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The Hineni prayer is said by the Chazan before the silent Amida on the high holidays. In it, the Chazan admits his personal flaws but asks still to be allowed to be a righteous and competent representative of the kahal.

Why then, is it recited before the silent Shmoneh Esrei when the Chazan is not yet acting as a representative of the people. The Chazarat Hashatz is the time when the Chazan is leading the communal prayer and becoming the spokesperson (as evidenced by both the justification for Chazarat Hashatz during the year and prayers such as misod chachamim, heyeh im pipiyot and ochilah lakel).

Shouldn't it be said right before the repetition?

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    I have a machzor (the Conservative Siddur Lev Shalem) that prints it exactly where you think it should be: between the Silent Musaf Amidah and the Musaf Repetition. – Mike Sep 16 '15 at 1:10
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    Off the top of my head, the Rabbinical Assembly's machzor (the predecessor to Lev Shalem) printed Hineni between the Silent Amidah and its Repetition, but also included a stage direction on the Chatzi Kaddish page to the effect that some places recite Hineni at that point. (As I am fond of noting, "Shnei Yehudim, shloshah minhagim." – Codes with Hammer Sep 16 '15 at 18:11
  • FYI - This is the 2nd Q on Tefilla of yours that I answered today. It's nice to find someone who shares my enthusiasm. In nearly every case where I have a tefilah question, I've looked at Beurei Hatefilah as one of my 1st sources. It doesn't answer everything, but I've discovered answers and sources that I don't think I'd easily find anywhere else. You may want to browse through it some more. Enjoy & G'mar Tov. – DanF Sep 16 '15 at 22:20
  • The site is useful but as quoted in your answer, it raises as many questions as it answers -- if it is a private prayer, why do we say it out loud. If there is a form of reshut already in the davening, why insert another, especially outside of the davening? – rosends Sep 16 '15 at 22:37
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    @Danno As stated, the site is far from perfect, and, I agree that it often leaves follow-up questions, such as it did, here. I think that even the author is puzzled. Sometimes, minhagim form, even if they may seem inconsistent with other concepts. As you stated in another comment, often the rabbis today have more "clout". Perhaps, in this case, if you showed your rabbi and chazzan the article, he may be a pioneer in doing it silently. (IMO, as with many things HH related, perhaps Hineni became aloud to show off the chazan's theatrics!) – DanF Sep 17 '15 at 15:13
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This Beurei Hatefilah article cites that, in fact, there were / are various places where Hineni was / is recited, among one of the places - preceding Hamelech in Shacharit. Part of this discussion relates to the concept of reshut (permission). As it is, there is a form of reshut that the cantor recites during the 1st day of Rosh Hashannah Musaph, namely "Misod Chachamim*. See the article for details on this aspect.

Returning to the common Nusach Ashkenaz practice,

The present practice is that the chazan recites the Hineni aloud. An instruction that the chazan read the hineni aloud is nowhere to be found in the instructions found in early machzorim. We can therefore ask the question: was the hineni meant to be recited aloud or silently by the chazan? If it was meant to be recited silently by the chazan that practice would explain why the reshut of Hineni was recited before the silent Amidah. He may recite a private prayer before reciting the silent Amidah. However, it would not be proper for him to interrupt Chazarat Hashat"z with a private prayer.

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