Halacha for Wednesday 11 Elul 5779 September 11 2019

The Chazzan-The Congregation’s Representative

Question: In the synagogue where we pray, the Gabbaim (synagogue officials) appointed a Chazzan who is not careful regarding Torah and Mitzvah observance to lead the High Holiday prayers. What should we do?

Answer: The Chazzan who leads prayer services in the synagogue acts as the representative and agent of the entire congregation and must transfer the prayers from the congregation to their Father in Heaven. It is for this reason that the Chazzan must be righteous, a man of utmost integrity, and free of any slander, all year long and especially during the Days of Awe (High Holidays).

Seder Rav Amram Gaon (Volume 2, Chapter 55) states: “It was asked before the scholars of the Yeshiva: May a Chazzan about whom well-based, unsavory rumors have emerged be dismissed and replaced with someone else? They replied: Is this a question? Certainly, Halacha dictates that such a person must be dismissed and replaced with someone more suitable, for the individual acting as the intermediary between the Jewish nation and their Father in Heaven must be righteous, upright, and free of any slander. If he is not, our Sages (Ta’anit 16b) have already said that the verse (Yirmeya 12, 8) ‘She has uttered her voice against me, therefore I have hated her’ refers to an unworthy Chazzan who leads the congregation in prayer. All this applies to a Chazzan who leads the prayer during the course of the year; how much more so does this apply to a Chazzan on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and other fast days when there is a greater need for increased supplications and mercy.”

Thus, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l  writes (in his Chazon Ovadia-Yamim Nora’im, page 36) that an individual who transgresses Torah prohibitions, such as shaving with a razor, may not be appointed as Chazzan, even occasionally in honor of the Azkara (Yahrzeit, anniversary of death) of a parent. This is especially true if the individual desecrates the Shabbat; even if one does not desecrate Shabbat out of wickedness, such an individual is nevertheless disqualified from serving as a Chazzan.

If the synagogue officials are not so careful with their Torah observance and have hired or appointed such an individual to serve as Chazzan, one should find another synagogue to pray in during the Days of Awe. Maran zt”l  writes (ibid, page 37) that if one cannot find another synagogue to pray in, it is preferable for each member of the congregation to recite the High Holiday prayer services alone at home as opposed to praying in a synagogue where one who is not Torah and Mitzvah observant serves as Chazzan. The responsibility for the sin of disrupting communal prayer services rests solely upon the shoulders of these synagogue officials.

Although there may be room to judge a Chazzan who is not Torah and Mitzvah observant favorably by claiming that he is not acting out of rebellion or wickedness and merely because he is ignorant or uneducated, he is nevertheless unworthy of serving as a mediator and faithful advocate between the congregants and Hashem. Only if such an individual has repented fully and it is noticeable that his repentance is genuine may such an individual be returned to his position to act as a representative of the congregation before their Father in Heaven.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of Glassware and Pyrex Regarding the Prohibition of Milk and Meat Mixtures-Continued

In the previous Halacha we have written that according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, glassware does not absorb any flavor from foods placed in it and thus, there is no prohibition to use a glass vessel for meat and then after it is washed well, to use it for dairy (although the Rama does rule st......

Read Halacha

Question: Must one designate two different sets of glassware for dairy and meat as one would with other utensils?

Question: Must one designate two different sets of glassware for dairy and meat as one would with other utensils? Answer: We have already established in the previous Halacha that one is obligated to designate two separate sets of dishes and flatware for dairy and meat, for dishes used with either......

Read Halacha

The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on a New Garment

Question: When is the appropriate time to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a new garment, at the time of purchase or the first time one wears it? Similarly, must one recite this blessing for every new piece of clothing one purchases? Answer: The Mishnah (Berachot 54a) teaches us ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Milk and Meat Dishes and the Laws of Giving Putrid Taste

When one cooks meat in a pot, the walls of the pot absorb some of the food cooked in it and is therefore considered “meat”. If dairy is later cooked in the same pot, the pot will release some of the meat flavor contained in its walls into the dairy food and will therefore prohibit the en......

Read Halacha


Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Similar Types of Fruit

In the previous Halacha, we have established that one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges, which are not so readily available throughout the year. When one merits eating from these fruits the first time during the year and the fruits......

Read Halacha

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on Grafted Fruits

Question: May one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing the first time during the year one eats citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges? Answer: We must first preface this discussion with the law that when one eats a new fruit that one has not yet partaken of that year, after recit......

Read Halacha

The Prohibition of Milk and Meat Mixtures

The Torah states three separate times (Shemot 23 and 34; Devarim 14): “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” Our Sages (Chullin 114a) expounded that each of the times this prohibition is mentioned comes to teach us another law: The first time it is mentioned teaches us ab......

Read Halacha

The “Three Weeks”

The three-week period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av is dubbed by our Sages “Between the Straits,” based on the verse (Eicha 1, 3), “All of her enemies overtook her between the straits.” Our Sages tell us that these three weeks between the Seventeenth o......

Read Halacha