Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question assumes that the purpose of chazarat hashatz is to allow for those who were unable to say their own shmoneah esrei (assumedly due to Hebrew illiteracy) to fulfill their obligation to pray.

To make a broad and unsubstantiated generalization; in most orthodox minyanim all the people praying know how to read Hebrew and have access to a siddur. If that is the case why do they need to have the chazan repeat the shmoneah esrei?

Lest you counter with "we are concerned for the minority of minyanim where that is not the case" I would refine my question to "if all persons praying are Hebrew literate and have siddurim, may they choose to refrain from the repetition of shmoneah esrei?".

Furthermore I would also contend that many, if not most, minyanim the congregants are not properly following along during the repetition and are failing to answer amen which causes problems of a bracha l'vatalah. So, perhaps removing the repetition would be in order.

share|improve this question
Re "To make a broad and unsubstantiated generalization; in most orthodox minyanim all the people praying know how to read Hebrew.... Lest you counter with 'we are concerned for the minority of minyanim where that is not the case'": Actually, I suspect a majority of minyanim outside of Israel sometimes (not very rarely) have someone who doesn't know how to read Hebrew. – msh210 Jun 8 '12 at 18:34
@msh210 that's true but the post says orthodox minyanim specifically. – not-allowed to change my name Jun 8 '12 at 20:50
@vram, my comment applies to them too (outside of Israel). – msh210 Jun 8 '12 at 20:50
@msh210 then its a matter of semantics since we can't quantify terms like "sometimes (not very rarely)" – not-allowed to change my name Jun 8 '12 at 20:54
@msh210 but doesn't the second question still stand? If beforehand it is determined that the minyan is made up of people who don't need chazarat hashatz why can't you skip it? – not-allowed to change my name Jun 8 '12 at 21:04
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 124:3)

קהל שהתפללו וכולם בקיאים בתפלה, אעפ"כ ירד ש"צ וחוזר להתפלל, כדי לקיים תקנת חכמים
A congregation which prayed and all of them were adept at praying, even so the leader goes back and repeats the prayer [aloud] in order to fulfill the enactment of the sages.

So the Halacha is clear; the question is why? ShmuelBrin correctly pointed out that we do not undo enactments unless we have a bigger and wiser court (cf. Mishna Eduyot 1:5). minhag suggested that the repitition attains a new communal nature which is not present in the original. I'd like to put forward two other reasons:

  • Since at Chazal's time there was appropriately a repetition, they enacted various prayers to be said in its context, notably Kedusha, Aneinu (the addition for a fast day), as well as Birkat Kohanim. If we removed the repetition, then what would we do with these important prayers? (The Tur OC 124 makes this point regarding Kedusha.)

  • As msh210 points out there still exist a small number of people who rely on the repetition for their prayer. ShmuelBrin noted that there is no decree to seek out people who don't know how to pray. I would like to go further: it is forbidden to ask around to see if someone doesn't know how to pray as, especially nowadays, it can be quite embarrassing to admit that. Maintaining the repetition helps those individuals and it reminds us to always be aware of and helpful to those in need of assistance, and to do so in a discreet way. (This can be similar to other enactments of Chazal that ensure that the well-off don't indirectly and unintentionally embarrass other Jews, such as the enactment that a Kohein read the Mikra Bikkurim on behalf of everyone, lest someone be embarassed that they cannot read it (cf. Mishna Bikkurim 3:7))

share|improve this answer
When we use the "hoiche kedusha" (see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1662/…) there is no repetition of the amidah. I was told by my LOR that in his prestigious Yeshiva in Israel every mincha used the "hoiche kedusha". Under those circumstances, surely no-one needed a repetition. – Avrohom Yitzchok Jun 10 '12 at 10:38
@AvrohomYitzchok That would seem to be the heter used by those who use Heichi Kedusha in Yeshivot. But I wouldn't say it is 100% obvious that the enactment of Chazal was not a lo plug. Certainly not all Yeshivot follow that policy. – Double AA Jun 10 '12 at 23:22

The decree is that one must repeat the Amida if there is a minyan praying together. There is no decree, however,that one must look for people that don't know how to pray.

