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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 18:34
  • @msh210 that's true but the post says orthodox minyanim specifically. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 20:50
  • @vram, my comment applies to them too (outside of Israel).
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 20:50
  • 1
    @msh210 then its a matter of semantics since we can't quantify terms like "sometimes (not very rarely)" Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 20:54
  • 1
    @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? Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 21:04

9 Answers 9


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))

  • 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. Commented Jun 10, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 23:22
  • I wonder if another example of avoiding "embarrassment" is having the rabbi say the blessing for Sefirat Ha'omer. Although, that was not enacted by chazal.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 16:18
  • @DanF That's certainly a similar thought process.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 16:18
  • Apparently RJBSoloveitchik felt that the same concern applies to a groom and the rabbi should prompt the groom with the "Harei At..." phrase even if the groom is very learned yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/891557/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 22:48

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

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    Good answer! Can you pull out the quote from the source that you're using? Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 19:42

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)"

  • Is this noted in one of the footnotes of the Rav's machzor? If so, on which page? Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 21:18
  • @AdamMosheh I have updated the source and expanded on this above
    – minhag
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 3:08

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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 20:28
  • +1, but who is this "rav" you refer to?
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 23:47
  • "The Rav". I should have capitalized that. Sorry. It piggy backs on what @Minhag had in his answer.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 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? Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 15:06
  • whatever works.
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 19:36

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."

  • Is "underlies" the word you want to use? google.com/…
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 11:14
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    is this answer a comment on @ShmuelBrin's answer?
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 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. Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 21:17

The Kaf HaChaim states that according to the Arizal (a "sod") chazaras hashatz is the "ikur tefilah." According to this view, it appears that those who do not listen, pay attention and answer amen to chazares hashatz have never properly davened. Something to consider before the Yomim Noraim!!!

  • 1
    Welcome to MiYodeya Moshe and thanks for this first answer. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 17:05
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Do you know where the Kaf HaChaim says this that you can edit a more precise source into your answer?
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 2:40
  • More precisely, in Siman 124 the Kaf HaChaim writes that although the Bais Yosef gives the “plain” explanation as to the reason for Chazaras HaShatz, the Arizal, “in his time,” revealed a “Sod” that the merit of Chazaras HaShatz exceeds the merit of Tefilah B’Lachash. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 23:08

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!

  • Welcome Tsuriel. A clean response
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 5:49
  • 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
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 7:35
  • Yep. I figured that out after I posted. Thank you!
    – Tzuriel
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 7:40

Rabbi Sacks has a nice answer to this, not on a pshat level (I can't remember where, probably in Covenent and Conversation).

He says that the Jewish people have two representatives of the people: the Nevi'im and the Kohanim. However, these two couldn't be more different.

The Nevi'im typically were individuals who grew to tremendous closeness to Hashem by personal sacrifice and overcoming challenges. They were individualistic, had personalised messages and often had to appease the masses in creative ways. Each Navi's message (and the way it is portrayed) is very different. The Nevi'im embody the individualistic side of service to Hashem.

In contrast, the Kohanim were selected by lineage and not by personal merit or achievement per se, i.e., a kohen is a kohen is a kohen. They had to follow specific instructions meticulously which they were not allowed to change. There was no/little room for individualism (e.g., Nadav and Avihu being consumed by a fire). The Kohanim embody the communal side of service to Hashem.

Rabbi Sacks uses this to understand the nature of tefillah and the amidah in particular. There is a debate amongst the rishonim as to whether tefillah is chova (obligatory) or reshut (often translated as 'optional'). By extension, he goes on to say that the Nevi'im represent the indivisualistic side to tefillah in the aspect of reshut i.e., we get close to Hashem in a way that is meaningful to us, with the tools that we were given. In contrast, the Kohanim represent the 'rote' side of service to Hashem, the chova (obligatory), the uncompromised focus on the creator of the world and carrying out what is codified.

