The Repetition of Shemoneh Esreh Part III

  • Rav David Brofsky



     Last week, we explored the extent of the congregation's role and participation in Chazarat Ha-shatz,the cantor's repetition.  We examined the minimum number of congregants who have yet to pray or to hear the devarim she-bikdusha needed for the recitation of Kaddish or Kedusha.  Furthermore, we asked whether the quorum of men which comprise the tzibbur must all be listening attentively to Chazarat Ha-shatz, or whether some may be still praying, or even sleeping!


     This week, we will conclude our discussion of Chazarat Ha-shatz, exploring if and when the repetition may be abridged or omitted.   Additionally, we will discuss the congregation's participation in Chazarat Ha-shatz, including their response to each berakha, and whether or not they should stand.


May a Community Omit or Abridge Chazarat Ha-shatz?


     We will begin our discussion of abridging or omitting Chazarat Ha-shatz with a slightly different question: what should one who arrives at the beit kenesset (synagogue) during the silent Shemoneh Esreh do?


     The Gemara (Berakhot 21a) teaches:


Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says: "One who arrives at the beit kenesset and finds the congregation praying, if he can start and conclude before the shaliach tzibbur reaches Kedusha, he should pray, and if not, he should not… [because] an individual may not recite Kedusha.


     While the sensitive topic of arriving late to the beit kenesset deserves further and more extensive treatment, the Rishonim, among them Tosafot (21b), the Rosh (2:18) and the Rambam (10:7), rule that one who arrives late to tefilla may begin Shemoneh Esreh WITH the shaliach tzibbur, reciting sotto voce each word with him, until he reaches Kedusha.  At that point, he recites Kedusha aloud verbatim with the shaliach tzibbur.


     Similarly, the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayyim 109:2) writes:


If he prays with the shaliach tzibbur, when they reach "Nakdishakh" ("We will sanctify You," the first word of Kedusha in the Sephardic rite), he should say Kedusha with him verbatim (mila be-mila), as he recites it, and then he should say with him the berakha of Ha-Kel Ha-kadosh and [that of] Shome'a Tefilla; he should also plan to reach Modim [at the same time as the shatz], in order that he can bow with the shaliach tzibbur for Modim.


     The Rema, however, adds:


Preferably, he should not begin [Shemoneh Esreh] until AFTER he says Kedusha and Ha-Kel Ha-kadosh, unless he is compelled by the late hour or in order to connect geula [the berakha of Ga'al Yisrael, recited during Shacharit] with Tefilla.


In other words, while the Shulchan Arukh advises one who arrives late to begin his Shemoneh Esreh WITH the shaliach tzibbur, the Rema prefers that one wait until the shaliach tzibbur has concluded Kedusha.  The Magen Avraham (109:9) explains that one should begin AFTER Kedusha, as it is preferable to listen quietly to the shaliach tzibbur recite Kedusha and not to say the words with him. 


     Interestingly, the Mishna Berura (14) cites Acharonim who rule that preferably one should begin WITH the shaliach tzibbur, certainly during shacharit, in order to avoid pausing between before the conclusion of "ga'al yisrael," as well as during mincha.


     The Bei'ur Halakha suggests that since our custom is to recite the ENTIRE Kedusha with the shaliach tzibbur, as we shall discuss next week, one should also begin Shemoneh Esreh WITH Chazarat Ha-shatz, as the Rishonim above rule, and not after Kedusha.


     Based upon the above principle, the Shulchan Arukh (124:2) addresses a different case:


If a shatz arrives at the beit kenesset and finds the congregation praying silently, and he must start Chazarat Ha-shatz imminently, he may say the [entire] Tefilla out loud, and he does not have to go back and pray silently.


     The Rema adds:


If there are extenuating circumstances, or he fears that the proper time for tefilla may pass, he may begin praying aloud, the congregation reciting each word with him silently, until after Ha-Kel Ha-Kadosh… and preferably one should answer "Amen" after the berakha.


     This abridged Chazarat Ha-shatz is known in Yiddish (and English!) as the Hoicheh Kedusha.


     The Bei'ur Halakha (s.v. Be-lachash) points out that while theoretically it might be preferable for the tzibbur to recite Shemoneh Esreh silently with the shaliach tzibbur in its ENTIRETY, however, for numerous reasons, "the world is not accustomed to do so." 


     When should the congregation begin their Shemoneh Esreh when prayed a "Hoiche Kedusha"?


Based upon the Rema cited above, the Mishna Berura (124:8) writes that preferably the tzibbur should begin their Shemoneh Esreh AFTER the shaliach tzibbur concludes the berakha of Ha-Kel Ha-kadosh.  Others (see Kaf Ha-chayyim 124), among them the Rishonim cited above, disagree. 


     Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (see Rav Herschel Shachter's Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 126) maintains that the tzibbur should begin Shemoneh Esreh WITH the shaliach tzibbur.  He explained that generally Kedusha is an integral part of Chazarat Ha-shatz, the tefillat ha-tzibbur (communal prayer), and is offered by the congregation during their prayer.  However, when reciting the abridged Kedusha, if the tzibbur does not join the shatz's tefilla, then Kedusha is not part of the communal prayer!  Furthermore, the tzibbur should recite "Le-dor va-dor…" (in the Ashkenazic rite), usually recited only by the shaliach tzibbur, in order to integrate the Kedusha into their Shemoneh Esreh


     Under which circumstances may a community recite the abridged Chazarat Ha-shatz


     Regarding the fear that "the proper time may pass," the Acharonim (see Peri Megadim, Mishna Berura and Arukh Ha-shulchan) debate whether it refers to the beginning or to the conclusion of Chazarat Ha-shatz.  Furthermore, a small minyan, some of whose members must leave, may also abridge Chazarat Ha-shatz.  In addition, as we mentioned last week, a small tzibbur, whose members may either talk during Chazarat Ha-shatz or pray for too long (forcing the shaliach tzibbur to begin WITHOUT, for different reasons, nine people answering to his blessings), may recite the abridged Kedusha.


     Similarly, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (232:7) writes:


When one prays in a home and there is a small minyan, or even slightly more, and some are chatting during Chazarat Ha-shatz and are not careful to answer "Amen," then it is preferable to do a Kedusha as we said [i.e., abridged], because if the shaliach tzibbur will repeat the entire tefilla, certainly not all of them will answer "Amen," and all of the berakhot will be in vain, so that it will be a mitzva performed through a sin (ha-ba'a be-aveira).


     As we learned two weeks ago, idle chatter during Chazarat Ha-shatz, among other reasons, led the Rambam to abolish the repetition altogether!


Responding "Amen" During Chazarat Ha-shatz


     Previously, we discussed the importance of answering "Amen" to the berakhot of Chazarat Ha-shatz.  We noted that according to some Acharonim, if at least nine men do not answer "Amen" to the berakhot of the repetition, it verges on being "le-vattala," in vain, as the Rosh teaches.


     Indeed, beyond functioning as the litmus test for congregational participation in the tefilla, the Gemara extols the virtue of answering "Amen."  In fact, the Gemara (Berakhot 53b) teaches that "One who answers ‘Amen' is greater than one who recites the berakha."  The broader issues and details of answering "Amen" are beyond the scope of this shiur; however, regarding whether there is an OBLIGATION to answer "Amen" after a berakha, see Tur OC 215, as well as the Bach, Taz and Bei'ur Halakha. 


     The Gemara (Berakhot 47a) teaches that one should be careful and deliberate in answering "Amen:" "Our rabbis taught: 'The responsive "Amen" should be neither hurried (chatufa) nor curtailed (ketufa) nor orphaned (yetoma).'"


     "Amen chatufa:" The Rishonim disagree as to how this "Amen" is hurried.  Rashi (s.v. Chatufa) explains that one hurries the vowelization of the first letter, alef, not properly enunciating the kamatz, but rather saying a chataf-pattach.  Similarly, others (see Sefer Ha-eshkol, Vol. I, p. 56) explain that one rushes from the middle letter, mem, to the final letter, nun.  Alternatively, the Arukh (Erekh "Amen") explains that one "hurries" to answer "Amen" before the speaker concludes the berakha.  The Shulchan Arukh (124:8) cites both opinions.


     "Amen ketufa:" Rashi explains that one "curtails" the "Amen" by omitting the nun.  Similarly, the commentators point out, one should also avoid omitting the first or second letter.  Alternatively, the Arukh explains that one pauses in between the two syllables, dividing "Amen" into two words.  Again, the Shulchan Arukh cites both opinions. 


     "Amen yetoma:" Just as a yetoma, orphan, is removed from her parents, so to an "Amen yetoma" is detached from its berakha.  The Rishonim, however, disagree as to the nature of this detachment. 


     Rashi (s.v. Yetoma) and Tosafot (s.v. Amen yetoma) explain that the respondent has not heard the actual berakha, but simply joins the congregation's "Amen." 


     He then cites the gemara (Sukka 51a) which relates that in Alexandria, Egypt, the ushers would raise flags when it was time to answer "Amen," implying that some of the congregation did not actually hear the berakha!  He therefore explains that in Alexandria, the congregants knew which berakhot they were responding to, but they simply could not hear the actual words.  One who says an "Amen yetoma," on the other hand, answers "Amen" without actually knowing which berakha has been recited!


     The Yerushalmi (Berakhot 8:5), however, explains "Amen yetoma" slightly differently: "What is an 'Amen yetoma?'  One who is obligated to recite a berakha and answers without knowing to what he is responding."


     The Rosh (Berakhot 7:17), based on this Yerushalmi, attempts to explain the practice of Alexandria.  He explains that either they had already prayed and were no longer obligated in those berakhot, or that they knew exactly which berakha was being said, they were just unable to hear the actual words.  In any case, their behavior was acceptable because they did not answer "Amen" indiscriminately to berakhot that they were obligated to hear. 


