A Broken Heart

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


In a town near the city of Premislan there lived a rich Jew who was—as wealthy people are want to be—both opinionated and obstinate.

One year, he unequivocally informed his community that he was going to be the chazzan for the Days of Awe. While the community was not happy with this decision, they were fearful to outwardly protest, not knowing what would be the financial repercussion.

Instead, they sent agents to the Rebbe, R. Meir of Premislan, to seek his guidance on how to proceed with the matter of their unwanted chazzan.

The tzadik told them that being that the custom was that the chazzanim would visit the Rebbe before the High-Holidays, surely the self-appointed chazzan would come as well. “When he comes,” said the Rebbe, “I will straighten out the situation.”

When the affluent chazzan-to-be entered the Rebbe’s study to seek his blessing, the Rebbe told him the following:

“In Psalms, there are three expressions of prayer: ‘A prayer of Moshe[1],’ ‘A prayer of Dovid[2],’ and ‘A prayer of a poor man[3].’”

The Rebbe went on to explain that embedded in these three expressions regarding prayer, is the secret to a chazzan’s success.

“There is one chazzan,whose prayers bear fruit because he is a tzadik of the likes of Moshe. Another is successful because he knows how to sing in a melodious voice like Dovid. Then there is a third type of chazzan who is neither righteous, nor does he know how to sing, but he too, is successful in his prayers because he has a broken heart like a pauper.”

“You,” said the Rebbe, “are neither righteous, nor do you know the art of singing. If you still wish to be a chazzan, you will have no other choice but to become a pauper.”

“No, no!” cried the wealthy man, “I’d rather abnegate the position than become a pauper.”

[1] Psalms 90:1

[2] Psalms 17:1

[3] Psalms 102:1

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