Here’s a newsflash for 75% of self-proclaimed ba’alei koreh out there: the “trop” (cantillation) is secondary to knowing which syllable of a word is emphasized, using the correct vowel and, most importantly, being meticulous that a beis is read a beis, and a veis (without the dot) is pronounced a veis (same goes for kaf and chaf).
Most people (myself included) want the pace of the guy leining to average twice the speed of sound, but if those supersonic words are mispronounced, you might as well abolish leining entirely!
The flip side of that (at least for me) is that if the person leining is first-rate, I don’t really mind their speed, but if their able to incorporate all the above and deliver at a clipped pace, then more power to them!
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