Question: Is the chazan required to daven his silent Sh’moneh Esrei in the same nusach as the tzibur and with which he will use for Chazaras HaShatz?
Short Answer: While the chazan must daven Chazaras HaShatz in the same nusach of the tzibur, many poskim allow him to daven his silent Sh’moneh Esrei in his own nusach. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, however, required even the private Sh’moneh Esrei to be the same nusach as the tzibur.
I. The Chazan’s Silent Sh’moneh Esrei
The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 34b) suggests that the reason why the chazan davens a silent Sh’moneh Esrei, despite that he is about to say Chazaras HaShatz, is in order to prepare himself and get accustomed to reciting the Sh’moneh Esrei. This is especially necessary because the chazan will be reciting the Chazaras HaShatz out loud for the congregation. See the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 124:4).
Accordingly, unless there is no one else able to recite Chazaras HaShatz, the chazan must recite a silent Sh’moneh Esrei before reciting Chazaras HaShatz. See the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:2) and the Mishnah B’rurah (ibid, 4).
Certainly, the chazan’s recitation of Chazaras HaShatz must be with the same nusach as the tzibur/congregation. See the Nit’ei Gavriel (Aveilus, Vol. 2, 54:4). The tricky question is whether the chazan’s silent Sh’moneh Esrei must also be the same nusach as the tzibur.
II. Whatever You Feel Comfortable With
The Shoel U’Meishiv (3rd ed., 1:247) writes, without much explanation, that even though the chazan must daven the same nusach as the tzibur for Chazaras HaShatz, he may daven his own nusach in his silent Sh’moneh Esrei.
Similarly, the Minchas Yitzchak (6:31:3) rules that even though the chazan must daven the same nusach as the tzibur for Chazaras HaShatz, he may daven his own nusach in his silent Sh’moneh Esrei. Since the whole reason for the silent Sh’moneh Esrei is in order to prepare the words for the Chazaras HaShatz, this does not apply nowadays, since we daven from siddurim and not by heart.
Likewise, the Dirshu footnotes of the Mishnah B’rurah (124:4, fn. 9) cite many other Acharonim who agree with this ruling, including Rav S. Vosner zt”l, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, and Rav Y. S. Elyashiv zt”l. It is also cited that the Chofetz Chaim himself followed this ruling. See also the Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid).
Interestingly, the Ishei Yisrael (23:9:28) cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who allows this even in a case of “heiche k’dushah” – the “short Minchah.” In other words, where the chazan recites Chazaras HaShatz (up to K’dushah) before the tzibur recites the silent Sh’moneh Esrei, the chazan must begin the Chazaras HaShatz with the nusach of the tzibur, but may switch to his own private nusach when he continues silently after k’dushah.
III. The Igros Moshe
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Orach Chayim 2:29), however, disagrees. His explanation is straightforward. Since the reason for the silent Sh’moneh Esrei is to prepare the words for the Chazaras HaShatz, even if we have siddurim nowadays, it is counterproductive for the chazan to prepare the wrong Sh’moneh Esrei in his silent recitation. Indeed, doing so would increase the chazan’s confusion.
Next Week’s Topic: Should the chazan end Chazaras HaShatz with the words “es amo va’shalom” or should he add the pasuk of “Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi...”?