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52:1 (1) If one comes to the synagogue and finds the congregation (2) at the end of the Verses of Praise, (3) he should say the opening blessing of the Verses, “Baruch SheAmar,” and then say Psalm 145, “Tehila L’David,” and then Psalm 148, “Halelu es HaShem,” and then Psalm 150, “Halelu Kel B’Kadsho.” {Rama: And if he has (4) more time, he should also say the first set of verses that follows the opening blessing, meaning “Hodu LaShem,” (5) up to the verse that reads “V’hu Rachum Yichaper Avon [And he is merciful, pardoning sin]” and skip to where that verse is repeated immediately before Psalm 145 – because the verses in the middle are merely collected verses.} And then he should say the closing blessing, “Yishtabach,” and continue with the blessings before the Shema, read the Shema with its blessings and pray with the congregation.

MB 1: If one comes – But ideally it is appropriate to come to the synagogue early, to avoid needing to skip, because it is written in books that the Maggid cautioned the Bais Yosef to come early to the synagogue in order that he be able to say the prayers in order, and not skip – because one who does so is “mixing the sources” [heavenly sources of good]. [The Bais Yosef, author of the Shulchan Aruch, is widely reported to have been visited by a Maggid – an angel sent to teach him. Even more, the Bais Yosef wrote an entire book of what the Maggid told him. One who cannot believe this is left to wonder why a genius with an encyclopedic mind such as that of the author of the Shulchan Aruch would create or dream such a thing. –YM] And many men of action accustomed themselves to pray in order for this reason, even if they came late to the synagogue. However, the Chacham Tzvi writes in his responsa section 36 that when the Zohar says that one should pray in order, this is when he is not praying with a congregation; but one who comes late to the synagogue and comes when the congregation is already praying should, according to all authorities, skip in order to pray [the Amidah] together with them. So explained the Pri Chodosh in section 50, and even one who does not usually pray with a congregation, because he does not arise so early, nonetheless if he should happen to come to the synagogue and find the congregation ending the Verses of Praise, he should do as the Shulchan Aruch wrote above, because at least he should give himself the merit of prayer with the congregation this one time.And see in the Sha’arei Tshuva who says that only if he can at least say the opening and closing blessings of the Verses of Praise with Psalm 145 in the middle – and see what we wrote later in the name of the Mishkenos Yaakov.

MB 2: At the end – Meaning that by the time he puts his Tefillin on, the congregation has reached the end of the Verses of Praise. See in the Chayei Adam, who wrote that if he comes late, he should at least be certain to say the blessings on washing the hands, “elokai neshama [My G-d, the soul…]”, and the blessings on the Torah. (Because if not, the Pri Chodosh is of the opinion that one should not say any of these after praying: not “Elokai Neshama,” because the blessing “Mechayei HaMeisim [who revives the dead]” is enough to fulfill his obligation – and see at the end of this section, what we wrote about this. Concerning the blessings on the Torah, there are several opinions in section 47 paragraph 8, in the case where one did not learn Torah immediately after prayers, see there. And the Sages only established that one should make a blessing on washing one’s hands _before_ prayers.)

MB 3: He should say – In order that he should be able to pray together with the congregation, because congregational prayer is more desireable and accepted before the Holy One, blessed be He.

MB 4: More time – Meaning even more than the time necessary to read all of Psalms 145 through 150, because they precede recitation of “Hodu..”, because these psalms are the main part of the Verses of Praise. And the Magen Avraham wrote that saying the passage “Vayivarech David [And David blessed, following Psalm 150]” up to “L’shem Tifartecha [for the sake of your glory]” also takes precedence over “Hodu…”, but only after Psalms 145-150.

MB 5: Up to the verse – The Chayei Adam wrote that on Shabbos, one should skip all of the songs that are added for Shabbos, and read those things that are said on regular weekdays. The reason is that those things read on weekdays are consistent [and we have a Talmudic principle that things that are more consistent take precedence over those that are sporadic]. If one has more time, he should read the first three additional Psalms (19, 34, and 90), which take precedence over the other additions [Zohar]. He also wrote that on Shabbos, one is obligated to say “Nishmas Kol Chai [The soul of every living thing… – found before Yishtabach on Shabbos]”, and it is called (in Tractate Pesachim 118) the blessing of song, and it is better that one should skip Psalms in order to say it; if one has no time he should say only the opening “Baruch SheAmar,” Psalm 145, “Nishmas” and “Yishtabach” – see there.

