by Cantor Lorna Wallach
According to the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) a Cantor should have a beard, which, in those times, was considered a sign of piety. Thirty five years ago when I decided to apply to Cantorial school, if I had taken this literally, I would not be serving as CBI’s or anybody’s Cantor right now! Now 30 years after graduating from the Cantorial School at The Jewish Theological Seminary, I am excited to share with you, my beloved CBI community, that I have been invited by the Chancellor of JTS, Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz (the 1st woman to serve as Chancellor in JTS’s 135 year history!) to receive an Honorary Doctorate in Jewish Music. I feel truly honored to be amongst 36 distinguished colleagues to be recognized for our contributions to our congregations and to the Conservative Movement at a special convocation ceremony which will take place on February 2nd at 3:30 p.m. Anyone who is interested can register at https://inspired.jtsa.edu/cantorialconvocation2022 and watch it on Livestream.
Honor is an important value in Judaism. We not only honor God, but we are also commanded to honor our parents, and to honor all of God’s creations, the earth, our teachers, the elderly, and we honor our Biblical ancestors (in our prayers).
In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), at the end of Mishna 1 of Chapter 4, Ben Zoma says, “Who is honored? Those who honor others.” It is natural for people to seek honor from their fellow human beings. However, the rabbis consistently warn that honor cannot be acquired by one who pursues it. In fact, the sages warn that if you pursue honor, it will flee from you. (Midrash Tanhuma) They also offer the opposite maxim that if you flee from honor, the honor pursues you.
There is a Ladino proverb that says, “Honor is more appropriate for those who share it than for those who hoard it.” I didn’t seek out this honor from JTS, but I humbly and sincerely share it with all of you in the CBI community. While serving as your Hazzan (Cantor) these past 23 years, each of you (and your children!) has given me the opportunity to be your Sh’lichat Tzibbur (literally “the messenger of the community”), and to teach you, guide you, rejoice with you, comfort you and to help you achieve heightened spirituality and feel a closer connection to the Divine. And you have been my teachers as well. With your support, feedback and patience, I have (I hope!) continued to hone my skills and to do my best to serve the needs of the congregation.
It is my hope that as your Cantor, I will have the wisdom and sensitivity to continue to be able to inspire you in prayer and Jewish learning, to build and deepen relationships within our community, and to have the privilege of being part of your lives and special lifecycle events for many more years to come!
Mazal Tov on our special honor from JTS and thank you for sharing it with me!
To contact Cantor Wallach, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column first appeared in the January/February 2022 edition of The Bulletin.