Now, we will discuss the process of inviting the ‘Shatz’ (acronym for ‘Shaliach Tzibur’ – lit. the agent of the community) to come down and lead the davening. Here, we must distinguish between the ‘Shatz kavua’ – lit. a fixed ‘Shatz’, i.e. one who is appointed or hired by the community to be the regular Chazzan, and the ‘Shatz b’akraii’ – lit. a temporary ‘Shatz’, who is asked to lead for a particular service. The former does not need a special invitation to come down to lead every time, while the latter does. A “retired” ‘Shatz kavua’ should still seek the permission of both the current ‘Shatz kavua’ and the ‘Tzibur’ before coming down on his own accord.
The halacha states (based upon the Gemara) that even when a ‘Shatz b’akraii’ is invited to come down to lead, he should not appear over-eager to accept. At first, he should politely resist, indicating that others would be more deserving. When the ‘Gabai’ repeats his invitation, the person should “reluctantly” prepare himself to go, and then wait for the third call to actually go down. The exceptions to this rule (whereby he should go immediately upon being called) are when the one asking him is an ‘adam gadol’ (distinguished person), or when he is being asked to replace a ‘Shatz’ who became ill in the middle of davening. (Ed: I was taught, in the name of one of Jewry’s leading Rabbanim, Harav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita, of the Jerusalem Beis Din, that the Sages’ requirement to resist does not apply anymore today, because the ‘Shatz’ is not being asked to be ‘motzi’ - i.e. enable the congregation to fulfill their obligation of Tefila - as he once was. In earlier times, when the average person either did not have a Siddur, or could not read the Hebrew, his entire davening was accomplished by listening to the ‘Shatz’. Nowadays, for the most part, every man davens for himself, and the Repetition of the ‘Shatz’ is largely ceremonial. Because the ‘Shatz’ is not performing such an honorable task anymore, Rav Shternbuch ruled that the expression of humility by “resisting” the invitation that the Sages once required, is not necessary! Try that one out, and make your Gabai happy – just say YES!)
Question: Whose decision is it to appoint, or protest the appointment of, the ‘Shatz’, particularly a ‘Shatz kavua’?
Answer: Theoretically, it is the prerogative of each and every member of the ‘kehillah’ (congregation). The reason for that is that the job of the ‘Shatz’ is to lead the Tefila (i.e. Shemoneh Esrei), which is today’s substitute of the ‘Korban Tzibur’ (communal sacrifice) in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash. Since each individual is represented in that “virtual” ‘Korban’, he has a say in the appointment of that ‘Shatz’. [Note: In truth, the same would apply to other positions of communal leadership, such as the Rav, ‘magidei shiur’ (Torah lecturers), etc.] Practically, however, the voice of the individual has gotten weaker with time, for two primary reasons: 1) many such protests are made out of personal interests, which are not always ‘L’shem Shamayim’ (for the sake of Heaven) and tend lead to ‘machlokes’ (dispute); and 2) the point made above, that the ‘Shatz’ is no longer an agent to be ‘motzi’ the individual, and consequently, the individual does not have the vested interest in the ‘Shatz’ that he once had. Rather, a ‘kehillah’ should create policies for how appointments are made, that will ensure a peaceful process (e.g. a majority-vote of dues-paying members, a committee appointed for these matters, etc.) In addition, once a ‘Shatz kavua’ is appointed, it is much harder to have him removed from his post, as long as his contract period is still current. Some grounds for disallowing the appointment of a ‘Shatz’ are: if he is a ‘Mamzer’ (i.e. born of a halachically-illegitimate union), a flagrant violator of halacha, a heretic, or he is one who harbors animosity towards one or more of the ‘kehillah’ members. (Note: In general, a ‘Shatz’ must attempt to love every member of the ‘kehillah’ and overlook personal issues he has with any of them.)
On the issue of animosity, it is very important that a ‘Ba’al Koreh’ (Torah reader), who is reading the sections of the ‘Tochacha’ (Admonition-Curses) of Sefer Vayikra (Chaper 26) and Sefer Devarim (Chapter 28), does not think ill of any member of the ‘Tzibur’ while he is reading. Most importantly, a person towards whom the ‘Ba’al Koreh’ has ill-will should not be called up for those ‘aliyos’!
Question: Does an ‘aveil’ (mourner) have a “claim” to be the ‘Shatz b’akraii’ for the weekly davening?
Answer: Yes and no. Indeed, it is a very big ‘zechus’ (merit) for the departed soul to have his relative be the ‘Shatz’ – even bigger than the saying of ‘Kaddish’! Accordingly, a ‘kehillah’ should try to accommodate the ‘aveil’ if at all possible. To be exact, the priority of an ‘aveil’ is third to that of an observer of a ‘Yahrzeit’, and (believe it or not) a ‘Mohel’ who will be performing a ‘bris’ that day! But again, since the ‘Shatz’ is representing the ‘kehillah’, they have the final say in the appointment of the ‘Shatz’. Perhaps the particular ‘aveil’ is not adept at Hebrew pronunciation; in that case, they are not obligated to accept him as their ‘Shatz’. It boils down again to the policy of the ‘kehillah’. Some congregations have a policy that only the designated ‘Shatz’s’ can lead, so as not to have to be selective about which ‘aveilim’ can lead and which cannot. For ‘Maariv’, the ‘kehillah’ should practice particular forbearance, because ‘Maariv’ does not represent an actual ‘Korban’ (daily sacrifice), but rather the nighttime incineration on the ‘Mizbaiach’ (Altar) of the fats and limbs of the ‘Korbanos’ that were offered during the day. Consequently, the proprietorship of the Tzibur is less than with the other ‘Tefilos’.
Finally, the Shulchan Aruch cautions us to resist the authority of alien governments to impose their demands on who should or should be the ‘Shatz’. (Remember, the Gabai calls the ‘Shatz’, not the government!)