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I bid adieux to my colleague of now 14 years, Cantor Ralph Nussbaum. It has been a joy and an inspiration to work alongside him.
The parasha mentions three functions in regard to Abraham that applies to our Chazan Nussbaum. First, Abraham is a teacher–he even teaches God that so important is hospitality, it is even more important than a private meeting with God. Abraham runs from his audience with God himself to welcome his guests. Thus, Abraham is a teacher, even instructing God himself. Chazan Nussbaum is also a great teacher.
The portion of Torah also mentions that Abraham caers a feast–a mishteh gadol–literally, a festive meal. Customary at festive meals was instrumental and vocal music. I am not sure Abraham sung, but Cantor certainly has embellished and beautified our ritual with his melodies and his chanting. As a musician, as a soloist, as choir director, as teacher, as balabus, as administrator, Chazan Ralph has graced this community for 23 years. We are so very sad to see this relationship come to an end, but we are happy to have been blessed by so many years of his dedication.
I was intrugued when, at the Men's Club Dinner, the Past Presidents awarded him with a decanter and proclaimed him an honorary Men's Club President. It was, as one congregant said, “decanter for de cantor.” It is interesting, though, that there may be a word origin relationship, although I may be completely wrong, etymologically. The root of the wrod "decanter" is to pour, and doesn't a cantor also "pour" out his heart and emotions as his soul "pours" upward the thoughts and aspirations, the petitions and the praises of the congregation? Certainly it can be decisively said that our Cantor Nussbaum poured out his heart for his congregation, in so many ways— in teaching, in his Chesed projects, in his visits to the sick, in his tending to the mourning and needs of our members. He has poured out his energies in so many respects, and yet we saw a maayan mitgaber, an overflowing, continuing spring of energy. It is therefore appropriate that in his words, “excitment fill the air tonight,” as we honor this man, our excellent chazan, both for his professionalism and his menschlichkeit.
For the blessing of clear vision, we thank you
For the blessing of humor and kibbitzing, we thank you
For the blessing of professionalism, we thank you
For the blessing of love of children, we thank you
For the blessing of melody and musicality, we thank you
For the skills of prayer and Haftorah, we thank you
For the blessing of your wisdom, we thank you
For the blessing of love of Torah and being able to convey it, we thank you
For the steady hand of instruction to our adults, we thank you
For the welcoming encouragement as choir director, we thank you.
Baruch ata be voecha o varuch ata betzetecha, Blessed are you and Avrille.
May the blessings you brought as you came into our shul redound upon you in your exit,
May your retirement bring you recuperation, added strength and new horizons.
May it be blessed with the joys of your wonderful family and deep and etched fond memories of your work at ENJC, and many more years of vitality.
We are forever grateful to you, our beloved Cantor, and to this, let us say, Amen. Read More
This article originally appeared on ENJC.org in November, 2015
A QUICK TALMUDIC THOUGHT
I was recently teaching a class and asked the question: "What makes Shabbat holy, restful, peaceful and uplifting?"
My students mostly said that as part of creation, G-d instructs us that the seventh day of the week (Shabbat) should be holy. In the Kiddush prayer that we chant on Friday night, it ends with "Blessed are you G-d, who sanctifies Shabbat....” As is my minhag and custom, trying to always teach in a positive and interactive manner, I complimented all of them and confirmed that all of their answers were "spot on" and beautiful.
I then offered them an explanation shared with me by one of my many teachers who offered the following insight. Shabbat, in of itself, is not really holy as it can be like any other day of the week. In actual fact, it is our actions and committment to G-d that elevates this seventh day of the week to a day of holiness and sanctity! What am I referring to exactly? All other days of the week, we may eat dinner in the kitchen with our cell phones ringing and beeping, everybody rushing to make the next appointment, music and TV blaring in the background, etc. On Friday/Shabbat evening, we can choose to have our dinner in the dining room with a beautifully arranged table, a special and sumptuous dinner, the chanting of the Kiddush, reciting the blessings over the candles, challah and the washing of our hands. Singing beautiful z'mirot and so much more. Consequently, it is our actions that elevate Shabbat to a level of holiness and sanctity. Read More
In November, we had the opportunity as a congregation to say good-bye to our Cantor. In December, many of us will have opportunities to say personal good-byes to a dear friend. Cantor Nussbaum has been a constant presence in our synagogue life. It will be very strange to not see him on the bimah or in the Religious School. I will miss his melodic baritone, "What's going oonnnn?" I will miss his enthusiastic "guess"-timates of attendance at various functions. I will miss the way in which he has always made my family feel welcome and loved in our shul.
If you have not already, I hope that you will have opportunities to wish Ralph well as he and his family embark on this new stage in their lives. Shake his hand. Share a memory. Give him a hug if that feels appropriate. (Just try not to make him cry. He hates that!)
Now, as a community, we must look to the future. We are at once both diminished by our loss and stronger for having had the Nussbaums in our midst. As we adjust to their absence, we will gradually develop a new sense of balance and normalcy.
Shalom, chaverim! See you in shul! Read More