Rabbi Yonatan Rosensweig
Former Rosh Kollel in Melborune (2006-2009)
Currently Community Rabbi in Beit Shemesh


Ten For Chazarat HaShatz

Upon occasion, I have joined minyanim with limited numbers of participants. In chutz la’aretz, in particular, this is a fairly common occurrence, and the question is: When may the chazan begin chazarat hashatz (the repetition of the amidah)? In my experience, the universal custom is that the chazan waits until he sees that ten men have completed the amidah. But is this custom indeed correct? In this article, we will briefly examine the relevant sources.

The Tur (124) cites his father, the Rosh:

“And this is the language of my master, my father, the Rosh z”l in response to the question… And the chazan davens to exempt those who are not proficient; and the congregation must be quiet and have the chazan’s brachah (blessing) in mind and say amen. And when there are not nine in shul who have the shaliach tzibur’s brachah in mind, I think that the shaliach tzibur’s brachah is a brachah l’vatalah (a “wasted” brachah). For the shaliach tzibur’s brachah was designed to be said in the [presence of] ten [men], and when there are not nine who have his brachot in mind, it appears to be a brachah l’vatalah. Therefore, each man should conduct himself as if there are not nine without him, and he should have the chazan’s brachah in mind.”

Note that this halachah does not refer to tefilah b’tzibur. Rather, it pertains to individuals who must have the shaliach tzibur’s tefilah in mind. In other words, each and every person must be sure to have the shaliach tzibur’s tefilah in mind, because ideally, his brachot should be recited in the presence of ten men who have those brachot in mind. Otherwise, the brachot appear to be brachot l’vatalah. Nevertheless, the Rosh is not suggesting that a lack of kavanah (having the brachot in mind) prevents the shaliach tzibur from beginning the chazarat hashatz.

In contrast, elsewhere (55), the Tur discusses the question of who can be counted as part of a minyan, and the Beit Yosef states:

“The Rambam writes… If one starts to daven on his own and cannot respond together with them (i.e. with the rest of the congregation) and there are only nine who can respond, he is counted with them, as it is written, ‘and I shall be sanctified among the Children of Israel.’ – Ten bnei kedushah ate together; the Shechinah rests among them… And from here my teacher learned… that if one is asleep, he is counted with the nine for Kaddish and Kedushah…”

Thus, a person who is asleep is considered to be one of the ten men.

Although the Taz disagrees with this conclusion, he concedes that one who is davening on his own can be counted. Moreover, the Aruch HaShulchan (55:13) declares:

“But those who are in the middle of davening can be counted – up to four [such men]… And even concerning one who is in the middle of davening, Rabbenu, the Beit Yosef, wrote… It is proper that the others wait to recite Kaddish until he finishes, in order that he receive the merit as well… However, if he takes a very long time, they should not wait for him…”

Thus, mei’ikar hadin, the chazan only has to wait for six men to have completed the amidah. Note that this does not contradict the Rosh. The men who are still davening are considered as if they have the tefilah of the shaliach tzibur in mind. After all, they are engaged in the tefilah themselves. In any event, there is no need to wait excessively for everyone to complete the amidah.