Chazzan

Chazzan, hazzan (Hebrew: “cantor”) – in ancient Judaism, a community official performing a variety of functions.

Some of his tasks comprised retrieving the Torah scrolls from the Torah Ark at the synagogue and sounding a horn to announce the coming of the Shabbat. During the period of the Geonim (7th–9th century), the chazzan became a synagogue official required to be familiar with the entire Jewish liturgy, be able to sing responsories, and recite liturgical poetry. In the Middle Ages, the importance of the chazzan saw a significant increase, with many eminent rabbis also performing the function.

Today, the duties of the chazzan include conducting prayers during public services as well as singing responsories alternately with the faithful gathered in the synagogue. He is often referred to as shaliah tzibbur – emissary of the congregation, as he leads prayers requiring a minyan on behalf of the crowd. After the faithful have quietly recited the Amidah, the chazzan repeats it aloud.

A chazzan must possess an excellent knowledge of liturgical literature and a singing talent; in addition, he must also be a married man and wear a beard. He should be an upstanding member of the community; even if he loses his voice, he continues to be financially supported by the community council. With the development of liturgical music, vocal abilities of chazzanim have steadily increased in importance. Many cantors have seen great success and widespread esteem.

 

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