The Elderly Cantor
TOLD BY MOTEL ADAR
When the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created the world, He assembled all His creatures and assigned them their allotted life span—forty years to each—as well as their tasks on earth. When it was the horse's turn, that animal asked the Holy One, Blessed Be He, "What will my labor be?"
"Human beings will ride on you," replied the Holy One, Blessed Be He.
"If that is what I have been created for," replied the horse, "twenty years are enough."
After the horse came the donkey. He too asked what his task would be. When he heard that he would carry heavy loads on his back he, too, asked to be exempted from twenty years of such toil.
Finally the cantor entered and asked what his mission would be. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, replied, "Yours will be a clean and easy job— singing melodiously."
When the cantor heard this he asked that his years be augmented. What did the Holy One, Blessed Be He, do? He gave him the twenty years returned by the horse and the twenty years returned by the donkey.
And this is why until the age of forty a cantor sings with the voice of a cantor. But when he passes forty he starts neighing like a horse—and eventually he brays like a donkey!