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Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part V)


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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.

In Sefer Abudarham Hashalem (p. 73-74), Rabbi David Abudarham (1258-1295) states that Nakdishach [Nekadesh] and the like [Keter – Na’aritzach] are devarim she’b’kedushah (matters involving sanctifying Hashem) and require a quorum for recital while the kedushah of Yotzer Ohr and U’va Letziyyon may be said without a quorum. He confirms this as being noted in siddurim of his time. He explains that the latter kedushot refute those who deny G-d’s presence in the world by relating how all creation praises Him. The former kedushot are joint offers of praise with the angels (Rabbi Emden in his Siddur Beit Yaakov).

Many do not follow the correct responsive procedure for Kedushah, and since the practice is widespread, it may have to 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 shelichut 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 Amida, and after “HaKel HaKadosh,” everyone begins their silent Amidah (while the chazzan continues quietly with his own Amida). (See Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 124 sk8.) This procedure is commonly performed for Mincha, especially in yeshivot.

This week, we turn to Modim.

* * * * *

The tefillah of Modim is so important that we find the following in the Gemara (Berachot 21b): “R. Huna stated, ‘A person who enters a synagogue and finds the congregation in the midst of prayer [the silent Amida] should pray if he is able to begin and conclude [the Amida] before the chazzan reaches Modim. However, if he will not be able to [conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim] he should not pray.’ ”

The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 109:1) codifies this halacha as follows: “A person who one enters [a synagogue] after kedushah should pray if he is able to begin and conclude before the chazzan reaches Modim. However, if he will not be able to do so, he should not pray” (emphasis added).

The Mechaber’s citation takes into account the view of R. Yehoshua b. Levi (Berachot 21b, infra) that only if a latecomer is able to commence and conclude in time to recite Kedushah may he begin his Amida. Therefore, when talking about Modim, the Mechaber frames the question in terms of someone arriving after Kedushah has already been said. That person must quickly assess whether, in that short time span, he will have sufficient time to begin and conclude his Amida in time to recite Modim with the congregation. (Of course, if this person will miss z’man tefillah by waiting, he should, without hesitation, immediately begin saying his own Amida.)

The Mishnah Berurah (sk2) notes that the Mechaber’s discussion here basically concerns Minchah or even Shacharit, where the individual was still saying birkat keriat Shema when the congregation started its Amida and the question is whether he will be able to start and finish his personal Amida in time for Kedushah.

We might understand the Mishnah Berurah to mean that the individual’s only real concern is whether he will be finished in time for Modim. As far as Kedushah is concerned, he can always just stop in the middle of his Amida and listen intently as the chazzan and congregation say it. After all, “shome’a k’oneh – someone who hears is considered as if he says.”

Now, we must ask: Why this great concern with Modim? How is it more important than the other berachot in the Amida? Tosafot (s.v. “ad sh’lo yagia…”) addresses this question and explains that “he must bow [at Modim] with the tzibbur in order that he not appear as a kofer (a denier) of the one to whom the tzibbur is bowing.” Tosafot note that if an individual would reach Modim in his own Amida at the same time that the chazzan reached his in chazarat hashatz, that would be sufficient. But the Gemara is not talking about such a case.

Tosafot note that the requirement to bow with the chazzan does not refer to the individual’s Modim D’Rabbanan recital, for we do not find this as a reason in the Gemara. Tosafot reinforce this point with a description of how Rabbenu Tam acted when the chazzan reached Modim while he was still praying Shemoneh Esreh. Rabbenu Tam would stop and bow together with the tzibbur without uttering a word. He would only do so, however, if he was in the middle of a berachah, not at the end because the Gemara (infra 34a) rules that it is prohibited for one to bow at the conclusion of every berachah.

Nevertheless, Tosafot note that Rabbenu Tam’s solution is only a b’di’avad option. L’chatchilah, one should not utilize it. Obviously, it is far better to join a congregation at the beginning of prayers, but in this case, the adage “better late than never” applies.

(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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