Question: Is it preferable for a ‘kehillah’ (congregation) to obtain a salaried ‘Shatz kavua’ (regular ‘Shaliach Tzibur’ or ‘Chazzan’), or one who does it gratis? Answer: Salaried, for two reasons: 1) this will prevent unqualified people from “substituting”, because it is a paid position, and 2) it will motivate the ‘Shatz’ to prepare and exert himself more.
Question: What should a ‘kehillah’ do if a person forces himself into the position of ‘Shatz’ against the will of the ‘kehillah’ members?
Answer: They should “protest” by not answering ‘amein’ to his brachos! In truth, his brachos are not deserving of ‘amein’ because they are more a degradation of Hashem than His praises! (Note: In general, one should not “grab” mitzvos away from others who wish to do them. Of course, if no one else wants to do a particular mitzvah, it is laudable to jump in and make sure it gets done.)
Question: Who is obligated to pay for the ‘Shatz’’s salary?
Answer: The community – which means the members of the ‘kehillah’! In communal matters, there are two ways to assess the collection of funds: per capita (Heb. ‘l’fi nefashos’, according to the “souls”), or according to financial means (‘l’fi mamon’, according to the money). The Shulchan Aruch writes that the general custom was to divide the total sum in half; one half should be ‘l’fi nefashos’, and the other half ‘l’fi mamon’. There may be exceptions to this, however, e.g. hiring a ‘Shatz’ only for ‘Yomim Noraim’ (High Holidays), which might be entirely per capita. (Ed: Of course, a ‘kehilla’ has the right to establish its own policies as well.)
Question: If a ‘kehillah’ has limited funds, should it hire a ‘Rav’ or a ‘Shatz’?
Answer: It’s like this: if the ‘Rav’ will be competent in serving as a strong halachic authority and guide, then his influence will be greater to the community than that of a knowledgeable ‘Shatz’. If the ‘Rav’ will not be able to provide that level of leadership, then a knowledgeable ‘Shatz’ will probably serve the ‘kehillah‘ better, in that at least the ‘Tefilah’ will be done properly.
Question: What kind of evidence that a ‘Shatz’ has sinned is needed to warrant his removal from his position?
Answer: Only due process, including testimony in a ‘Beis Din’ (Halachic Jewish court) would warrant his removal. However, one may act upon hearsay to bring the matter to the attention of the ‘Beis Din’ so that they may investigate the report. Even if the ‘Shatz’ has sinned, proper ‘teshuva’ (repentance) may enable him to remain in his position.
Question: Is there any requirement that the ‘Shatz’ dress a certain way?
Answer: Most importantly, he and his clothes should be clean. If he works in a trade where his clothes soil easily – e.g. he is a ‘shochet’ (ritual slaughterer,) he must change his clothing before coming forth to lead the davening. In general, a ‘Shatz’ should carry himself with dignified port and dress in the community, as would a ‘Rav’ or a ‘Talmid Chacham’ (Torah scholar).
Question: May a ‘Shatz’ who uses foul language be removed from his position?
Answer: He should be warned first. If he does not desist, then he can be removed. The same applies to a ‘Shatz’ who entertains inappropriate musical interests on the side, i.e. songs of idolaters, etc.
Question: Who has the first rights of succession to a ‘Shatz’ – is his position hereditary?
Answer: As with many communal leadership positions, a son is given serious first consideration for his father’s position, assuming that he is qualified. If it is a high-level position, such as ‘Rosh Yeshiva’ (higher level Torah lecturer) or ‘Moreh Hora’ah’ (halachic authority,) the son may not necessarily be given first consideration.
Question: Does halacha recognize “contracts”? Can a ‘kehillah’ hire a ‘Shatz’, say, for two years, and then not renew it, even though there are no particular factors that disqualify him from continuing?
Answer: Yes. A signed contract – whatever the terms – is an agreement by both parties to abide by its conditions and is halachically binding. Even if there was no contract, if the known local custom was that communal positions are temporary and subject to renewal, that would be binding as well, unless stipulated otherwise.
Bonus Question: What is the meaning of the word “chazzan” – does it literally mean “cantor”, i.e. “singer”?
Answer: No. The word “chazzan” comes from the Aramaic word ’chazi’, which means “see”. The ‘Chazzan’ was someone who, because of the immense responsibility he had to be ‘motzi’ the ‘kehillah’ in ‘Tefila’ (hey, that rhymes!), would be sure to look inside the ‘Siddur’ and daven properly. Indeed, every person should make it a habit to daven from a ‘Siddur’ and not rely upon his own memory and power of concentration.