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I have noticed that in many synagogues, before davening, the gabbai customarily asks if anybody "has a chiuv". If there is anybody with a chiuv, he is asked to daven from the amud. The people who are considered to "have a chiuv" are aveilim and those observing yahrtzeit for a parent. What exactly does such a person have a chiuv for? I have thought of a couple of possibilities, but neither of them seem to make sense to me.

  1. They have an obligation to pray. To me, this seems like a very unlikely suggestion. Everybody there has an obligation to pray, and I don't know why a mourner would have a greater obligation.

  2. They have an obligation to lead davening. This suggestion is plausible to me, but I still have some doubts. First of all, there might be more than one person with a chiuv. In that case, would it really be the case that everybody who doesn't lead davening is mivatel a chiuv? I have doubts about that because I have seen people who I know to be very pious and knowledgeable who had a chiuv praying in a minyan where someone else with a chiuv was leading the prayer. If this is truly an obligation, I would expect that those people would find another minyan where nobody has a chiuv. Also, why would having a relative pass away cause someone to have an obligation to lead davening?

So what is the obligation that is being referred to when we say that someone "has a chiuv"? If it is not really actually a true obligation, why is it called that?

  • Possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18243/759 – Double AA Feb 9 '16 at 1:25
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    @DoubleAA Your question takes as a given that the chiuv is for saying kaddish. If that is indeed the case, then that could be an answer (ideally with some evidence and preferably with an explanation why such a chiuv would be a reason for that person to lead davening). – Daniel Feb 9 '16 at 1:28
  • it would seem from the material discussed here torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5762/pekudei.html that this is an issue of "minhag yisroel kihalachah," that since it is accepted practice among Jews to lead during yahrtzeit, shloshim, etc. then it is incumbent upon those who are capable to do so, and therefore a chiyuv. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 9 '16 at 2:11
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    I have often wondered who has the "chiuv". The person saying kaddish or the congregation, who have a "chiuv" to give that person "priority" to lead. Just like we have a "chiuv" to call up a Kohen for the first aliyah (a strong chiyuv) or offer him to lead Birkat Hamazon (a slightly weaker chiyuv). – CashCow Feb 9 '16 at 11:29
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Davening from the amud is not an obligation indeed, and if someone else has priority one is not obligated to find another minyan in order to daven from the amud. It is a custom as a way of honoring one’s parent.

R Avraham Yosef (previously Chief Rabbi of Holon, son of R Ovadia Yosef) was asked last Friday on his weekly radio halacha Q&A "what does one lose when giving up davening from the amud to let someone else lead?" and answered "one never loses when letting someone else lead davening.")

R Neustadt writes, p. 6

The Shulchan Aruch records the long-standing and universally held custom for the son of a deceased parent to lead the weekday prayer services as the Sheliach Tzibbur. This obligation is in addition to the recitation of Kaddish, and is practiced throughout the eleven months when Kaddish is recited. A son in mourning should do his utmost to observe this custom; for Chazal teach that when a son serves as the Sheliach Tzibbur, he is actually fulfilling the Biblical commandment of Kibbud Av V'eim by honoring the neshamah of his departed parent and alleviating its suffering in Gehenom.

So maybe it is called a chiyuv (obligation) because there is an obligation to try to lead the davening but it is not literally correct. Or as indicated by @Isaac Kotlicky above because of minhag Israel kihalachah.

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    "Universally held"? This site daat.ac.il/daat/toshba/minhagim/tey-mish.htm says Temanim only have the custom to lead Maariv on Sat nights. (Not the first time R Neustadt has monolithicified Jewish practice...) – Double AA Feb 9 '16 at 5:47
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    So if I understand you correctly, the "chiuv" that is being referred to is to lead davening, but to call it a chiuv is not literally correct? – Daniel Feb 9 '16 at 14:09
  • @Daniel that is what I tried to say yes - but you say it better – mbloch Feb 9 '16 at 14:09
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    @DanF my understanding is that refusing when asked doesn't apply to these situations but to non-chiyuv cases. When people have chiyuvim they actually fight to daven from the amud which is why the Halacha has precise list of priorities and a number of exhortations not to fight – mbloch Feb 9 '16 at 15:30
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    @larry909 apologies but the content has not been migrated to their new site. I was able to find a copy of the content here on page 6 – mbloch Jul 29 at 4:48
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In addition to other answers (at the time of writing, there is only one, by M Bloch):

According to the Mishnah Berurah, the minyan has a chiyuv to give him precedence. (54:60) And so, when there is a conflict, it is not to people with conflicting chiyuvim, it is one body that has to prioritize its duties.

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