Twelve Names for the Chazzan

My teacher, Chazzan Macy Nulman, has written that the one who leads the tefilla “has been known throughout history by twelve different names in three different languages”. This fascinating insight into the nomenclature of the Chazzan over the centuries reinforces the historical and liturgical importance of this vocation to many generations of Jewish communities throughout Israel and the Diaspora.

“In English he is called cantor, precentor and reader. In Hebrew he is known as Chazzan, Sheliah Tzibbur, Baal Tefillah, and kerobah. In Germany he was called obercantor, vorbeter, vorsinger, schulsinger, and sangmeister”. For the position of assistant to the Chazzan, or for those who conducted the lesser important services, Chazzan Nulman cites the names of “baal shacharit, hazzan -sheni (untercantor) and matchil”.
Two final names for the Chazzan, which he refers to as “subtitles” are “baal musaf and hazzan-rishon (hazzan elyon)”. Whatever name one chooses to use, I am proud to be your Chazzan and hope to daven with you for many more years!


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