By Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller
At Bet Am Shalom our communal singing marks our spiritual moments, from the peak, extraordinary ones to the mundane, “week in and week out” regular ones. We proclaim the sacred, lofty words we would not otherwise have the courage or conviction to “say” by ourselves. We lift each other higher in the harmonies of joyful niggunim, yet we also “bring each other close” to a private, inner place through hushed tones sung as softly as a sigh or lullaby. When we hear each other’s tears through chanting Mizmor L’David in Yizkor after the Mourners’ Kaddish, we give one another permission to face the loss and somehow express the sadness within.
Our songs mark the “arrival points” in our davening, such as in Sim Shalom of Shabbat morning, Od’cha of Hallel, and B’rosh Hashanah of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We usher in the mood and tone of each season, from Maoz Tsur of Chanukah, Adir Hu of Pesach, to Kol Nidre of Yom Kippur, all through our music.
We are indeed “raised up” in such moments. I am uplifted and inspired by our song-filled prayer. I am regularly reminded that we can dare to pray to God, with our imperfect, yet heart-filled voices. Such expression takes a community; lovingly granting one another the r’shut, literally, the sacred permission to sing with our fullest, most authentic selves.