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Q & A: Chazzan And Congregation (Part XII)


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Question: I understand that at a minyan, the chazzan is required to repeat Shemoneh 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?

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

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 one not appear as a denier of G-d to whom the congregation is 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 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). One prayer recited during Birkat Kohanim is “Ribono shel olam,” which the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 130:1, citing Berachot 55b) states should be said by anyone who has a dream which he doesn’t understand. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 128:58) says this prayer should be recited while the kohanim are melodiously drawing out the last word of each verse.

* * * * *

The Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 130:1) writes of an additional prayer, “Adir bamarom –You are majestic on high,” that is proper for congregations to recite during the kohanim’s melodious extension of the final word of the Birkat Kohanim blessing. Of course, one should only recite this prayer if one will finish it in time to say “Amen” to the blessing. Is “Adir bamarom” an additional prayer to “Ribono shel olam”? Or is it a replacement prayer? The Gemara (Berachot 55b) states, “If, however, he cannot [complete “Ribono shel olam” in time] he should say this, “Adir bamarom.”

The Aruch Hashulchan (Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, the chief rabbi of Navardok) understands this Gemara simply – that “Adir bamarom” replaces “Ribono shel olam.” However, he notes that authorities like the Taz and Magen Avraham interpret the Gemara differently and write, “If, however, [the kohanim] have still not concluded, [the individual congregant] should also say “Adir bamarom.”

Rabbi Epstein, citing Elyah Rabbah in the name of Agudah (whose view coincides with the Aruch Hashulchan) writes that that when there is little time, one may substitute the shorter “Adir bamarom” for the longer “Ribono shel olam.” Yet, he concludes (infra. sk3): “Our custom is that when the kohanim [conclude and] turn away their faces, all say “Adir bamarom,” even though this seems to be inconsistent with the Gemara’s text, as our custom is based upon the amended texts of both the Rif and Rosh.”

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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