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Q & A: The Gabbai’s Dilemma (Part II)


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QUESTION: If a shul’s (or a minyan’s) rabbi does not indicate to the sheliach tzibbur to go ahead at the end of the Shema or at the beginning of Chazarat HaShatz, should the gabbai tell him to go ahead, or does he wait until the rabbi finishes? To which should greater consideration be given by the gabbai: kibbud HaRav or tircha detzibbura?
Steven Littwin
Riverdale, N.Y.
ANSWER: As we noted from the conclusions of Rav Stern, the Debreciner Rav, zt”l, in his responsa Ba’er Moshe, the time of the congregation is valuable.The importance attributed to the time that the congregation is required to spend waiting is derived from a baraita in Tractate Berachot (31a), which states: “R. Yehuda said, Such was the custom of R. Akiva: when he prayed with the congregation he would cut his prayer short and finish in order not to inconvenience the congregation (torach tzibbur), but when he prayed by himself [alone] a man might leave him in one corner and later [return and] find him in another on account of his many genuflexions and prostrations.”

We thus see that R. Akiva’s personal preference and demeanor in prayer was to pray with such great devotion that time was not a consideration, but that was only when he was alone. However, when he prayed with the congregation he showed great consideration for their valuable time.

R. Moshe Isserles (Rema) in his Darkhei Moshe on the Tur (Orach Chayyim 124) cites an early authority, R. Binyamin Ze’ev (Siman 168), who states as follows: “I have found written in the name of R. Shimon b. R. Yosef that when the congregation concluded the [silent] Shemoneh Esreh and the chazzan would wait before starting the Reader’s Repetition due to one, two or three people in the congregation [who had not yet concluded their silent Shemoneh Esreh], he would scold him and tell him that he was not permitted to wait for two or three [people] since the congregation had already concluded [their silent Shemoneh Esreh] and it was not proper to inconvenience them. Similarly,” continues the Darkhei Moshe, “R. Netanel [also] scolded the chazzan when he would wait for two or three of tuvei ha’ir (communal leaders) who had not yet completed their [Shemoneh Esreh] prayers.”

He then concludes: “It seems to me that for this same reason (tircha detzibbura) they should not wait for an important leader of the community (chashuv me’hakahal) who has not yet arrived in the synagogue before starting the prayers, thus delaying the service — provided a minyan (quorum of ten) is already present.” [The Mishna Berura (Orach Chayyim 124:15) explains that today we do wait for the rabbi before starting the Reader's Repetition since he learns with the assembled after the prayer service is over. If we do not wait for him we ultimately cause bitul Torah, neglect of Torah study, for the congregants will finish ahead of him and go on their way.]

The Rema repeats his ruling along the same lines in his abbreviated Gloss on the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit. 124:3).

The Magen Avraham ad loc. (124:7) comments that nowadays we do wait for the Av Beit Din (the head of the Rabbinic Court) or the Rav of the congregation. He notes that the probable reason is that most people pray hurriedly, and individuals who recite their prayer word by word would otherwise be unable to recite the Kedusha with the congregation. It would therefore seem that if the Av Beit Din or the rabbi is not in town, it would be appropriate to wait for an individual who is known to say the prayer word by word. However, if that person prolongs his prayer we should not wait for him, as we learn in the baraita (Berachot 31a) which we cited at the outset regarding the custom of R. Akiva, who, when he prayed with the congregation, would finish the prayer faster than when he prayed alone.

Thus the Magen Avraham provides us with a reason for waiting for the congregation’s rabbi: to enable all the congregants to recite the Kedusha together with a minyan.

We find the following statement in Rav Zvi Yosef Myski’s, zt”l, Sha’arei Halacha – although the author claims in his preface that his work does not contain any chiddushei halacha:

“It is customary to wait with Chazarat HaShatz until the rabbi has completed his [silent] Shemoneh Esreh because most people behave improperly, contrary to Halacha, and pray hurriedly, so that those who pray word by word are unable to recite the Kedusha with the congregation” (op. cit. Vol. I section 13, siman 2:3).

Rav Myski thus attributes our waiting for the rabbi (before starting the Reader’s Repetition) to the congregation’s improper behavior of praying hurriedly. He does, however, give the rabbi the option, if he feels that when the congregation waits for him it disturbs his own concentration in prayer, to indicate to the chazzan that he may start the Repetition in his usual manner, without waiting for him (Sha’arei Teshuva ad loc.).

(To be continued)

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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