Halacha Date: 25 Av 5778 August 6 2018
Question: May one sit during the Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida? Why are there some individuals who customarily stand throughout the entire repetition of the Amida?
Answer: The Rambam (Chapter 9 of Hilchot Tefillah) writes: “After the Chazzan takes three steps back and remains there for some time, he should begin to recite out loud from the beginning of the blessings (of the Amida) in order to include those who have not prayed in his prayer and have them fulfill their obligation. All others must stand, listen, and answer ‘Amen’ to every blessing, whether they have already fulfilled their obligation or not.” It seems from his words that one must stand for the duration of the repetition of the Amida, for the Rambam writes explicitly, “And all must stand and listen,” which seems to imply that the entire congregation must do so.
Indeed, the Rama writes in his gloss on the Shulchan Aruch in the name of the Sefer Ha’Minhagim that one should remain standing for the entire Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida.
Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Yaakov Chagiz writes in his Responsa Halachot Ketanot that although it seems that one should remain standing for the duration of the repetition of the Amida, there are proofs from the Gemara that one may be seated during this time. He concludes, “I have seen in the Ashkenazi synagogue in Verona that the entire congregation is seated during the Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida; however, in the Sephardic synagogue, the entire congregation remained standing. This indeed makes more sense.” Maran Ha’Chida and other great Acharonim rule likewise.
On the other hand, the Torat Chaim writes that in his country, most people remained seated during the Chazzan’s repetition. Hagaon Rabbeinu Avraham Ha’Kohen of Salonika concurs that according to the letter of the law, one may sit during the Chazzan’s repetition, since the entire congregation has already fulfilled their obligation with the silent Amida. The great Ohr Gadol of Minsk rules likewise and proceeds to support his view.
Indeed, Hagaon Harav Ovadia Hedaya writes in his Responsa Yaskil Avdi that the Rama’s ruling that one must stand during the Chazzan’s repetition is only a custom and since it is not the letter of the law, one may sit during this time when necessary. When the Rambam writes that “all must stand,” this does not refer to one actually standing; rather, this refers to “standing” silent, for speaking during the Chazzan’s repetition is forbidden. The words of the Rama actually imply this, for he quotes the custom to stand during the Chazzan’s repetition in the name of Sefer Ha’Minhagim but makes no reference to the fact that the Rambam rules likewise, for the Rambam can be understood as not referring to actual standing, as we have explained.
Thus, halachically speaking, one may sit during the Chazzan’s repetition of the Amida and this was Maran zt”l’s custom as well. However, if one acts stringently and remains standing for the duration of the Chazzan’s repetition, he shall surely be blessed. This is indeed the custom in Yeshivot, Kollels, and many other synagogues where the congregation stands during the entire Chazzan’s repetition. Nevertheless, this is not required by Halacha; rather, this is merely a stringency. In places where retaining order and decorum requires the congregation to be seated so that they do not roam around and begin chatting, the congregation should be instructed to sit during the Chazzan’s repetition, for idle chat during the Chazzan’s repetition is an absolute prohibition.
A usual congregant in Maran zt”l’s synagogue (by the name of Rabbi Ariel Suli Shlit”a) recounted that he once confronted Maran and asked him, “May one act more stringently than one’s rabbi in the rabbi’s presence?” Maran responded, “What stringency are you referring to?” Rabbi Suli answered, “May one stand during the Chazzan’s repetition in front of one’s rabbi when the rabbi does not?” Maran replied with his usual wittiness and in third person, “One’s rabbi’s feet hurt.” Maran meant to say that one may act more stringently than one’s rabbi regarding this matter, for Maran also wished to act stringently and the reason why he acted leniently was because his feet hurt.