O.C. 53:4 says that one of the requirements for a "proper" shaliach tzibbur (shat"z) is that he have a "pleasant voice". (There are other qualities included.)

53:5 states that if one cannot find all the qualities for "proper", one should choose someone who is wise and has an abundance of good deeds. Rama adds that if they find an aged ignoramus who has a pleasant voice, and the people prefer him, they should use him.

I'm uncertain if the term "pleasant voice" equates with "musical skill" meaning at the least, the ability to sing on tune.

In much of Europe, esp. Vienna, they trained chazzanim in musical ability. Many of these "professional" chazzanim immigrated to the U.S., and many shuls specifically hired such chazzanim. This practice was quite common in U.S. shuls until about approximately 30 years ago, when it rapidly declined.

Considering that O.C. does not specifically mention that the shaliach tzibbur needs to be a "musical maestro", what was the main motive for training chazzanim to incorporate musical talent and for shuls to seek out this quality in a shaliach tzibbur? Was its motive to get the congregation more involved in joining in the prayers (which seems to contradict the true meaning of a "shaliach" which implies that he is appointed as your "messenger") or motivated by a career choice so that such people would be more likely to be hired by a shul?

  • FWIW, in some parts of Europe, knowledge of the material was more important than musical ability. Yossele Rosenblatt left the Hamburger Kahal because he wasn't allowed to embellish his chazzanus following the style he'd learned (Galitzianer chazzanus). guesswhoscoming2dinner.blogspot.com/2010/10/… – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 16 '17 at 14:54
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    I do not see anywhere in your question that proves that musical skill is neccessesary? – Gershon Gold Jun 16 '17 at 14:56
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    @GershonGold Yes. I'm not saying that it's necessary. I'm stating that it seems to have become high priority. Part of the question is whether the Mishnah Brurah's definition of "pleasant voice" includes musical skill. – DanF Jun 16 '17 at 15:20
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    Perhaps in some synagogues. However just because some places want a Chazan that has musical skill does not make it a part of the shaliach Tzibburs job. Thus I think your question is unclear. – Gershon Gold Jun 16 '17 at 16:00
  • Seems pretty hard to answer, social conventions shift, and it is difficult to pinpoint a particular reason, as different individuals who form that society ca have different reasons. While I didn't VTC, the vote does not seem unreasonable. – mevaqesh Jun 16 '17 at 16:32

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