Therefore, in the time of the Gemara, one had to do a chazaras hashatz even when there were no ignoramuses in the minyan.

So nowadays one must still repeat the Amida even though there are no ignoramuses around as we cannot cancel a decree without a court that is bigger and wiser than the one which established the dercee:


Shulchan Aruch Harav

share|improve this answer
Good answer! Can you pull out the quote from the source that you're using? – Charles Koppelman Jun 8 '12 at 19:42

Something I wrote on the topic a few years ago:

Tefillat hatzibbur b’tzibbur – There are different notions regarding the essence of davening and the role each of us plays in creating an atmosphere of kedusha. According to the Rav’s interpretation of the Rambam (hilchot tefilla in general, and the presence of perek 9 which details how the davening of the shali’ach tzibbur is to progress, right after the purpose of this davening is supposedly covered in 8:9) there are three different types of davening – that of the yachid, which stems from the loshon of vaye’etar Yitzchak in bereishit 25:21, that of the tefilla of the yachid b’tzibbur, which has at its heart the members of the minyans’ reciting the shmoneh esrei silently but together [as per the mishna berurah’s statement (siman 90, se’if 9, se’if katan 28 citing the chayeii adam) which clarifies that the point of a minyan is not the answering of omein and the permission to recite devarim sheb’kedusha, but the power of the collective saying of the amidah which makes b’rov am – as the text says in se’if 9: a man should try “lehitpalel…im hatzibbur” and this is also clear from M”B 66:35 “gam lechatchilah ra’uii l’hatchil…im...”] and the third, a separate concept of the repetition of davening by the shali’ach tzibbur in the presence of the minyan.

The role of the shali’ach tzibbur’s davening is, therefore, two fold, and this double use creates halachic ramifications. According to the Rambam in 8:9 (and the special exceptions in 8:10) the davening of the shali’ach tzibbur is to exempt those people in the kahal who are present and who answer omein (as per hilchot berachot, 1:11, answering omein is equivalent to having said the bracha) and who are not knowledgeable enough to say the davening on their own (gemara rosh hashana 34b). Were this the only purpose of the repetition for the amidah, then in those situations where the kahal has no one ignorant in it, there would be no obligation for chazarat hashatz. In fact, this understanding has driven the minhag in yeshivot to recite only the heicha kedusha (tefilla ketzarah) even when there is no sha’at had’chak or fear of not having a minyan, as their assumption is that the role of the shatz in being motzi someone is not necessary (from a drasha citing rav ya’akov komeinetzky, however another drasha I read cites the Shut Az Nidbiru (XII:23) from Binyamin Yehoshua Zilber as criticizing yeshivas for this practice and assumption). Additionally, if the individual were only there as a member of a minyan to allow the shatz to recite the chazorah then the individual’s level of attention and involvement would need to be cursory at best. The text, though seems to demand more of the person, making it seem that his place within this avodah frame is not as a number, but as an involved party.

The Rambam’s writing of perek 9, therefore, must lead to new insight – especially halacha two which supposes a participatory value for both one who is unfamiliar with davening and one who is knowledgeable and halacha three which demands that all stand and respond. Therefore the Rav deduces that this davening by the shatz must have its own value – it must stand in place of a korban tzibbur (especially the bracha of “r’tzei” which acts through this tefillat hatzibur as allowing nesiyat kapayim after a korban tzibbur) which is separate from that of a yachid, even a yachid b’tzibbur; it must represent the community is a unified voice which then has the power to demand on behalf of the kahal in a way that they could not individually. This understanding of the role of the shatz places new responsibilities on the individual. Instead of being a passive observer who, at best, responds omein, the individual must become a participant, keeping his physical and mental attitude the same as if he were saying the words, as he is trying to be made yotzei a completely new obligation. Interruptions such as talking and learning invalidate that attitude as might the saying of modim derobonon so loud that it makes one not hear the modim of the shatz, as hearing every word of his davening is intrinsic to fulfilling this obligation.

