We’re half way there
Livin’ on a prayer

–Bon Jovi

I’m halfway through cantorial school.

I know about variations of Kaddish I never knew existed, tricky pronunciation issues in Biblical Hebrew, and the difference between Mishna and Midrash. Sometimes it feels like the more I learn, the less I know; I’m merely learning the outlines of thing that will take me more time than I have to truly master. I’m too far along to be an amateur, but not quite qualified as a professional.

The biggest thing I may have learned so far is how to listen. Part of this is technical, musical: getting better at singing in tune, knowing if an interval is a major third or minor sixth, hearing the voices of the congregation as I’m leading them. A bigger part of this is learning how to listen to what people are saying: students, colleagues, teachers, even friends and family. It’s been suggested that, as Jewish clergy, we learn this by listening to our texts, and by discussing them, especially in chevruta. My core beliefs about religion, politics, being a good human being haven’t changed so much as how they come through in relationship with others.

Not long ago, someone asked me what type of music I like to make. I didn’t have a good answer—whatever time I had for music, was the music that my teachers wanted me to learn. In the next half of cantorial school, I hope to do more to find my voice—to find my own personal brand of music-making that can give the people I am listening to, something to listen to. 🙂

Sometimes the journey feels like a hike across a valley; I’ve started to climb to the higher peak on the other side. Original photo caption (source): Avalanche Lake (Glacier National Park, Montana) sits at the mouth of a classic U-shaped, glacially-carved valley. NPS Photo/Tim Rains.


2 thoughts on “Halfway”

  1. Marc, this essay resonates very deeply with me although I am nowhere near the halfway mark of anything! The sense of being just knowledgeable enough to be unable to see the shore behind me — but not even close to seeing the shore ahead — well, I guess it adds up that our tradition talks a lot about journeys. We cross the sea on dry land, we cross the desert by a circuitous route, sometimes all we can see is a narrow bridge. Thank you for sharing this wisdom. I’m glad I found your blog.

    1. Halfways comes sooner than you think. Or at least, once I really started full time halfway felt like it came really soon! Yes, journeys that are circuitous with narrow bridges is my life, too.

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