Vayikra 5780

March 24, 2020



The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim, Chapter 98, Paragraph 4) writes as follows:

Tefillah takes the place of the Korban. Therefore, we have to be careful that our Tefillah shall be similar to the Korban, that our minds shall be focussed on the prayers, for just as with the Korban the wrong thoughts can invalidate the Korban, so too is it with Tefillah. We stand respectfully for the Amidah similar to when we bring a Korban … as with a Korban, we have a fixed place; as with a Korban, there should be nothing between oneself and the wall (that could disrupt one’s Kavanna); and, like the Kohen wore his splendid garments when he brought the Korban, one should have special garments for Tefillah … [This is a possible source for wearing one’s jacket and hat for Tefillah.]

The Abudraham similarly equates the Shliach Tsibbur of today with the Kohen who brought Korbannot on our behalf in the Beit HaMikdash.

The duties of a Shli’ach Tsibbur fall under four headings:

  1. 1. To represent those who cannot themselves fulfil their obligation
    in the Mitzvah of Davvening: with his Tefillah on their behalf, he is TheShli’achTsibburthereforehastohavein”.מֹוִציָאןְיֵדיחֹוָבָתן” mind those members of the congregation who cannot discharge those obligations themselves (to make Brochos, to hear Kaddish, to hear Kedushah, etc.) and he must take care that the congregation can hear him.
  2. 2. To be, as it were, the spokesman on behalf of the Tsibbur and their prayer leader, to lead the congregation in Davvening and bring them to respond together.
  1. 3. To help to make the individuals of the community into one united Tsibbur by informing them where the Davvening is up to and by setting the pace of the Davvening so that everyone can keep together. A Shliach Tsibbur steps up to this honour with serious responsibility. He’s not a performer and nor is he someone who simply announces the beginning and end of each paragraph. But nor does being a Shli’ach Tsibbur mean that one simply Davvens as usual except that he merely stands in front of the Reader’s desk!
  2. 4. To enthuse the Tsibbur and inspire them to direct their concentration — their כ ָו ָנהַּ — in the Davvening that it should be pleasing to HaShem. Like the Kohen of old, the Shliach Tsibbur will focus his own attention, and, even more importantly, he will help to direct the Kavvanah of his congregation, that they shall all hold in mind before Whom they are standing and to Whom it is that they are praying.

Contrary to the mistaken idea that seems to have taken root in many places, it is NOT the duty of the Shli’ach Tsibbur to in any way entertain the congregation, neither with his talents in singing nor any other kind of performance. The performing cantor with choir is more suited to the world of the theatre and really has no place in the sacred House of Prayer. Another thing: nowhere in the Codes does it say that it is the duty of the Shli’ach Tsibbur to Davven as quickly as possible or that this is at all praiseworthy.

Perhaps what singles out a good Shli’ach Tsibbur is his ability to enthuse the congregation and in this to earn his other title, “ב ַּעל ְת ִפי ָלהַּ ,” literally, “the Master of Prayer.” The gifted “ב ַּעל ְת ִפי ָלהַּ ” is that special person who can unite the individuals of a congregation, to meld them into one harmonious community, all together singing the praises of HaShem and praying to Him, making our Tefillot ִא ֵשי ֵרי ַּח ִניחֹו ַּח , a pleasure to HaShem.