Sitting in shul, listening to the awesome chazzan singing his haunting melodies, I was transported back years. Growing up we attended Machzikei Hadas shul in Golders Green, London. Every year Mr David Bakst, may his memory be blessed, was the appointed chazzan for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur davening. He wasn’t a youngster then, but he was always able to still be standing and davenning for the Amud by Neilah on Yom Kippur.
The tunes that he sang are the default yomtov tunes in my head. They are different tunes from those sang here in most North American shuls that I have attended. He davened with such emotion and longing.
When he did the Tefillah Zacah, the prayer before the Mussaf amidah, where the prayer is about how awesome a responsibility it is that he has been appointed to represent the congregation – his voiced cracked, and the hairs on our arms stood on end. He made us feel the solemnity of the occasion. Even if one had no knowledge of Hebrew or prayer, one would have felt the right emotions through the power of his voice. One really felt he was communing directly with God. Even as a young child his davenning made a huge impact on my soul. He is someone I will never forget.