Today was exactly what I needed to get back on the "being a cantor is a wonderful thing" bandwagon.
Today, 11 cantorial students and 14 rabbinical students went from being ordinary people, to extraordinary cantors and rabbis.
The ceremony was so beautiful; tons of good music (yours truly sang in the choir, and several of our amazing faculty sang special blessings and/or wrote music in honor of the class), lots of family members and friends, and beautiful blessings from the entire HUC community. The process of being invested or ordained is also quite lovely; one-by-one students are called up to the ark and given a special blessing by the HUC-JIR President, Rabbi David Ellenson. He spoke to each student while the student's choice of song was played on the organ, with his hands placed gently on each student's cheeks, later giving them each a kiss on the forehead and a big hug of congratulations.
The ceremony was so unlike my high school and college graduations; there was so much emotion in the air. After 5 years of school, I'd imagine one is ready to get out into the world and be an amazing cantor or rabbi. However, you're also saying goodbye to the friends and teachers who've been with you every step of the way.
And now instead of being friends and/or teachers, you're also colleagues. Weird to think about, but also kind of awesome.
It's also the realization of your wildest dreams; you're no longer planning on going to cantorial school or studying to become a cantor--you ARE a cantor. How cool must that be?
I spent the majority of today's service in tears. I've come to know and like these new cantors as I've enjoyed watching and/or participating in their recitals and sharing many a pracitcum discussion with them. They are amazing people and will make such necessary and great changes in the Jewish world. But more than that, I realized that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel, a reason for struggling through comps and history papers and public transportation that's never on time.
Is it weird that I'm already envisioning Rabbi Ellenson's hands on my face, seeing my family, C-Squad members, and favorite faculty member beaming with pride, knowing that I've already accomplished my biggest life goal?
That vision is one I've needed for awhile now. And it's one that will carry me through terrible semesters like this one, not to mention finals and comps and apartment problems.
Throughout this rotten semester, I've spent a lot of time questioning my reasons for being here.
Feeling like I wasn't strong enough, good enough, talented enough to make it in the big, bad cantorial world.
Wondering if I had a place in this Jewish world that sometimes seems to put cantors on the backburner.
Worried about my own future and the future of the cantorate as a whole.
Today I remembered why I am here, and I became excited again to serve the Jewish people and to sing to God with gladness.
Most importantly, I remembered just how special this profession is. I get to sing my heart out to God on behalf of my people, bringing God's presence into their lives in a way that simple speech or reading never could. That fact alone is all I need to pull me through the roughest times of cantorial school and life in New York City.
Well, that and my ever-expanding list of song choices for my Investiture 3 years from now, of course :-)