למען יזמרך כבוד ולא ידם, ה׳ אלהי לעולם אודך
So that my soul may sing praises to You and not be silent; Eternal, my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
I chose this verse for the atarah (neck band) of my ordination tallit because it, more than any other piece of Torah, has followed me throughout my journey in cantorial school. On one level it is a very personal reminder of my roots in Modern Orthodoxy, where I desperately wanted to be a religious leader but saw no path to becoming one. In leaving the Orthodox community, I was following my soul’s desire to sing and not be silent. And yet, I will forever give thanks for the deep love of and commitment to Judaism that I learned in that community.
On another level, this verse represents what I hope to create for every person whom I serve as a cantor: a space in which their soul can sing and not be silent. Music is my vocation, but I don’t want be the only one who sings. Rather, I hope to help others find their own voices, musically or otherwise, and add those new voices to the ongoing textual and musical traditions of our people. I hope, too, that I can play some small part in bringing about a more inclusive and just world; in creating communities where each person can sing the true song of their own soul, and where no one’s voice is silenced.
—Cantor Sarah Bolts, May 2016