Rabbi Sacks then explains that our current tefillah is a mixture of the two, demonstrating the importance of both: We recite an individual amida, each person in supplication and gratitude to Hashem personally (i.e., as represented by the reshut/Nevi'im aspect). The shliach tzibbur then recites the repetition for the sake of the community (i.e., as represented by the chova/Kohanic aspect). Rabbi Sacks says that this arrangement (individual amida, followed by communal repetition) finds a balance between the individual's prayer and the communal prayer; between the side of reshut and chova.

We still do chazarat ha'shatz to encompass these aspects today.


Rambam has a series of responsa dealing with this in 1:63-67 in the Machon Yerushalayim edition. In # 64 he writes as follows:

מאחר שתקנו חכמים ז"ל שירד שליח צבור לפני התיבה להוציא מי שאינו בקי ולדעת רבן גמליאל להוציא אפילו בקי שלא התפלל בינו לבין עצמו לא תהיה תפלת שליח צבור ברכה לבטלה בשום פנים מחמת עיקר התקנה ואף על פי שלא יש בזה הציבור מי שלא יצא כפי שתיקנו הקדוש בבית הכנסת והיה עיקר זה מפני האורחין והצריכו זאת בכל בתי כנסיות ואפילו לא יהיו שם אורחין וכמו שתקינו חזרת תפלת ערבית ליל שבת מחמת המתאחרים כדי שיספיקו להתפלל ויתחייב זה תמיד ואפילו לא היה שם מי שלא היה שם בתחלה וכמו כן כל מה שנתקן סיבה אין עניינו עד שתהיה שם הסיבה לעשותו בעבורה אלא שיש לעשות זאת על כל פנים שמא תהיה שם אותה הסיבה המחייבת את עשייתו וראוי להבין זה הענין כי לולי זאת נמצא שחכמים ז"ל נתנו דבריהם לשיעורין והיה צריך לבדוק כל אדם בבית הכנסת אם יש שם מי שאינו יודע ואז יחזור שליח צבור או לא יחזור ולא כך ענין הת'נות והגזירות

Since the Sages instituted that the agent of the congregation should descend before the Ark in order to discharge [the obligation of] one who is not an expert [in praying] – and according to Rabban Gamliel even to discharge [the obligation of] an expert who hasn't prayed on his own – the prayer of the agent of the congregation would in no way be a blessing in vain, on account of the essence of the institution, even though in this congregation there is no one who has not discharged [their obligation of prayer]. It is just like [how] they instituted kiddush in the synagogue and the main [purpose of the institution] was for guests, yet they required it in all synagogues even wheen there weren't any guests. And it is like [how] they instituted repeating the evening prayer on Friday night on account of the latecomers in order for them to be able to pray, and this is always obligated even if there was no one there that was not there in the beginning.

And so too anything that was instituted because of a [particular] reason, the idea is not that [the institution doesn't apply] until the cause for which to act is present; rather, the idea is that that we should follow it in every situation in case the cause that obligates us to do it will be present. And it is important to understand this concept, because if not for this it would come out that the Sages gave their words to variation and we would need to check each person in the synagogue to see if there is someone who does not know [how to pray] and then the agent of the congregation would either repeat [the prayer] or not repeat. But this is not how institutions and decrees work.

However, in the surrounding responsa he notes that this leads to the problem where those who know how to pray don't pay attention to, or respect, the repetition of the prayer since they have already discharged their own obligations, and this in turn causes those who do not know how to pray to also not take the repetition seriously when they see that the learned people make light of it. This, of course defeats the whole purpose of the repetition, as those whom it is meant for are busy chatting or have walked out. This is in addition to the desecration of God that is caused by the gentiles seeing that we don't take our prayers seriously.

To combat this Rambam describes how he would have the entire congregation recite their silent prayers at the same time as the agent of the congregation was reciting them out loud. Thus, those who knew how to pray were busy praying, and those who did not know how to pray saw that it wasn't a joke, and they would thus focus on the agent who's out-loud prayer was discharging their obligation for them.

This method is also cited by R. David Ibn Zimra in Shu"t HaRadbaz 4:1079, where it sounds like this was the standard practice in Arabic lands.

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