share|improve this answer
Can you format and dejargonify this post a little? It looks like it has a lot of interesting information but is very densely worded and hard to read. – Menachem Jun 10 '12 at 20:28
+1, but who is this "rav" you refer to? – msh210 Jun 10 '12 at 23:47
"The Rav". I should have capitalized that. Sorry. It piggy backs on what @Minhag had in his answer. – Danno Jun 11 '12 at 2:23
@Dan Thank you for that. It should be put on every shul noticeboard. May I ask our Rav to put it on our noticeboard please? – Avrohom Yitzchok Jun 11 '12 at 15:06
whatever works. – Danno Jun 11 '12 at 19:36

The Rav Soloveitchik machzorim, as well as Spanish-Portuguese siddurim, note that the second amidah, as a collective amidah, are uniquely for all of klal israel. Both Rav Soloveitchik and those congregations stand during the entire repetition as a consequence. Thus, it would seem, that chazarat hashatz has specifically another, ahistorical dimension that ought not to be eliminated in present day.

R' Soloveitchik (Yom Kippur Machzor, Hanhagos HaRav, 9): "The Rav's praactice was to stand with his feet together throughout the entire repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, even when he was not the chazzan. The Rambam (Hil. Tefillah 8:4) refers to the repititon of the Shemoneh Esrei as תפלת הצבור , which means that it is thus essentially a second Shemoneh Esrei; the Rav maintained that one's posture should therefore be the same as during the private Shemoneh Esrei (Nefeseh HaRav, p 123; R' Isiah Wohlgemuth)"

share|improve this answer
Is this noted in one of the footnotes of the Rav's machzor? If so, on which page? – Adam Mosheh Jun 10 '12 at 21:18
@AdamMosheh I have updated the source and expanded on this above – minhag Jun 12 '12 at 3:08

Building on Shmuel's answer the Alter Rebbe actually explains why this is so (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 124:4), which I think is what underlies your question.

וכן כל דבר הניתקן בשביל דבר אחר אין ענינו שלא נעשית התקנה ההיא עד שיהיה שם אותו הדבר שנתקנה בשבילו רק ענינו שנעשית התקנה ההיא עכ"פ גזירה שמא יהיה שם אותו הדבר שנתקנה בשבילו (ואפילו אם בטלה הגזירה לגמרי לא בטלה התקנה שנתקנה במנין חכמים עד שימנו מנין אחר להתירה אע"פ שבטל הטעם שבגללו תיקנו כמו שיתבאר בסי' ת"ר) ‏

Which to me essentially reads like: "Once the chachamim make a gezeira, even if we think we know the reason for it and can abrogate that reason we do not do so."

share|improve this answer
Is "underlies" the word you want to use? google.com/… – Menachem Jun 10 '12 at 11:14
is this answer a comment on @ShmuelBrin's answer? – Menachem Jun 10 '12 at 11:14
This rule does not always seem applicable. What about certain minhagim brought down by maran hamechaber in the shulchan aruch that are no longer followed today whatsoever in some communities. – Adam Mosheh Jun 10 '12 at 21:17

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Tefillah Chapter 8, Halacha 4, "How do we perform Tefilla B’Tzibbur, Public Prayer? One person Davens out loud and everyone else listens." This teaches that Tefilla B’Tzibbur is only possible through the Shaliach Tzibbur. We can understand from here that the Shaliach Tzibbur is not just “leading the Davening”. Rather, he is what makes Tefillah B’Tzibbur possible!

share|improve this answer
Welcome Tsuriel. A clean response – kouty Apr 10 at 5:49
Thank you! Trying to be helpful. – Tzuriel Apr 10 at 6:05
Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Tzuriel, and thanks for the answer! I removed the link from the end of your answer since it doesn't seem to have any relevance. If it's your site that you'd like to advertise, please do so by editing it into your profile, not your questions/answers. You may want to take the tour to see how things work around here. – Scimonster Apr 10 at 7:35
Yep. I figured that out after I posted. Thank you! – Tzuriel Apr 10 at 7:40

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.