Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Chazaras HaShatz

Someone once asked the Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l, “Why do we still repeat the shemonah esrei nowadays? After all, everyone says the shemonah esrei, don’t they? What need is there for a shaliach tzibbur?”

The Kotzker Rebbe responded, “As you know, if one wishes to bring merit to the soul of a person who has died, electing to lead the prayers is one way to do it. One of the reasons for this is of course the kaddish. But one can say kaddish even without being the chazzan! The truth is that the chazaras hashatz also helps the souls of those who have passed away. And this is why it is an injunction that will never be revoked, even though it has been many long centuries that people have already known how to pray for themselves. One would be hard pressed to find someone who really doesn’t say the entire service for himself.

When someone put these questions to the Chazon Ish, zt”l, he answered differently. “We still recite the chazaras hashatz for the am she’basados, the people stuck in the fields, of today. They are those people who do not pray because they don’t know better. Either they or their parents were taken in by the modern sectarian and ‘enlightenment’ movements, and they don’t understand the importance of prayer at all. Since these people are considered like people taken captive while young and raised among non-Jews, they are hardly responsible for their failure to come to synagogue. We recite the chazaras hashatz for them!”

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