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Why does the chazzan repeat the amidah?

by Rabbi Herschel Finman

  

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The recitation of the Amidah was enacted by the Anshei Knesset Hagdolah (Men of the Great Assembly), close to 2500 years ago.

At that time, books were handwritten and therefore were a rare and expensive commodity. Furthermore, many people were illiterate (literacy was a financial issue. Very often, parents would require their children to participate in the family’s income. There were no extra funds available for education).

The Chazzan (also called the shliach tzibur - representative of the congregation) would repeat the amidah to allow the unlearned to say “amen”—“I agree with what was just said.” One may fulfill their obligation for saying a blessing by responding amen after hearing someone say a blessing, thus the primary objective of the repetition of the amidah was to allow the illiterate folk to fulfill their prayer obligations.

The primary objective of the repetition of the amidah was to allow the illiterate folk to fulfill their prayer obligations
With the advent of the printing press and affordable prayer books, people are no longer allowed to simply rely on the repetition of the amidah to fulfill their obligation, but they must say the amidah themselves. Even if one cannot read Hebrew, praying in the vernacular is acceptable.

The chazzan’s repetition of the amidah also allows the congregation to respond with the Kedusha. The primary verse of Kedusha is Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh – “Holy, holy, holy is the L-rd of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.”

The Amidah is repeated only during the morning, afternoon, and Musaf prayers. The Men of the Great Assembly established the prayers based on the daily sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem. The daily sacrifice was offered once in the morning and once in the afternoon—with an additional (musaf) offering on Shabbat and holidays. The evening prayer—Maariv, was initially an optional prayer. Over time, people accepted upon themselves the evening prayer as mandatory as well. Because of its originally optional status, the Men of the Great Assembly never instituted the repetition of the amidah for maariv.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Men of the Great Assembly
An institution of 120 rabbis who led the Jewish people at the onset of the Second Temple Era. They canonized the 24 books of the Bible and composed most of the prayers we have today. This institution lasted approximately 200 years.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Maariv
Evening prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Chazzan
A cantor, or any individual who leads the congregation in prayer.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.