Chazan’s Place In Shul
Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt
(Source: Chazan’s Place In Shul)
Question: Where should the Chazan stand in Shul and where should you
read the Torah from? What is the source?
The Sephardic custom is that the Chazan stands on the raised platform
in the center of the Shul. This custom appears in Sefer Hamanhig who
explains that it is based on the Talmud Succah 51b. The Talmud
describes that in the Shul of Alexandria, Egypt there was a wooden
raised platform in the middle and the Chazan stood on it, and when it
was time to answer Amen, they would wave with a cloth do to the huge
size of the Shul.
The Ashkenazi custom is that the Chazan stands in front of the Amud
near the Holy Ark. The custom should not be changed and the Chazan
should not stand on the raised platform in the middle of the Shul
unless it is an unusual case were there are very many people, and the
Chazan will not be heard if he does not stand at the Bimah. This
custom appears in the Tur and is explained at length in Igrot Moshe.
The Magen Avraham writes that nowadays the custom is that the place
were the Chazan stands is lower than the rest of the Shul, because of
“Mima’amakim Kraticha Hashem”, and that is the reason the Chazan is
always called “Yored Lifnei Hateivah” [goes down in front of the
Teivah]. This Halachah is also quoted by the Misnah Berurah, but
nevertheless the Igrot Moshe explains that the custom in most places
is not like the Magen Avraham but like the Shulchan Aruch and Rema
that don’t require a low place.
The custom of all is that during the reading of the Torah the Ba’al
Kore stands at the elevated Bimah in the center of the Shul. This
custom appears in the Rema, and the Biur Halacha adds that it is an
ancient custom that is explained in the Rambam and the Tur, and the
source is in Succah 51b as the Gra wrote. Unfortunately this ancient
custom was breached in some places, where they started placing the
Bimah near the Holy Ark, because they wanted to follow the way of the
idol worshipers, as they do in their temples. The latest Poskim spoke
against these people at length.