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MBY 53:1-3 Appointing a chazzan to lead the davening (part 1)
MBY 53:1-3 Appointing a chazzan to lead the davening (part 1)
[Ed: Before we even begin the topic of appointing a chazzan, let me ask you a question: Doesn’t it seem odd that this topic is being raised when we are already half-way through the davening – when we’ve just completed the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’? I believe that this question points to an important observation: perhaps we don’t really need a chazzan for ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’! In the Sephardic shul near where I live, no ‘Shaliach Tzibur’ (lit. messenger of the congregation, i.e. the chazzan) “descends before the Ark” (i.e. the Sages’ expression for the chazzan taking his position) until ‘Yishtabach’, and I think that this practice is borne out by this observation. Interesting, no?]

This first lesson revolves around a rather fundamental question regarding the structure of a) the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’, b) the section which follows it, known as ‘Krias Shema u’Virchoseha’ (‘Krias Shema’ and its brachos, or simply ‘Birchos Krias Shema’), and c) the transition between the two, namely the ‘Half-Kaddish’ and the ‘Borchu’ (see Artscroll Siddur, pp. 82-84). The question is the following: Where is the “break” between the sections? Is ‘Yishtabach’ really part of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ or is it part of the transition to the next section? We seem to have conflicting indications: On one hand, we learned in the previous siman that ‘Yishtabach’ is the bracha that concludes the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ – i.e. the corresponding “book-end” to ‘Baruch She’amar’. Indeed, we were taught that no interruptions should be made throughout the entire ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’, including ‘Yishtabach’, with the exception of mitzvah-responses. Furthermore, one may never begin davening with ‘Yishtabach’; at the very least, he must always say the basic structure of ‘Baruch She’amar’, ‘Ashrei’ (and ‘Nishmas’ on Shabbos) and ‘Yishtabach’ as a unit.

On the other hand, consider the following:
1) When does the chazzan stand and take his position? Beginning with ‘Yishtabach’!
2) At what point does the congregation pause and wait for the tenth man to show up? Isn’t that usually before ‘Yishtabach’?!
3) If the chazzan must don a ‘talis’ and make a ‘bracha’, he should do so before ‘Yishtabach’, not after!
These halachos seem to indicate that the ‘Yishtabach’ is really the beginning of the transition to the next section, rather than the conclusion of the previous one. So, which is it???

The answer is BOTH! It is truly the conclusion of the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’, as we have learned. However, when you are the chazzan, and you are saying the ‘Half-Kaddish’, you are not simply saying a lone ‘Kaddish’ – rather, you are connecting it to what was just said, namely the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’. For the chazzan specifically, the ‘Kaddish’ and ‘Yishtabach’ must be inseparable! This explanation would satisfy our three points above: 1) the chazzan must certainly begin with ‘Yishtabach’, because he must connect the ‘Kaddish’ to it (assuming, of course, that he has already said the earlier parts of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’); 2) the chazzan alone should pause and wait for the tenth man before saying ‘Yishtabach’, whereas the rest of the people should pause after saying ‘Yishtabach’! 3) Donning the ‘talis’ right before ‘Yishtabach’ is also unique to the chazzan; anyone else who did not don ‘talis and tefillin’ beforehand should do so either during the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ (between Psalms) or immediately after ‘Yishtabach’, but not right before it, like the chazzan would!

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