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Shabbat Parashat Metzora 5774

P'ninat Mishpat: Demand to Remove a Chazan from His Post

(based around Shut Maharam Padova 64)

[One could argue whether or not this question of “Orach Chayim” belongs to this column. Still, a matter of dealing with claims between parties in the public arena, stemming from a fight over money raised by the community, is too related to matters of beit din and too interesting to skip over.]


There was a dispute between members of the community of Mantova (Italy), Chaim and his son, on one hand, and Menachem Raphael, on the other. The former were set chazanim for the community for many years without any complaints against them, including from Menachem Raphael. Recently a bitter dispute erupted between Chaim and Menachem Raphael, which began when Chaim volunteered to help the community collect the tzedaka assessments made for members of the community to donate. Upon trying to collect from Menachem Raphael, very harsh words were said, and feelings of hatred developed. Menachem Raphael wants Chaim and his son to not be chazanim any more based on the ruling of the Mordechai (Chulin, 597) in the name of Rabbeinu Simcha that an enemy of a member of the shul is not to be appointed as chazan. The Maharik (44) says that Rabbeinu Simcha’s ruling applies even when only a single person is an enemy of the chazan.

However, this is a misapplication of the ruling, as the Maharik says explicitly that if the person who now objects to him agreed to him previously, he cannot protest. The Mordechai and the Aguda also talk about not appointing him as a chazan. The case of a single enemy in the community is one in which we do not appoint and we do not remove from the post. It is not fair to the majority of the community to deprive them of their chazan because an individual now has a relationship of enmity.

It is even clearer in this case, where the problem started due to Chaim’s willingness to collect the tzedaka assessment which Menachem Raphael did not pay. Therefore, it is up to the community as a whole to decide what they would like to do about the matter.

The one demand on Chaim and his son is to promise that they will do their part to remove their hatred for Menachem Raphael from their hearts and to have in mind that their tefillot will count toward fulfilling his obligation. It has been the practice for a long time to make chazanim who might try to exclude people from the tefilla promise that they are including them in their intentions, and we have done this for years in our community. If Menachem Raphael does not believe that the chazanim are indeed having him in mind in their tefillot, he should go to another community where, baruch Hashem, there are no shortages of shuls.


[The Maharam Padova’s distinction between an individual’s ability to prevent his enemy’s appointment as chazan and his inability to have him removed from his post is codified by the Rama, Orach Chayim 53:19.]

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