     The Shulchan Arukh (124:8) rules:


One should not answer an "Amen yetoma."  This means that if one is obligated in a certain berakha and fails to hear it when the shatz says it, even though he knows which berakha the shatz has recited, he must not answer afterwards "Amen," since he has not heard it, and this would be an "Amen yetoma."


     The Rema adds: "Some are stringent that even if he is not obligated to hear that particular berakha, nevertheless,he should not answer 'Amen' unless he knows which berakha the shatz recited."


     The Abudraham understands the "Amen yetoma" slightly differently.  He explains that one detaches the "Amen" from the berakha TEMPORALLY, by not responding immediately to the berakha.  The Rema also cites this interpretation: "One should not wait to answer 'Amen;' rather, immediately upon hearing [the blessing], one should recite 'Amen.'"


     In addition, the Gemara mentions two more principles regarding the response "Amen."  Firstly, the Gemara (Berakhot 47a) teaches: "What I say is that whoever [draws out] the response of Amen longer than necessary is in error."  The Shulchan Arukh (ibid.) explains that an "Amen" should not be too long or too short, but rather about the length of "Kel Melekh ne'eman" ("God, faithful King," the three-word formula immediately preceding the Shema when it is recited without a minyan; "Amen" may be seen as an acronym for this).  Furthermore, he rules that the shaliach tzibbur has no obligation to wait for those who drag out their "Amen." 


     Secondly, the Gemara (Berakhot 45a) adds:


Rav Chanan bar Abba said: "From where do we learn that one who answers Amen should not raise his voice above the one who says the blessing?  For it says (Tehillim 34:4): 'Give greatness to our God, and we will exalt His name together.'"


     The Mishna Berura notes that one may raise his or her voice in order to encourage others to answer. 


     Barukh Hu U-varukh Shemo:


     The Tur (Teshuvot Ha-Rosh 4:19 and Tur Orach Chayyim 124) writes:


I heard from my father [the Rosh] that he would respond to each berakha that he would hear: "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo," (Blessed is He and blessed is His name), as Moshe Rabbeinu said (Devarim 32:3): "When I call out the name of God, give greatness to our God." 


     The Acharonim point out that during a berakha through which one fulfills a mitzva, such as Kiddush or Havdala, one should not interrupt with "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo."


     Furthermore, the Magen Avraham (124:9) notes that throughout those parts of the prayers during which one may not interrupt, such as Pesukei De-zimra and the blessings of Shema, one should not say "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo." 


     Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon (Ma'aseh Rav 43) discourages this practice, fearing that answering "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo" might prevent one from hearing the entire Chazarat Ha-shatz.  In response, the Mishna Berura (124:22) warns that the shaliach tzibbur should be careful to allow the congregation to respond with "Barukh Hu u-varukh shemo," before concluding the berakha.


Standing During Chazarat Ha-shatz:


     We have already learned that one who wishes to fulfill his obligation through the recitation of Chazarat Ha-shatz, should stand, with his feet together, and listen attentively, answering to the shaliach tzibbur.  However, must one who has already prayed stand silently during Chazarat Ha-shatz?


     The Gemara (Yoma 87b) teaches: "Bar Hamdudei said: 'I was in front of Shemuel, who was sitting, and when the shaliach tzibbur reached "But we have sinned," he stood up.'"  Some Acharonim attempt to prove from this gemara that one need not stand during Chazarat Ha-shatz, as Shemuel was apparently sitting until the shatz reached "But we have sinned" in the midst of his repetition on Yom Kippur.  Other explain that he might have been sick or weak from the fast, and therefore he did not stand.


     Others cite the Ba'al Ha-ma'or (end of Rosh Ha-shana), who claims that the tekiot di-myushav (literally, shofar blasts of sitting) refer to the tekiot blown DURING Chazarat Ha-shatz, while the congregation is sitting, and not to the tekiot blown BEFORE Musaf, as most Rishonim explain.  Apparently, at least according the Ba'al Ha-ma'or, the tzibbur sits during Chazarat Ha-shatz


     Interestingly, the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla 9:3) writes:


After the shaliach tzibbur has retreated three steps, he stands and begins to pray aloud from the beginning of Shemoneh Esreh, in order to fulfill the obligation of those unable to pray, AND EVERYONE STANDS AND LISTENS and answers "Amen" after each blessing.


     The Rambam implies that the tzibbur stands for the duration of Chazarat Ha-shatz.  Furthermore, the Rema (124:4) cites from the Hagahot Minhagim that "Some say that the entire nation should stand for Chazarat Ha-shatz."


     As we have mentioned previously, Rav Soloveitchik, based upon the Rambam, views the entire Chazarat Ha-shatz as a tefillat ha-tzibbur, and therefore would stand attentively, with his feet together, for the entire repetition.



     Next week we will begin our study of Kedusha.