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Terminology: The amud is a lectern located at the front of the shul. The bimah is a raised "platform" from where the Torah is read. It is usually located in the center of the shul. Some Sefardim and Yemenite shuls only have a bimah and no amud, and the bimah is in the back of the shul.

One reason I have heard for using the amud is that the chazzan should not daven from a high place in keeping with the phrase from Psalms (130:1) "Out of the depths have I called you, G-d".

My question, thus, relates only to Ashkenazic shuls. I've seen several shuls where the Chazzan davens from the bimah, regularly, and many do not have an amud. Is this permissible?

  • <<the bimah is in the back of the shul.>> - That is wrong the bimah MUST be in the middle of the shul not in the back. – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 7 '18 at 21:37
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    @RibbisRabbiAndMore, the Romaniote schul in NYC has it against the back wall. Many Sephardi schuls do have the teba (bimah) farther back than in Ashkenazi schuls – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 7 '18 at 22:20
  • When the Rambam records the laws germane to the proper construction of a shul, he mentions that a shul should have a raised platform in the middle, which we call the bimah (Hilchos Tefillah 11:3). – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 7 '18 at 22:30
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    @RibbisRabbiAndMore It's a lot more complicated than a straight halacha in the Rambam. I might just post a new thread on the topic. – DonielF Jun 7 '18 at 23:37
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore And I have done so. A lot more complicated than I originally anticipated, and I mostly only dealt with Achronim. That post is here. – DonielF Jun 8 '18 at 0:51
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According to Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:1), the Chazzan may stand on an elevated area to daven if his intention is that the congregation be able to hear him.

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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?

Answer:

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.

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