By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
When time is running short or the members of the minyan are unable to remain assembled for a prolonged period of time, many congregations implement an abridged form of the repetition, known as the heicha kedusha. When the heicha kedusha form of repetition is used it is generally only the first three blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei that are recited out loud. This abbreviated form of the repetition is generally only used at Mincha time, but is occasionally employed when needed at Shacharit, as well.
There are a number of customs on how the heicha kedusha repetition is performed. Some authorities recommend that everyone begin reciting the Shemoneh Esrei together out loud when performing a heicha kedusha, saying it word for word with the chazzan, including the Kedusha. Common Ashkenazic custom, however, is for the chazzan to begin the Shemoneh Esrei out loud alone while the congregation responds to his blessings and recites the Kedusha responsively, as if it were a regular repetition. According to all customs, at the conclusion of the Kedusha the chazzan continues silently to himself while everyone else then begins his own silent Shemoneh Esrei from the beginning.
There are a number of other methods for performing the heicha kedusha, as well. In situations where time is very short, however, such as at Mincha when there are only one or two minutes remaining before sunset, it is best that everyone commence his Shemoneh Esrei at the same time as the leader. Incidentally, in the event that when one is about to begin the silent Shemoneh Esrei one notices that the chazzan is about to begin his repetition, one should recite the Shemoneh Esrei along with him word for word – at least for the first three blessings.
Among the rationalizations for doing a heicha kedusha and forgoing the full repetition is because in our day it is essentially forbidden for one to rely on the repetition in order to discharge one’s obligation to pray. Since most people are able to recite the silent Shemoneh Esrei on their own, either in English or Hebrew, the need for a repetition in our day is minimized. Indeed, it is reported that the Rambam did away with the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei entirely because people weren’t properly paying attention to it or responding amen when required.
Make no mistake, the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei is one of the enduring enactments of our sages and must never be compromised. Indeed, there was once a cherem placed on congregations that did not conduct the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei in its entirety. The heicha kedusha method is not recommend for regular use and should only be implemented in extenuating circumstances. This is especially true on Chanuka and Purim when the public recitation of al hanissim is a mitzva in its own right and would not be recited out loud as part of the heicha kedusha. The Arizal was very particular to ensure that all prayer services included the full repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei even if it meant that the repetition of a Friday Mincha would extend into Shabbat.
 Tur, OC 124.  Beit Yosef, OC 232:1.  Although there is reference to a custom of the leader also reciting the last three blessings out loud as well. Biur Halacha 232.  OC 109:2,232:1; Kaf Hachaim, OC 124:10; Yalkut Yosef 1, p. 129.  Rema, OC 109:2,124:2; Mishna Berura 232:8; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 232:3–6; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 69:6.  Biur Halacha 124:2; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 232:6.  Aruch Hashulchan, OC 232:3–6; Pri Megadim, OC 124:5.  Rema, OC 124:2.  Tefilla K’hilchata 13:8, n. 18.  Rambam, Hilchot Tefilla 8:9; Tur, OC 124.  Aruch Hashulchan, OC 232:3.  Beit Yosef, OC 234.  Mishna Berura 124:6.  Tefilla K’hilchata 18 n. 10.  Kaf Hachaim, OC 232:8.