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

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha