This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazon, so named after the opening of the haftarah. Magnificent in its language, but tragic in its implications, the passage begins with the words Chazon Yeshayahu, “The Vision of Isaiah”.
Chazon comes from the same root as chazan, a cantor. The original chazan was not necessarily a singer but the overseer of the synagogue. As his role changed, so did the philosophy of the chazan. The original chazan looked at things as they were, the new chazan as things as they could be. In other words, the chazan became a visionary.
What visions should (or does) a chazan see? Loving his people despite all their (and his) failings and follies, he sees a vision of bringing heaven onto earth and earth up to heaven. He sees God and man at one with each other. He sees human beings rising above their limitations and becoming, in the rabbis’ phrase, true partners with God in the work of creation.
The chazan believes the almost impossible can be changed. That is why he prays with and for his congregation with such fervour, urgency and faith.