And if there is not enough time for all of this, then he should also skip Psalm 148, “Halelu es HaShem.” {Rama: And if there is still not enough time, he should only say “Baruch Sheamar”, Psalm 145, and “Yishtabach”.} And if the congregation has already begun the blessings preceding the recitation of the Shema, and there is not even enough time to say the Psalms of Praise even with skipping, then one should (6) read the Shema with its blessings along with the congregation, and (7) pray the Amidah with them, and then go back and read the full Verses of Praise without the blessings before and (8) after. {Rama: (9) In any case, one should say (10) all of the obligatory Morning Blessings.}

MB 6: Read the Shema – In the responsa of the Mishkenos Yaakov he deals extensively with this issue, and proves that the blessings “Baruch SheAmar” and “Yishtabach” are a decree dating back to the time of the Mishna. Therefore it is better to pray alone than to completely skip these blessings. However, if he does not need to skip these entirely, but has time to say “Baruch SheAmar”, Psalm 145, and “Yishtabach” while the leader is taking his time with the blessings before the Shema, then all agree that he should do as above – because the reason skipping was suggested was in order that he should be able to pray the silent Amidah with the congregation. However, it is obvious that all of this is only when he can still perform his obligation to read the Shema properly, as will be described in section 61, because we do not push away proper performance of a [Torah] commandment in order to pray with the congregation.

MB 7: Pray the Amidah with them – But if he will still not catch up with the congregation even if he starts from the blessings preceding the Shema, then he should not skip at all according to everyone. Rather, he should pray alone according to the set order instead of skipping over everything in order to say the Amidah with the congregation. This is because the final blessing of the Shema concludes “Redeemer of Israel,” and it is more important to connect the blessing over redemption to prayer, than it is to pray together with the congregation in the morning.

MB 8: After – Meaning “Baruch SheAmar” and “Yishtabach”, and the reason is that according to most authorities, these blessings were only fixed to be said before morning prayers.

MB 9: In any case – Meaning to say that one is obligated to say them after praying, if he did not say them before it. And see above in section 47 paragraph 8 on the subject of blessing over the Torah, and what we wrote in the Mishna Brura there, in MB 17, in the name of the Elya Raba. And see in the Pri Chodosh who wrote that even the blessing of “Elokai, Neshama” [My G-d, the soul] should not be said after prayers, because one already fulfilled this obligation by saying the blessing “who revives the dead”. And see in the Pri Megadim who wrote that the words of the Rema do not appear to agree with this, and so too in the book Maamar Mordechai he argues with the Pri Chodosh, and so too in the Shaarei Tshuva section 6, he wrote that it is logical that he has _not_ fulfilled his obligation, and so is apparent from the explanations of the Gr”a in this section – and see further in the Biur Halacha. In any case, it is best in the ideal to fulfill his obligations according to all opinions, meaning that if he began to pray and then realizes that he forgot to say the blessing “Elokai, Neshama”, then he should specifically intend _not_ to fulfill his obligation when he says “who revives the dead” – and then all agree that he should say the blessing after he prays. Because even though we rule that one can fulfill the obligation to say a blessing even without intent to do so, nonetheless when a person explicitely intends _not_ to fulfill his obligation then he succeeds, and see further there (in the Pri Megadim). And see the Biur Halacha, where we wrote that if a person forgot the blessings over the Torah and then begins the blessings over the Shema, he should explicitely intend to _fulfill_ his obligation when he says the blessing “great love…” before reading the Shema, and then he should see that he learns Torah immediately after prayer, and thus he will fulfill his obligation according to all opinions.

MB 10: All of the obligatory Morning Blessings – See in the Ma’amar Mordechai and also in the book Nahar Shalom, who say that if one has already prayed, one can fulfill the obligation to say these blessings during the entire day – and so to is written in the Gr”a’s “Maasei Rav”, and it adds there that one has the obligation to say these blessings even at night until he goes to sleep, if he did not say them previously. And it appears to me that if sleep has already taken hold of him [meaning he wants to go to sleep], everyone agrees that he can no longer say the blessing “who _removes_ sleep from my eyes….” (following the example of the Grace after meals, as found in section 184 para. 5, see there). And in any case, ideally one should be careful not to delay the blessings beyond four variable hours, and if not, once this time has passed one may still say them until midday, because this is proven in the commends of many of the later commentators, that one does not lose these blessings after four hours. And the one who relies after four hours on the great men mentioned above, and says these blessings in the afternoon, cannot be rebuked. See in the Biur Halacha.

Section 53. The law of who is fit to lead the congregation.

53:1. The (1) leader should say “Yishtabach” while standing.

