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According to Bruchos 34a, one should initially refuse to Daven for the Amud, so as to feel unworthy of the duty and to not look too eager to do it. The first time one is asked he should refuse, the second time he should hesitate and the third time he should rush to do it.

How does this work in practice?

Does it apply every time a Gabay asks you to Daven, or just the first three times the Gabay ever asks you? Do you need to refuse if a different Gabay asks you?

Isn't this a burden on the Gabay?

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I've seen this practiced by people asked to lead the prayers. In my experience, the gabay has usually immediately asked again. ("Would you lead...?" "Surely someone else can do it better." "No, come on." "Well...." "Good, you're it.") A gabay should know about the existence of this rule, so he doesn't get discouraged. –  msh210 Aug 28 '12 at 16:57
    
@msh210 why is that a comment and not an answer? :) –  avi Aug 29 '12 at 7:22
    
@avi, I have no source for the correctness of the actions I've described. –  msh210 Aug 29 '12 at 17:23

2 Answers 2

This halacha is brought in Shulchan Aruch 53:16 Here are some clarifications:

1) A regular/permanent Shliach Tzibur does not need to refuse. (On the contrary, if a regular Shliach Tzibur refuses he shows that it is beneath his dignity to daven until the congregation pleads with him [see Beit Yosef and Shulchan Aruch Harav 53:19])

2) If requested by an 'Adam Gadol' (say, the Rav of the shule ) - one does not need to refuse.

3) The Eishel Avraham (Butchatch) writes that this law only applies when you really feel unworthy of the great honor of being chosen to lead the congregation, e.g if there are other candidates of Shliach Tzibur worthier than you, and only after being convinced by the Gabai (say) that you are also worthy - only then can you agree.

4) Nowadays (especially for weekday tefilot) , the role of the Shliach Tzibur is not associated with honor - so (except for special tefilot - like Rosh Hashana etc) there is no reason to refuse.

On the contrary if you see that no one is interested to be Shliach Tzibur it's a mitzvah to appoint yourself - as he is preventing a Tircha DeTzibura. (Tshuvot VHanhagot Chayai Adam [Siman 112])

5) Similarly, if you think that someone not fit is going to be Shliach Tzibur - then you should appoint yourself. (Eishel Avraham [see above])

(This answer is mostly a summary from the sefer Piskei Tshuvot p464)

PS: In short, if you think that you are pretty much worthy to be the Shlich Tzibur (for a regular davening) and there's no permanent Shliach Tzibur - go for it! (at least that's my understanding)

PPS:

This excerpt of Tanya is also relevant:

ועיקר הסיבה וגרמא בנזקין הוא מהיורדים לפני התיבה שהוא הפקר לכל הרוצה לפשוט רגליו החוטף אפרתי או מחמת שאין גם אחד רוצה וכו'. ואי לזאת זאת העצה היעוצה ותקנה קבועה חוק ולא יעבור עוד ח"ו דהיינו לבחור אנשים קבועים הראוים לזה עפ"י הגורל או בריצוי רוב המנין.‏

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The simple understanding of the Gemorah is that this should happen each and every time you are asked to lead davening.

R. Aviner even suggests that if you have a chiyuv to daven, you should still refuse and let someone else do it, as an aliyah for the neshama.

There is no burden on the Gabbai, as first of all, they should know the concept. Secondly, it would be better for them to arrange a chazan beforehand so as to not need to ask someone each time, and thirdly, it's a quick and easy discussion which doesn't really cause much burden at all.

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