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In many shuls that I have attended, the gabbai or someone else bangs once or twice on a table or on a siddur just before davening begins.

As I don't see this done everywhere, I assume this is a minhag. But, I have no idea when or why this began. Does it have any purpose? What does this bang accomplish that just the chazzan saying the first few words of davening can't already accomplish?

(I am not asking about the bang that some do as a reminder of a special "insert" like Ya'aleh Veyavo. That's meant as a reminder, and I gather that since they can't talk at that point, the bang somehow reminds people what to do.)

  • Have you asked the gabbai in question? I haven't seen it happen. – rosends Jul 24 '17 at 22:47
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    Not everything that people do is categorised as minhag. Unless one divorces the term from meaning, such that it stops being meanigful at all. Presumably one would bang before prayer to signal the beginning of prayer... – mevaqesh Jul 24 '17 at 23:39
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This is done in yeshivish circles where anybody can be Shat"z.

As a result, people get appointed Shat"z (for various reasons including Yahrzeit) who do not have loud voices. (Or the rooms are so large that even a person with a loud voice cannot be heard over the din.)

So in order to ensure that everybody realizes that the services have begun, he will bang on the lectern to get everybody's attention.

As often happens, some people have added this to their prayer service and will bang even in a quiet room, and even when starting the repetition of the Amida; they seem to have given the banging some mystical powers. :-)

  • "mystical powers" - I never knew that strange habits were "mystical". BTW, since you mentioned "din", it puts to question why the shul should get that noisy even before davening has begun. That's a different issue to deal with. Perhaps, someone should change that Hebrew sign that's at the front of the shul to say, Asur Ledaber shtuyot bebet haknesset. – DanF Jul 25 '17 at 15:08
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    Have you ever thought that maybe the reason for banging in a small room is to get people to stop chatting so the services can begin? – ezra Jul 25 '17 at 16:33
  • @ezra In shul, first of all, it should not be that loud that people can't hear the chazzan pray. I am fully aware that there are many shuls that are this way even in the middle of davening. My point is that between the chazzan beginning davening and enough people starting as well, I don't see the need for banging on a table or siddur to do the job. Services can most certainly begin without this specific routine. And, I have seen this done in places where the shul is quiet. – DanF Jul 25 '17 at 18:45
  • @DanF - FYI most places of davening in many neighborhoods double up as a Yeshiva / Bet HeMedrash. People are learning Torah until the Shat"z bangs, so they know it's now time to daven. In my circles NOBODY schmoozes during davening. (On a recent visit a to USA shtibel I was horrified at the incessant chattering.) – Danny Schoemann Jul 26 '17 at 8:09
  • Yes, that's a good point that the Bet Midrash is also a Bet Knesset. (I won't delve into the halachot of this, now.) So, I guess something extremely loud and noticeable may be needed. (I REALLY must make a trip to Eretz if for no other reason than to actually visit a (is it your?) quiet shtiebl.) – DanF Jul 26 '17 at 13:27

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