MB 1: The leader etc. – In order that the Kaddish be said immediately following, and that it should not be necessary to separate them by walking to the podium. However, in section 51 paragraph 7 (corrected), the Rama implies that even one who prayed alone still needs to stand while saying “Yishtabach”. See also in the Elya Raba, who answers that it is a custom for an individual to stand, but it is required for the leader. So too wrote the Gr”a and the Ta”z that all men of action have a custom to stand while saying “Yishtabach”, whether on Shabbos or during the week, and even when praying alone. One should be careful not to interrupt the recitation of all of the 15 praises in “Yishtabach” from the words “Shir Ushvacha [Song and Praise]” until “Meatah [from now]…”, and one who does break will receive a great punishment. However, this is not to say that they must all be said in one breath (Chayei Adam in the name of the Gr”a).

Yaakov Menken [email protected]

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Siman 53 The Law regarding who is suitable to lead the service

53.5 If someone with all these character traits cannot be found they should select the best in the congregation in wisdom and good deeds. {Rama – If there is an elderly ignoramous with a beautiful voice that the people want, and a young 13 year old who understands what he is saying but doesn’t have a pleasant voice, the young 13 year old still (19) takes precedence.

A person who did an aveiroh by mistake, e.g. he killed someone accidently, and he repented (20) is allowed to lead the service but not if (21) he did it on purpose (22) because still a bad reputation spread about him before he repented.

MB 19: takes precedence – even to become The Community Representative (Chazan) as long as he is 13 years old and has two hairs.

MB 20: is allowed – he would only come under the category of ‘ein pirko noeh’ [of bad reputation – whose lifetime has not been well spent] if he is liable to do improper things, but if something occured completely by mistake and he regrets it, he is considered completely righteous and may be appointed a priori as The Community Representative (Chazan).

MB 21: did it on purpose – not specifically murder, for the same applies to other wrong doings as mentioned earlier in paragraph 4, for it is imperative that he does not have a bad record even from childhood days. And so writes the Kol Bo explicitly.

MB 22: because still a bad reputation – Look in the Magen Avraham who brings in the name of many codifiers that even [if he transgressed] intentionally as long as he repented he may become The Community Representative (Chazan). Only with regard to Public Fasts are we stringent and require a good record even from childhood days but, as long as he repented, he may be appointed for the rest of the year. And so brings the Pri Magadim in the name of the Elyah Rabah as the law. The Elyah Rabah writes that at least for the Days of Awe, one should be stringent and treat them like Public Fast days because, in reality, even with regard to the rest of the year there are many views amongst the codifiers – look in Knesset Hagodol and the Vilna Gaon.

All this is with regard to not appointing him in the first place, but everyone agrees that we would not remove him for his post, if he had repented.

If the Community Representative was found on numerous occasions with Treifah [non-Kosher] food in his hands, we would remove him from his post, because at this point we would treat this as intentional – Look in the Pri Megadim who is doubtful if we would treat this as intentional even after the first time. But if he repented we would not remove him even after numerous occassions.

53.6 We may only appoint someone whose beard has become full [as a sign of] respect (23) to the congregation, but (24) on an irregular basis (25) as soon as he has two hairs he may lead the service as long he is not appointed by the congregation or by the main Chazan to stand in for him on certain (26) specific occasions.

[A full beard is a sign of adulthood, and it is not considered appropriate for a congregation to have a teenager as the set leader for its daily services. As far as I understand (important caveat), this Halacha has nothing to do with whether the person shaves – if he’s 30, his beard has become full, but he removes it. According to Torah law, we know that a person is maturing once he is 13 and has two hairs in his lower areas – see MB 25 below. — YM]

MB 23: to the congregation – and the congregation cannot forego this honour.

MB 24: on an irregular basis – all this is with regard to the rest of the year but on Fast Days, New Year and the Day of Atonement even on an irregular basis we do not allow someone without a full growth to lead the Service. And also in this matter one should not be lenient even if the congregation foregoes the respect due to them.

MB 25: as soon as he has two hairs – i.e. after he has reached the age of 13, because before that the 2 hairs don’t make any difference. Look in the Magen Avraham who writes that in general, we don’t need to check on the existence of 2 hairs because with regard to a Rabbinical law we can rely on the majority who do have 2 hairs at this time. Look in the Pri Megadim who writes that according to the Rambam who holds that prayer is a Torah obligation, it would be forbidden for this sort of representative to fulfill the duty of prayer for other people unless we were sure that he had 2 hairs.

