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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
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Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part IX)


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Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shmoneh Esreh out loud so that people who may not know how to daven can fulfill their obligation to daven with the chazzan’s repetition. What, however, should the chazzan do when he reaches Kedushah and Modim? I hear some chazzanim say every word of Kedushah out loud and some only say the last part of the middle two phrases out loud. As far as the congregation is concerned, I hear some congregants say every word of Kedushah and some say only the last part. Finally, some chazzanim and congregants say Modim during chazaras hashatz out loud and some say it quietly. What is the source for these various practices?

A Devoted Reader
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 124:1) explains that a chazzan repeats Shmoneh Esreh out loud to fulfill the prayer obligation of those who can’t pray on their own (see Rosh Hashana 33b-34a).

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that congregants should not recite Nakdishach [Nekadesh] together with the chazzan; rather they should remain silent and concentrate on the chazzan’s recitation until he finishes that portion, at which point they should say, “Kadosh, kadosh…” The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. sk1) explains that congregants should remain quiet because the chazzan is their messenger, and if they say Nakdishach along with him, he no longer appears as their messenger.

Many do not follow the correct responsive procedure for Kedushah, and since the practice is widespread, it may have to be overlooked (Berachot 45a). If the congregants will miss z’man tefillah, however, the Rema (Orach Chayim 124:2) writes that they should quietly recite along with the chazzan until after Kedushah. At least one person who already prayed, even a child, should answer “Amen” to the chazzan’s blessings to substantiates the shlichut of the chazzan. Those praying with the chazzan may not respond “Amen.”

Another prayer style when time is pressing is as follows: The chazzan begins the Amidah, and after “HaKel HaKadosh,” everyone begins their silent Amidah (while the chazzan continues quietly with his own Amidah). (See Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 124 sk8.) This procedure is commonly performed for Mincha, especially in yeshivot.

The tefillah of Modim within the Amidah is so important that Berachot 21b instructs one who arrives late (after kedushah, explains Orach Chayim 109:1) to begin praying only if he will conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim. Tosafot explain that one must bow with the congregation at Modim in order that he not appear as a denier of G-d to whom they are praying (see Rabbenu Tam, Tosafot s.v. “ad sh’lo yagia…” Berachot 21b).

Rabbi Soloveitchik (as cited in Nefesh Horav by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, p. 128-129) notes that the congregation must listen to Modim of the chazzan and compares the question of what congregants should do during Modim to the question of what congregants should do during during Birkat Kohanim, as discussed in Sotah 39b-40a. Rabbi Soloveitchick suggested that the chazzan recite the beginning of Modim out loud, pause for the congregants’ Modim D’Rabbanan, and then continue with his Modim blessing out loud.

Birkat Kohanim is part of chazaras hashatz but is said by kohanim (unless none are present in which case the chazzan says it). Bnei Ashkenaz in the diaspora do not have kohanim duchan other than on yomim tovim. The chazzan says it all other times. We only answer “Amen,” however, when kohanim say it (Orach Chayim 127:2, citing the Rambam, Hilchot Tefillah 15:10).

We now discuss the prayer “Ribbono Shel Olam” that the congregation recites during Birkat Kohanim.

* * * * *

Answer: The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 130:1) states, “One who has a dream, and does not understand what he saw, should stand before the kohanim at the time they go up to the duchan and recite as follows: ‘Ribbono shel olam… Master of the world, I am yours and my dreams are yours.’ ”

The full text, as found in Berachot 55b, continues, “I dreamt a dream, and I do not know what it relates. Whether I dreamt regarding myself, or whether my fellow dreamt about me, or whether I dreamt about others – if the dreams are good, strengthen them and support them like the dreams of Joseph the righteous. If they are in need of healing, heal them like the waters of Marah that were healed through the hand of Moses our teacher and like Miriam [who was cured] from her tzora’at, like [King] Hezekiah [who was cured] from his sickness and like the waters of Jericho [that were healed] by Elisha. And just as You turned the curse of the wicked Balaam into a blessing, so turn all my dreams into something good for me.”

The Mechaber writes that “one should take care to conclude his prayer together with the kohanim, to whose blessing the congregation responds ‘Amen.’ If, however, one cannot, one should say this: ‘Adir Bamarom… You who are majestic on high, abiding in power, You are peace and your Name is Peace. May it be your will, to bestow peace upon us.’ ”

The Mishnah Berurah (sk1-2, citing the Taz and Magen Avraham) states: “In our lands [Ashkenaz], it is the custom for the entire congregation to recite this [“Ribbono shel olam”] prayer while the kohanim duchan – even those who did not dream.” The reason given is that since kohanim only duchan on festivals in Ashkenaz, it is impossible that in the time between one festival and another one did not have a good or bad dream.

He further notes (sk 4) that this prayer should be recited three times in the course of Birkat Kohanim – once after “ve’yishmerecha,” a second time after “vichuneka,” and a third time after “shalom.” We repeat “Ribbono shel olam” three times, the Mishnah Berurah explains, because the conclusion of this prayer contains three requests which correspond with the three sections of Birkat Kohanim. “V’tishmereini – May you preserve me” corresponds with “v’yishmerecha – and He shall preserve you”; “u’techaneini – may You be gracious to me” corresponds to “vi’chuneka – and He shall show you His grace”; and “v’tirtzeini – may You accept me favorably” corresponds to “shalom – the bestowal of peace” (which is always given in a favorable manner).

The Mishnah Berurah notes that our prayer books do not correspond with these instructions since it prints a “Yehi Ratzon” for the congregation to say during the third section, rather than the “Ribbono shel olam” prayer.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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