By Rabbi Jim Rogozen, January 14, 2023
You know that joke about the woman who calls her husband in a panic? She says “Dear, be careful. There’s a crazy guy on the freeway driving in the wrong direction!” He responds, “It’s not one guy. Everybody is driving in the wrong direction!”
Which leads me to the subject of how one does a heiche kedusha , which is what we call it when we shorten the time it takes to recite the Amida by eliminating the hazara, or Reader’s repetition.
Rabbi David Golinkin identified 7 different ways of doing this, but the two most popular ones are the…
- The Sephardi Method: We all begin the Amidah out loud together, we do the kedusha out loud, then we finish the Amida
- Then there’s the Ashkenazi Method: Only the shaliach tzibur starts out loud, then we, the kahal join in with the shaliach tzibur for Kedusha, then we, the kahal, start over from the very beginning of the Amida and we do the whole thing silently.
Over the centuries, the heiche kedusha was seen as a compromise, something that was only used when a group of people were running out of time (usually at weekday Minha). It’s interesting to note that people who would never consider doing a heiche kedusha on Shabbat started to do so during the worst of COVID as a way to limit exposure during outdoor minyanim.
Over time the heiche kedusha was put into play for one or both of the following reasons: One, because people thought davening was too long. Two, because the full repetition of the Amida, instituted to help non-readers fulfill their Amida requirement, was no longer necessary. The naysayers rejected both reasons, adding that using a heiche kedusha to shorten prayer made as much sense as asking Rabbis to do a heicha drash. Well, maybe that’s ok.
There are additional downsides to doing a heiche kedusha:
- People who don’t regularly hear most of the Amidah repeated won’t develop davenning fluency and accuracy
- People won’t hear Birkat Kohanim
- My reason: It reduces the opportunities for singing
So, we have the two basic, consensus methods: Sephardi and Ashkenazi. However, there is a general consensus that for Shacharit, it’s better to use the Sephardi method (everyone starts together, out loud), because of an opinion in the Talmud, Brakhot 4b that says
“איזהו בן העולם הבא? זה הסומך גאולה לתפילה”.
“Who is worthy of the world to come? She or he who links geula (redemption) to t’filla (another name for the Amida).”
How does that work? The siddur connects the reference to geula – redemption, leaving Egypt– found in the 3rd paragraph of the Shema, through a variety of verses, ending with the bracha (“baruch ata…ga’al Yisrael” – God redeemed Israel) that is right before the Amida. This connection led to the custom of lowering our voice at that bracha, and then going right into the Amida. That’s why if we do a heiche kedusha in Shacharit, everyone would need to begin the Amida together, Ashkenazi style.
When the Law Committee took up this issue in 2017 Rabbi Jeremy Kalmonofsky added a further complication. The Amida, when done with a hazara, includes both private and public prayer components. Rabbi Kalmonofsky questioned the status of the Hazan’s Amida in the Ashkenazic method.
If the Hazan is the only one who chants the first part of the Amida out loud, is that a t’filla yachid, an individual Amidah? What about the part he or she recites silently after the communal kedusha when others are praying the same thing? Is that now a public Amida? More to the point, if congregants start the Amida over from the beginning, does that retroactively make the Hazan’s initial individual prayer a Tfilla b’tzibur – a public prayer? The Sephardic method, he says, seems to be the best of both worlds, as it is clearly a T’filla B’tzibur.
Bottom line: while it’s preferable for a minyan to do a full hazarat ha’shatz, the RA opinion was to use Sefardi style, where everyone starts together, so it’s truly T’filla b’tzibur (public prayer) for everyone. 15 voted in favor, 4 abstained. One of those who abstained was our own Rabbi Gail Laibovitz, who felt that this issue fell into the category of minhag (custom) and didn’t need to be a settled legal issue.
I agree. I’m not advocating for a unified approach or a policy here in the minyan because it’s one of life’s great pleasures to look around and think: You do it your way, and I’ll do it the correct way.