MB 26: specific occasions – because that would establish him to serve on those set occasions. Not included in this is the situation where he was appointed to be ready to stand in for the Chazan if the Chazan might not be there, because this is not considered ‘regular’ because [his services] might never be required. They only prohibited the case where on specific occasions his services would definately be required. The Bach and Elyah Rabah disagree and also call this ‘regular’ and only consider it as ‘irregular’ if he is not appointed at all.

53.7 If the only person who knows how to lead the service is a 13 year old it is better that he should be appointed as the Community Representative [Chazan] rather than not hearing ‘Kedusha’ and ‘Kadish’ at all.

Siman 53: The law of who is fit to pray before the Ark (continued)

53:11 (34) A Shali’ach Tzibur [one who conducts the service on behalf of the congregation] who lengthens his prayers so that his voice may be clearly heard, if [he does this] because his heart rejoices at the giving of thanks to Hashem Yisborach in a pleasant manner then blessing will come upon him, provided that he prays in a respectful manner and stands in awe and fear. But if he intends only to have his voice heard because he enjoys the sound of his voice, then this is (35) repugnant. In any event [meaning even with good intentions], anyone who [unnecessarily] extends his praying [as the leader] is not doing something good, as it delays (36) the congregation.

MB 34: A Shali’ach Tzibur – One whose voice is pleasant should sing to the Holy One Blessed Be He rather than other song. If he has to spit, he should wipe his mouth afterwards before praying. (Sefer Chassidim Siman 251).

MB 35: Repugnant – It is quoted in the Sefer Chassidim that at the time that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was being taken out to be executed, he said to Rabbi Yishmoel the High Priest “For what reason am I being executed [why would Heaven permit this to happen to me]?” Rabbi Yishmoel replied, “Perhaps you were giving a public sermon and your heart rejoiced [from speaking in public] and [accordingly] you benefited from words of Torah”. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel replied “My brother, you have comforted me”. [He accepted this explanation, and realized that it was indeed improper for him to have derived personal pleasure. Caution: this is referring to a person of the stature of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel. This is a goal to which we should strive – but we should not abandon our efforts to spread Torah because we know we derive personal pleasure from our successes. — YM]

MB 36: The congregation – It is written in the Yam Shel Sh’lomoh Siman 50 “It is forbidden for him [the leader] to extend [the prayers] without the congregation’s consent, even on Shabbos or Yom Tov; and even with the congregation’s consent [extending the prayers] unreasonably is repugnant because this neither ‘half for Hashem’ nor ‘half for you'”

[In Bamidbar 29:35 it says “a day of retreat [Atzeres] it shall be for you” and in Devorim 16:8 it says “a day of retreat dedicated to Hashem”. Rabbi Yehoshuah in Tractate Beitzoh 15b learns from these two quotes that on Yom Tov one must dedicate half of the time to Hashem (ie. praying and learning) and the other half to oneself (ie. eating and enjoying the Yom Tov) [MeiChetzyo L’Hashem UMeiChetzho Lochem]. Thus, where a Shali’ach Tzibur unnecessarily extends the service on Yom Tov, the extra time involved is not considered as being dedicated to Hashem nor is it considered as being part of one’s own enjoyment of Yom Tov. — SP]

The Shiyorei Kenesses HaGedoloh writes in the name of R’I Beronah that a Shali’ach Tzibur whose voice is spoilt so that it sounds shaky and broken is unfit [Posul] [to lead the prayers]. He writes further that [where there are] two Chazonim [cantors] who are equal [in ability] then a Kohen takes precedence over a Levi, a Levi over a Yisroel. A Talmid Chochom [learned man] takes precedence over an ignoramus, even if the ignoramus is a Kohen, and even more so if he is a Levi.

53:12 One should not appoint [a leader – Shali’ach Tzibbur] who pronounces [Hebrew letter] (37) ‘Alef’s like ‘Ayin’s (38) and Ayins like Alefs.

MB 37: Alefs [like] Ayins – An explanation – the pronunciation of the “Ayin” is strong and deep [gutteral], more so than the “Alef”. And the same law applies to one who pronounces [letter] ‘Chet’sin like ‘Heh’s or pronounces the word “Shiboles” as “Siboles”. But if everyone [in the congregation] pronounces [these letters] thus, then he is permitted to be the Shali’ach Tzibur (M”A in the name of the Ridvaz).

And know also that the same law applies to anyone who is unable to pronounce the letters as prescribed, for instance someone who suffers from speech difficulties; that person as well should not be appointed to lead the prayers.

