By Dror Maor
We’ve all pondered this question at one time or another.
Why do we have to “suffer” through chazoras hashatz each and every day?
After all, it was enacted to benefit the illiterate who didn’t know how to read. Those people came to shul, and through the shaliach tzibbur’s repetition of the Shmoneh Esrei, their responding of “amen” would be considered as if they said the words themselves.
But today? How many shul goers don’t know how to read the siddur? Not too many.
So therefore, hadra kushya l’duchtah (the question remains unanswered). Why do we still require chazoras hashatz today?
Ask yourself the following question:
You once attended a shiur given by a rov whom you heard was brilliant, and a brilliant shiur he did deliver.
But, you yourself weren’t blessed with an abundance of concentration, and perhaps are also dyslexic. Would you go back to that shiur the following week? I’d bet you’d answer a resounding “no”. Add to that the fact that the maggid shiur would occasionally ask you, in the presence of all the others, “Are you with me?”, or, “Moishe, can we continue?”
Guaranteed that most people would not gravitate back to such an embarrassing situation.
But yet, thousands of Yidden throughout the ages streamed out to shul, knowing all too well that they would be singled out as the illiterate. And they came with determination, day in and day out.
In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, Rav Matisyahu Salomon zol er gezunt zein posed the following question:
The Shulchan Aruch says that if one speaks during chazoras hashatz, “גדול עוונו מנשוא”, (“his sin is too great to bear.”). This phrase is borrowed from Kayin, who upon murdering his brother Hevel (and thereby annihilating a quarter of the world’s population), asked Hashem if his sin was too great to bear. The possuk is read “bitmiha”, as a rhetorical question, “Is my sin too great to bear?”
But yet the Shulchan Aruch says these same words emphatically, concerning one who talks during chazoras hashatz.
Asks Rav Matisyahu shlita, is talking during chazoras hashatz really more severe than murder?
He suggested that the answer is that one who speaks during chazoras hashatz shows an open zilzul (disrespect) in tefilah.
I would like to take it one step further. When one does pay attention to the chazzan during the repetition, one demonstrates an amazing level of anivus, humility. It’s as if he’s proclaiming, “My ancestors may have been illiterate, yet they made an effort to come to shul, at the expense of being humiliated.”
On Yom Kippur, we abstain from eating and drinking, thereby telling Hashem, “Take away our physical being. We can’t exist without You.” But on Purim – where the seforim tell us one can attain a higher level than Yom Kippur – we tell Hashem while inebriated, “Take away our minds. Our thoughts and brilliant insights are meaningless without You.”
This is the idea behind the chazoras hashatz today. We connect with the notion that our mental existence completely depends on Hashem.
It is therefore worth every minute of the “suffering”, while the chazzan is repeating the same words we just said ourselves.