Question: May a chazan start Chazaras HaShatz immediately after finishing his silent Sh’moneh Esrei?
Short Answer: While some poskim rule that a chazan must pause for a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz, many poskim rule that this is only a custom and not imperative. The chazan can likely rely on the lenient opinion where other factors, such as the embarrassment of the Rabbi (who has already finished his silent Sh’moneh Esrei), are in play.
I. Waiting Between Two Sh’moneh Esreis
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 105), based on the Gemara in B’rachos (30a), rules that someone who must pray two Sh’moneh Esreis (i.e., for tashlumin), should pause in between the Sh’moneh Esreis in order to properly prepare himself for the second Sh’moneh Esrei. The pause should be for the amount of time it takes to walk four amos (approx. six feet), i.e., for a few seconds.
What about the chazan? Must he also wait these few seconds after finishing his silent Sh’moneh Esrei before starting Chazaras HaShatz?
II. The Rambam
The Rambam (Hilchos T’filah 9:3) writes that after the chazan finishes his silent Sh’moneh Esrei, he takes three steps back, stands straight and starts Chazaras HaShatz in a loud voice. The Kesef Mishneh explains that the implication of this Rambam is that the chazan does not take three steps forward before starting Chazaras HaShatz; rather, he simply starts Chazaras HaShatz from the place where he takes three steps back.
Notably, the Be’er Yehudah (ibid) understands that the Rambam also implies that the chazan does not need to pause for a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz; he can simply begin right away. The Be’er Yehudah explains that this makes sense, as the chief purpose of Chazaras HaShatz is to be motzi those congregants who do not know how to pray themselves. Thus, the Chazaras HaShatz is simply the same Sh’moneh Esrei that the chazan previously prayed, and not a new supplication that requires a few seconds of preparation.
However, the Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 123:2) disagrees and notes that the language of the Rambam – “stand straight” – implies that the chazan is not beginning the Chazaras HaShatz immediately.
III. The Rashba
The Beis Yosef and the Rama (ibid) cite the Rashba who ruled that a chazan should wait a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz. See also Torah T’mimah (D’varim 3:23).
Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham (7) explains that the Rashba is merely setting forth the prevalent custom (to wait a few seconds). However, even the Rashba holds that the chazan may start immediately, as the Chazaras HaShatz is completely different from when a person is reciting two Sh’moneh Esreis. A person reciting two Sh’moneh Esreis must pause in between, because otherwise he exhibits “dog-like” behavior by requesting forgiveness a second time, immediately after praying for forgiveness the first time, just as a dog eats food and then regurgitates the eaten food. On the other hand, everyone knows that a chazan is just reciting Chazaras HaShatz to be motzi those congregants who do not know how to pray themselves.
IV. Practical Ruling
While the Mishnah B’rurah (ibid) cites the Magen Avraham and notes that it is merely the custom to wait a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz, the Mishnah B’rurah also cites the Vilna Gaon who disagrees. The Vilna Gaon, by citing the law of a private person davening two Sh’moneh Esreis, understands that it is imperative for the chazan to wait a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz.
V. Awkward Situation
Although in most cases it is not a big deal for the chazan to pause a few seconds before starting Chazaras HaShatz – and they often do – a tricky situation arises where the Rabbi has already finished his silent Sh’moneh Esrei before the chazan. In this situation, it is often important for the chazan to finish his silent Sh’moneh Esrei quickly and then immediately begin the Chazaras HaShatz so as not to embarrass the Rabbi, who is “waiting.” In this situation, must the chazan still pause for a few seconds before starting the Chazaras HaShatz?
The Piskei T’shuvos (123:4) answers that in this situation, the chazan can rely on the ruling of the Magen Avraham, that it is only a custom to pause for a few seconds, but here, since the embarrassment of the Rabbi is at stake, there is no need to pause at all. [Notably, the Piskei T’shuvos does not cite any source agreeing to this ruling.]
Next Week’s Topic: May a chazan take three steps back and begin Chazaras HaShatz where other people are still davening Sh’moneh Esrei directly behind him and to his sides?