OUR CUSTOMS (MINHAGIM)

Our custom for the Shabbat Shacharit Amidah is to have Ba'al/at Tefilah recite it entirely out loud, without first having the members of the minyan reading Amidah silently. The Halakhic precedent for this custom is stated by Rabbi Simcha Roth of Bet Midrash Virtuali (click here for more information), in his lessons on the Halakhah of Tefillah:

After the cantor has taken three steps back and stood [for a moment] he begins [to recite] the Amidah out loud from the beginning of the benedictions. [He does this] in order to enable anyone who has not [recited] the Amidah [to fulfill the religious duty]. Everyone stands and listens [to his recitation] and answers Amen after each and every benediction - both those who have [already] fulfilled their duty and those who have not fulfilled their duty. [Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Tefillah 9:3]. Click here to see the Hebrew text of this section.

EXPLANATIONS (continued)

Having completed our review of the Kedushah we can now turn our attention to the remainder of the cantor's repetition. The cantor repeats the central benediction, Kedushat ha-Yom exactly as it was said by the individual worshippers, so it need not detain us here. The same is true of the fifth benediction, Avodah. The sixth of the seven benedictions is known as Hodayah, Thanksgiving. When the cantor begins to recite this benediction the congregation recites a different version, in an undertone.

The first words of this benediction are Modim anaĥnu lakh, and as the cantor says these words the congregation quietly recites the alternative version, known as Modim de-Rabbanan, the Sages' Modim. The cantor, of course, must continue the recitation of the original text out loud, regardless of what the congregation is saying.

Modim de-Rabbanan is an amalgam of many phrases suggested for this purpose by various sages. Let us first present the text of Modim de-Rabbanan, but separate its components line by line:

  1. We give thanks to You, God our Lord,
  2. God of all flesh,
  3. our Creator and the Author of Creation.
  4. Blessings and thanks to Your great Name for keeping us in life and sustaining us.
  5. So do You keep us in life and sustain us, and gather our exiles to Your holy courts to observe Your laws and perform Your pleasure with a perfect heart.

The Gemara [Sotah 40a] tells us that the great Amora Rav used to say "We give thanks to You, God our Lord, for thanking You" - line 1 above. His contemporary, Shemu'el, used to say "God of all flesh, for thanking You" - line 2. Rabbi Simai used to say "our Creator and the Author of Creation, for thanking you" - line 3. However, in the Yeshiva of Neharde'a they reported that Rabbi Simai used to say "Blessings and thanks to Your great Name for keeping us in life and sustaining us, for thanking You" - line 4. We are then told that Rav Aĥa bar-Ya'akov used to conclude "So do You keep us in life ... and perform Your pleasure with a perfect heart, for thanking You" - line 5 above. Finally, the Gemara reports that Rav Papa says "therefore we say all of them".

It is not at all clear why these alternative versions should have been introduced at all. As far as I know this question has not been addressed. The only suggestion that I can put forward is that it was felt that it was necessary to give the individual congregant something to say so that he would associate himself with what the cantor was saying.

DISCUSSION:

In Tefillah 066 we started discussing the concept of Heuche Kedushah. Elaine Friedland writes:


I can understand that the custom of repeating the entire Amidah by the cantor after the individual prayer in silence, developed because of the lack of a printed siddur and one needed certain level of expertise to do the Amidah correctly. However, today, isn't the full repetition of the Amidah almost superfuous when one can read the Amidah in the siddur, and can pray either in Hebrew or ones vernacular? Wouldn't it be more appropriate for our situation for the Cantor just to sing the initial blessing plus the Kedushah?

I respond:

In that same shiur, In Tefillah 066, I explained the historical development of the repetition of the Amidah. At the conclusion I noted that "the opinion of the sages [that the Amidah is to be recited by the cantor at every service] is the "working hypothesis" of the later poskim [decisors]". Thus, unless we are to turn the 2000 year old precedent set by the sages of the Mishnah that mandates the recitation of the Amidah by the cantor, if we wish to shorten the service our only option is to omit the silent Amidah! And we have an historical example of this very solution. In his responsa, Rambam - no less - tells us that in his own synagogue in Cairo he instituted that on Shabbat and YomTov the cantor alone was to recite the Amidah out loud, and this recitation was not preceded by the private recitation by each individual worshipper. He tells us that he did this because of problems of decorum! (The mind boggles at the idea that there should have been decorum problems in the sysngogue in which the congregants had the privilege of worshipping together with one of Israel greatest rabbinic luminaries ever.) Rambam explains:

This [procedure] is permissible because whoever is not 'knowledgeable' [baki] can fulfull his obligation by listening to the cantor and those who are 'knowledgeable' can recite the Amidah, word for word, together with the cantor. I was brought to this pass because the people were not paying attention to what the cantor was saying during the cantor's repetition: some were chatting one with another and others were going outside, leaving the cantor to recite worthless benedictions [berakhah le-vatalah] because no one was listening. Now, when someone who is not knowledgeable see rabbis and others chatting, spitting and generally behaving like someone who is not at prayer during the cantor's repetition he will do likewise...

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose! Not much has changed in 800 years of synagogue worship. Elaine asks whether it wouldn't be more appropriate for our situation [nowadays] for the Cantor just to sing the initial blessing plus the Kedushah? Personally I disagree, for reasons I set out in Tefillah 067. However, those who wish to avail themselves of the solution suggestion by Elaine can reread what I wrote in Tefillah 067. But please note, this option is not available on Shabbat at Shaĥarit because of the requirement to immediately append Ge'ulah to tefillah (see Tefillah 050 and Tefillah 067, paragraph 8. However, Rambam's solution is, of course, available.


In Tefillah 067 we discussed the Kedushah in the cantor's repetition. Geoff Garber writes:

Following the Kedusha, which version follows - l'dovador or atah kadosh - before we begin silently? I have heard both, but not heard a definitive ruling or explanantion. I have asked.

I respond:

I am surprised that Geoff has not been given an answer to a very simple question. There are two versions of the conclusion of the Kedushah. The Ashkenazi version, which is used in the overwhelming majority of Conservative synagogues, concludes the Kedushah with the version le-dor va-dor [siddur Sim Shalom page 116 and siddur Va'ani Tefillati page 346]. On weekdays the Chassidic version known as Sfard substitutes Attah kadosh (but on Shabbat the conclusion is the same as in Ashkenaz). With regards to Heuche Kedushah there are two possibilities. The worshipper can either recite the concluding benediction word for word together with the cantor and then continue privately with the rest of the Amidah or s/he can wait quietly while the cantor concludes the Kedushah and then continue privately with Attah kadosh: both possibilities are equally permissible.

For the source of the above, click here