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Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part VII)


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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
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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. The Mishnah Berurah (sk2) notes that this applies to a latecomer in middle of birkat keriat Shema attempting to catch up to the minyan and debating whether he should start his personal Amidah after the congregants have started theirs. 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).

Modim D’Rabbanan is discussed in the Gemara in Sotah. Rav offers a text to recite for Modim and Shmuel, R. Simai, and R. Acha b. R.Yaakov all add more verses to recite. R. Papa says to recite them all – hence the name “Modim D’Rabbanan,” the Modim of (all) the Sages. Our Modim text also includes additions by sages listed in the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 1:5).

We now continue with an important observation by the gaon Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick, zt”l.

* * * * *

Rabbi Soloveitchik (as cited in Nefesh Harav by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, p. 128-129) notes that the congregation should say Modim D’Rabbanan and also listen to the entire Modim of the chazzan. This position is similar to that of several Amora’im who maintain that congregants should recite pesukim during Birkat Kohanim in addition to listening to the kohanim.

Not all sages, however, agree with this position. In Sotah 39b-40a, R. Chanina b. R. Pappa asks, “Is it possible that a servant is being blessed and he does not listen?” The Tur (Orach Chayim 128) adopts this standpoint and states that congregants should not say any pesukim while the kohanim are blessing them because, if they do, they will be unable to concentrate fully on Birkat Kohanim.

Rabbi Soloveitchick reasons that the same logic applies to the recitation of Modim D’Rabbanan. Even if the chazzan says his Modim very loudly, congregants will still find it impossible to both listen to the chazzan and concentrate on their own recitation of Modim D’Rabbanan. Therefore, in his synagogue in Boston as well as at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Soloveitchick instituted that the chazzan recite the beginning of Modim in a loud voice and then pause somewhat to allow the congregation time to recite Modim D’Rabbanan. The chazzan would then continue with his Modim out loud.

Now, if saying Modim D’Rabbanan causes such difficulties, why say it altogether? After all, many authorities rule that we should not say pesukim during Birkat Kohanim. Why should Modim D’Rabbanan be different?

To answer this, we have to take a better look at the Gemara’s question in Sotah 40a: “At the time that the chazzan recites Modim, what does the congregation say?” We should wonder why the Gemara only asks this question about Modim. Why doesn’t it ask, for example, what the congregation says during the berachah of Techiyat Hameitim, Ata Chonen, or Shema Kolenu? Why does the Gemara assume that the congregation should say something during Modim when none of the other blessings of chazarat hashatz have a corresponding prayer?

The Abudarham (Seder Shacharit shel Chol, p.115) resolves our difficulty. He states: “And when the chazzan reaches Modim [in his repetition] and bows, all the congregation bow [as well] and recite their “hoda’ah ketana – small thanks” [i.e. Modim D’Rabbanan]…because it is not proper for a servant to praise his [human] master and tell him, ‘You are my lord,’ by means of a shliach (messenger). [How much more so when the recipient of praise is Hashem.] Rather, every person has to express with his own voice his acceptance of the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom upon himself. If he accepts via a messenger, it is not a complete acceptance, as he can always deny that acceptance and say ‘I never sent him as my agent.’

“However,” the Abudarham continues, “as regards to the rest of the [blessings in the Amidah that the chazzan recites aloud], which is supplication, one can request one’s needs via a messenger because every person seeks that which benefits him. Thus, he will not deny and say, ‘I never sent him [as my messenger].’ ”

The Sefer Kol Bo (Siman 11, Hilchot Tefillah) interestingly points out that the gematria of the word Modim equals 100. This corresponds to the 100 blessings one is required to say each day (Mechaber, Orach Chayim 46:3; also, see Tur ad loc. who attributes this enactment to King David). We thus see an allusion to the additional efficacy of Modim.

If I may, I might add the following. If one adds the number of words in the opening paragraph of Modim to the number of words in Modim D’Rabbanan (nusach sefard, exclusive of the chatimah, “Baruch E-l Ha’hoda’ot”) one arrives at that same number of 100. Thus, it would seem that the efficacy of this blessing enjoys even further enhancement when the prayers of the chazzan and the yachid are combined.

As we thank Him for all His munificence, we hope and pray that Hashem answer all our supplications.

(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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