MB 38: and Ayins like Alefs – See in the P’ri Chodosh who makes the point that when there is no-one else as fit as him then it is permitted to appoint him to stand before the Ark, even [where his confuses the ‘Chet’s and ‘Heh’s. But the Ba’al P’nei Moshe disagrees with him [the P’ri Chodosh] and is of the opinion that even where there is no-one else it is not permitted [to allow him to stand before the Ark] except where he strives with difficulty to pronounce the Chet [properly] and is able to do so.

And it would also seem that even according to the P’ri Chodosh it is not permitted to appoint him as Shali’ach Tzibur on a fixed [regular] basis in case someone else comes along tomorrow who is better qualified than him; only for this one time is it permitted to have him stand [before the Ark] where there is no-one else as fit as him, as in the case of Rabbi Chiya brought in the Talmud. [Stephen found the reference – in Tosafos to Megila 24b, the writers ask how he was able to lead (as he did in a situation described in Bava Metzia 85b) if he could not say a Ches, and answer that he must have been able to read it correctly with great effort. –YM]

53:13 A shabby person [a ragamuffin], meaning one whose clothing is torn (39) and arms are revealed, should not stand (40) to lead the prayers.

MB 39: and his arms – and also his shoulders [are uncovered].

MB 40: to lead the prayers – to be the leader who repeats the Amidah, but he may lead the prayers from Borechu up to and including the first B’rocho before the Shema [“Poreis al Shema” – see Mishnah Megillah 4.3 and the commentaries there for an explanation of this phrase]. He may also not read from the Torah as it is a disgrace [for him to lead while dressed this way].

Stephen Phillips [email protected]

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Siman 53 — Laws concerning Who is Fit to Lead the Prayers (cont.)

53:14. (41) A blind person may officiate as Chazan, but (42) he may not read from the Torah, because one is not allowed to recite written words of Torah by heart.

MB 41: A blind person – Even one who is blind in both eyes, since he is obligated in all Torah commandments, as we rule according to the opinion of the Rabbis who disagree with Rabbi Yehuda (Tractate Bava Kama 87a). In the Responsa of the Chovas Yair (Rabbi Chaim Yair Bacharach, end of 17th cent.), Siman 176, he states that nevertheless a blind person, even if blind in only one eye, may not officiate as Chazan on the High Holy Days (i.e., Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), provided there is another person as suitable and worthy as he; see there. In the book Eliyahu Raba, subparagraph 10, the author disagrees with the Chavos Yair. It seems to me (i.e., the Chofetz Chayim) that even according to the Chavos Yair, though such a person should not be appointed as regular Chazan for the High Holy Days in the first place, if he became blind after being appointed he should not be removed from his position. A Chazan who cannot hear at all should not continue to serve in his position, according to the Novellae of Rabbi Akiva Eiger (18th-19th cents.). Although he fulfills his obligation to pray without hearing his own words, since in the ideal he must hear his own words, ideally he may not fulfill the obligation of others.

MB 42: He may not read – See further on in Siman 139 Par. 3 in the Rama. [Original text reads Par. 4]


53:15. An appointed Chazan can begin to lead the service of his own initiative, (43) and need not wait to be told.

MB 43: And need not wait – Because he has already been appointed for this.


53:16. A person who is not the regular Chazan must (44) decline a little before going before the Holy Ark. He shouldn’t decline too much, rather, the first time he is asked he should decline, when the request is repeated a second time he should prepare himself as if he wishes to get up (i.e., to lead the service), and when the request is repeated a third time he should get up to lead the service. If the person who asks him to lead the service is a distinguished person [i.e. the Rabbi, one of the Rabbis in the Yeshiva, or a recognized scholar], he should not decline the request (45) at all.

MB 44: Decline – If a regular Chazan no longer wished to be Chazan and another was appointed in his place, the former Chazan does not need permission from the congregation to lead the service, since he can continue to be Chazan if he wishes. However, this applies only to the congregation; he does require the permission of the new Chazan. Thus is it written in the Responsa of Yad Eliyahu (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shmuel, early 18th cent.) But according to what we have explained in the Biyur Halacha (by the author of the Mishnah Brurah), such a Chazan requires the prior permission of the congregation as well.

MB 45: At all – Since one should not decline a distinguished person. Tosafos (Talmudic commentary by rabbis of the first few generations after Rashi, who lived until the beginning of the 12th cent.) writes at the end of the seventh chapter of Tractate Pesachim (86b) that in a matter of crassness and pretentiousness, one should decline even the request of a distinguished person [to participate].


Lawton Cooper [email protected] sha-58.01


[We are now starting, with Hashem’s help, the study of the laws relating to the Shema and the Blessings before and after it.