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April 26, 2015 / 7 Iyar, 5775
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Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part II)


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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 Shemoneh Esreh out loud so that people who cannot pray themselves can fulfill their prayer obligation. Those who can pray themselves do not fulfill their obligation with the chazzan’s repetition. Even someone who cannot pray discharges his obligation only when he and at least nine others listen to, and concentrate, on chazarat hashatz, responding “Amen” after each blessing.

In Rosh Hashana 33b-34a, the Sages rule that the chazzan only discharges the obligation of people who do not how to pray themselves. Rabban Gamliel rules that the chazzan discharges the obligation of everyone. Tosafot (Rosh Hashanah 34b s.v. “Kach motzi et habaki”) cites the Ba’al Halachot Gedolot to show that a chazzan’s repetition can discharge the obligation of someone who forgot to say Ya’aleh Veyavo during Shemoneh Esreh on Rosh Chodesh even if he is versed in prayer.

Tosafot dispute this ruling, citing Rabin in the name of R. Yaakov and R. Shimon Chassida, arguing that Rabban Gamliel only ruled that the chazzan discharges the obligation of workers in the fields who are excluded from communal prayer and not of city workers who have breaks. They must pray themselves and cannot rely on the chazzan. Tosafot, however, reconciles the Ba’al Halachot Gedolot’s ruling with that of Rabban Gamliel by stating that the chazzan only fails to discharge the obligation of city workers if they didn’t pray. If they did, their tefillah b’tzibbur obligation is discharged by listening to chazarat hashatz, even if they do not understand it.

The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 124:2) and others agree that those unversed but present for tefillah are no worse than those (like workers in the field) who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to attend prayers; as such, chazarat hashatz discharges their obligation.

* * * * *

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 125:1) states that the congregation does not recite “Nakdishach” together with the chazzan. Rather, it remains silent as it concentrates on the chazzan’s recitation of these words until he reaches kedushah. At that point, the congregation says, “Kadosh, kadosh….”

The Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 125:1) makes a comparison to clarify this point. “Just as with the mitzvah of Kaddish the chazzan recites ‘Yitgadeil’ on behalf of the entire congregation and it responds ‘Amen, yehei shmei rabba mevorach,’ so too with the mitzvah of Kedushah: the chazzan recites ‘Nakdishach’ or ‘Nekadesh’ as the congregation remains silent, concentrating on the chazzan’s recitation, until he reaches [‘Kadosh, kadosh’] and then it responds ‘Kadosh, kadosh….’ The same applies in regards to ‘leumat’acha’ and ‘u’b’divrei kad’shecha.’ This rule applies even if there are nine others besides him listening to and concentrating on the chazzan’s every word.”

The Shulchan Aruch Harav, citing the Taz, writes further, “If a person wishes to recite word for word with the chazzan quietly, there is no violation involved since they are reciting each word together and, therefore, their joint recital in considered as one. Nevertheless, a priori, one should not do so except in extreme circumstances.”

“Now, all of this,” the Shulchan Aruch Harav explains, “applies to individuals who choose to say ‘Nakdishach’ along with the chazzan. If, however, the entire congregation is accustomed to reciting ‘Nakdishach’ with the chazzan, even though it is not quietly saying word for word with him, there is no reason to protest since it is sanctifying [with the recital of the full kedushah text] in the presence of 10. This group, however, is not called a tzibbur – a tzibbur only exists when one recites and nine [or more] listen and respond. Rather, they are considered yechidim.

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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