A secular person must not be allowed to serve as a cantor at a synagogue, Shas
spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled. If the synagogue manager erroneously allows it, worshippers had better go back home and pray alone – rather than take part in such a quorum.
In honor of the High Holidays, Shas journal Yom LeYom published a collection of relevant halachic rulings made by the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic leader.
"A person who commits an offense, such as shaving his beard with a knife, must not be appointed as a cantor. And even leading a prayer by chance, for example on the anniversary of his parents' death – is forbidden," the rabbi was quoted as saying.
"Moreover if he desecrates Shabbat, even if not defiantly, he is disqualified from leading a prayer. And if the synagogue managers are not properly religious and appoint such a person as a cantor, each of the congregation members had better pray at home on their own rather than pray at the synagogue with such a criminal cantor."
Rabbi Yosef called on synagogues to hire regular paid cantors in a bid to prevent such a mishap.
"It is more fitting to take a paid cantor than a voluntary cantor, because in a place where the cantor is regular and receives a salary, he makes certain to arrive for prayers on time and is very cautious in leading the prayer… If it were free, anyone would jump on the opportunity."
The collection also contained a ruling, which the rabbi voiced in one of his weekly sermons last month, that a person who educates his children in non-religious institutions is disqualified from serving as cantor, as are judges in civilian courts and those who appear before them.