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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5778

Ask the Rabbi: Chazan Starting with Chazarat Hashatz

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: As we were finishing up silent Shemoneh Esrei, an avel came in and wanted to take over as chazan before doing silent Shemoneh Esrei. He davened until Kedusha and planned to continue silently. People told him to continue chazarat hashatz out loud. Was it possible to do this?


Answer: The idea of a chazan starting chazarat hashatz without silent Shemoneh Esrei is discussed in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:2), based on the Kol Bo (127). In short, it can be done, but it is not ideal. Understanding why it is not ideal helps guide people what to do in different circumstances.

The Mishna Berura (124:4) assumes that the Shulchan Aruch allows the chazan to do chazarat hashatz without silent Shemoneh Esrei in a case where no one else is capable of being chazan. He does not, though, state why it should not be done otherwise. The Kol Bo identified two issues that need addressing.

1) If this chazan is reciting Shemoneh Esrei for others (the tzibbur and/or one who cannot daven himself), how does he fulfill his own personal obligation? The Kol Bo says that if his tefilla helps others, it certainly works for himself; therefore, he does not need to repeat Shemoneh Esrei after his chazarat hashatz. Despite the strong logic, the Mishna Berura may imply that this is true only after the fact, but that it is better for him to do his own Shemoneh Esrei for himself, independent of chazarat hashatz.

2) How can that which is also serving  as a personal Shemoneh Esrei be done out loud, which is usually forbidden because it makes the davener look like one who does not believe Hashem hears silent prayers (see Berachot 24b)? The Kol Bo says this is not a problem here because he is doing so due to pressing circumstances. The Eliya Rabba (OC 124:3) says that due to this issue, one with better alternatives should not make his chazarat hashatz his first Shemoneh Esrei.

The Magen Avraham (124:3; see Machatzit Hashekel ad loc.) says that the main problem is based on the gemara in Rosh Hashana (34b). The gemara says that the reason to have a silent Shemoneh Esrei even though people can fulfill the mitzva with chazarat hashatz is to give the chazan an opportunity to familiarize himself with what he will be reciting. While this is not crucial during a standard tefilla (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 100:1), it is still a reason to prefer that the chazan does not start with chazarat hashatz.

Is switching to the late-coming chazan justified because he is an avel? We did not find classical sources on this. Among less-known Acharonim, Birkat Habayit (Einhorn 42:2) allows within shloshim and on a yahrtzeit, but not the rest of the year. Ishei Yisrael (24:31) says that any chiyuv of aveilut suffices.

Who gets to decide which opinion to follow? According to the Eliya Rabba, it is a matter of a proper tefilla for the chazan, and thus up to him (/his posek). According to the Magen Avraham, the issue is the chazarat hashatz’s quality, which is the minyan’s call (see interesting application in Igrot Moshe, OC IV:33). Certainly on a matter that is about no more than preferability, this is not the type of thing to fight about (which, we hope people have learned, we are never fond of).

We guess your story occurred at Mincha (i.e., he was only a few minutes late), and this is the Kol Bo’s context as well. Regarding Shacharit, if one was able to get up to Ga’al Yisrael on time, it is possible to do the same thing; otherwise, it is complicated (see Bi’ur Halacha to OC 124:2). Regarding your question of continuing out loud after Kedusha, the sources are clearly assuming that he will be doing so, as he “fills the shoes” of the chazan for chazarat hashatz. In any case, he has no justification to drag the minyan into a less than ideal chazarat hashatz (known as heiche Kedusha) or worse (analysis is beyond our present scope). After all, there is not an obligation to let an avel be chazan (Mishna Berura 53:60); Kaddish is enough. In any case, once the avel started chazarat hashatz, there was not due cause to revert to silent mode.

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