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I asked a posek once, Rabbi Schabes, if you're allowed to learn torah during the repetition of the Amidah. He said that it's prohibited to learn at this time.

What exactly should you be doing if anything at all during the repetition of the Shemona Esrei aside from reciting Amen, Baruch-Hoo-Uvaruch-Shemo, Kiddusha and Modim Derabanim in the appropriate places?

With nothing to do, it's very easy to wander away with your thoughts--making the whole repetition seem useless.

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    If you view the repetition as a new mitzvah (as the rav called, tefillah b'tzibbur im hatzibbur) then paying attention to each word said while you stand in the same straight, feet together attitude, leaves little time for your mind to wander. – rosends Oct 15 '14 at 17:14
  • I don't think that listening to the chazan, answering Baruch Hu U'Baruch Shemo and Amen and contemplating the meaning of the berachot constitute nothing! – bondonk Oct 18 '14 at 20:45
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Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 20:1 (yonanewman.org)

When the chazan steps (back) after (completing) the quiet (individual) prayers, he should stand still for the amount of time (it takes one) to walk four cubits. He returns to his place, and says quietly ''G-d, open my lips...'' , and starts aloud ''Blessed are You...'' Everyone should be careful to be quiet now, and listen carefully, and concentrate on what he is saying. They should say ''Blessed is He and blessed is His name'' and ''Amen'' to each blessing, as it is fitting. It is even forbidden to study during the chazan's repetition of the (Shemoneh Esreh) prayers. Needless to say, one must be careful not to indulge in idle talk. If it is easy for one to do so, 1 one should stand as if one is praying oneself the Shemoneh Esreh, or with closed eyes, or follow in the Siddur what the chazan is saying. Some have the custom, that after Kedusha, they remove the tefillin of Rashi 2 and put on the tefillin of Rabbenu Tam, 3 (but what) they do is not the law.

(bold is from me, the bold answers the question)

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    7225, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your awesome answer, +1! You might want to consider editing in a link to your source. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features, we'd love to see you around the site! – Shokhet Oct 15 '14 at 20:00
  • You might also want to consider giving yourself a more descriptive name than 7225, unless that happens to be your favorite number :P – Shokhet Oct 15 '14 at 20:00
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exactly as you said in your question... you should be listening, foccusing on the meaning of the words, and responding where appropriate. the repetition is said only with a minyan so we have the ability to say specific prayers that are only appropriate to say as a community such as kedusha and the short version of the birkas cohanim. yes it is easy for one's thoughts to wonder but that doesn't make the point of praying pointless. After all is is part of our development is people to become more focused. Not an easy task but those things which are worth while to attain are usually not easy.

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