Guest post by R. Dr. Barry Freundel
Rabbi Barry Freundel is the rabbi of Kesher Israel congregation in Washington, DC, Associate Professor of Rabbinics and Liturgy at Towson University, Vice President of the Vaad of Washington and head of the conversion committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His books include Why We Pray What We Pray: The Remarkable History of a Jewish Prayer and Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response To Modernity.
I. A Difficult Rambam
At the end of my last post on this subject I indicated that I would only be back to discuss this issue on the blogs if something dramatic occurred. Dr. Lawrence Kaplan approached me off line and indicated that there was something dramatic that he had found and that he had posted on Hirhurim (Torah Musings). Before I turn to what he writes a bit of an apology to my friend Rabbi Mathew Hoffman whose title I left out and whose name I misspelled in my last post. I am truly sorry.
Returning to Lawrence Kaplan, he claims to have found (in opposition to my view) a posek who sees the content and not the presence of ten men as defining tefillah betsibbur. He writes that this posek is none other than: Rav Soloveitchik. He continues: “I refer you and the readers to his essay ‘Be-Inyan Pesukei de-Zimra,’ in Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari, Z’L Vol. 2, p. 23. There the Rav states that it is only by reciting a text that requires a tzibbur, namely ten men, for its recitation that a group of yehidim are transformed into a tzibbur. This is why, the Rav explains, kaddish is recited after pesukei de-zimra. So, for the Rav, the fact that, say, 200 men are gathered together in shul and are reciting pesukei de-zimra together does NOT make them into a tzibbur. They are a group of yehidim until the Hazan recites the Kaddish.”
Prof. Aryeh Frimer has already pointed out that the Rav was speaking only according to the Rambam, citing a position that others disagree with, and I would add that Ashkenazim don’t follow. I also did not say that there was “no posek who saw content as important,” only that many sources–including several statements by R. Moshe and several other contemporary poskim–indicated that content was not the essential element. They saw the presence of ten men as critical. In fact I can still not find a contemporary posek who disagrees. The Rambam’s position as understood by the Rav is not cited by contemporary poskim, but as we shall see the Rambam is far closer to my position than Dr. Kaplan suggests.
Further, Dr. Kaplan’s reminding me of the Rav’s analysis actually tells me that, should I ever revise and expand my article on Partnership Minyanim, I would include the Rav’s analysis because it does not only support my approach. It also helps explain some of the customs that I write about in a way that makes them more halakhically understandable while making Partnership Minyanim even more difficult to sustain from within our tradition.
II. A Chazzan’s Contribution
Dr. Kaplan misses a fundamental point in his analysis. He sees me as saying that ten men plus a shaliach tsibbur equals tefillah be-tsibbur–and that is correct. But he then seems to say that the Rambam, according to the Rav, holds that ten men plus particular content equals tefillah be-tsibbur–and that is not correct. The Rav refers to the Rambam as requiring particular content (a davar she-be-kedusha such as Kaddish at the beginning and at the end), ten men AND a shaliach tsibbur. That is why it is only with Kaddish and Barkhu (when the content allows it) that the Chazzan makes his appearance in the Rambam’s writings.
The Chazzan is precluded before then and this may well explain those communities (generally Sephardic) that do not use a Chazzan for Pesukei de-Zimra. The Rav says explicitly: when they reach Barkhu “mitargen ha-tzibbur ve-omed shatz ve-omer Kaddish u-varkhu” (p.23). In other words, the coming of the Chazzan is part of creating the tefillah be-tsibbur and his presence after the ten are in place and when the requisite content is about to be recited is part of creating that reality–which is a point that I make repeatedly. The presence of a Chazzan is only allowable when we are involved in tefillah be-tsibbur–hence no women. This is just the flip side of my saying that the presence of a Chazzan creates tefillah be-tsibbur. For the Rambam, it’s the presence of a Chazzan plus particular content that does this if there are ten men. In other words the Rambam asks for everything I ask for and more, not less.
The Rav cites the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefillah 8:4) who says: “What is Tefillat Ha-Tsibbur? One prays out loud and the others hear.” The Rav, in keeping with his purposes, skips the next few words. But they are critical for us. They read: “We do not do this with less than ten free adult males and the shaliach tzibbur is one of them”. In short: no room for women or children as Chazzan anywhere just as we find in the Tosefta that I have cited repeatedly.
III. What Is Pesukei De-Zimra?
This explains why the Rav also says that, according to the Rambam, Pesukei De-Zimra does not have a dual reality. (“Hishmit mimenu [referring to tefillah be-tsibbur] amirat Pesukei De-Zimra – p.23). It cannot be alternatively both a tefillah be-yachid and a tefillah be-tsibbur because there is no chalot shem tsibbur that can apply to it even if ten plus a Chazzan are present. It can only be a Tefillat Yachid, and that explains why no Chazzan is allowed. Clearly the presence of a Chazzan would either make Pesukei De-Zimra into a Tefillah Be-Tsibbur or more likely since the requisite content isn’t there, into something that looks too much like a tefillah be-tsibbur. That is why the Rambam does not allow a Chazzan.
If that is true (and again it is not how Ashkenazim pasken or function) having a woman (or for that matter a child) would also be prohibited. The Rambam wants no Chazzan “le-argen” the group, and having someone serve who is problematic in their own right (see the Tosefta I have cited repeatedly), can’t possibly be acceptable. There is no hint in the Rambam (8:4 or anywhere else) of a Chazzan type 2 as described in R. Farber’s conceptualization or else Rambam would not preclude a Chazzan from Pesukei De-Zimra, i.e. let a man stand there and set the pace and choose the tunes. Since the content is missing, why not? But the Rambam doesn’t allow this, nor does he allow for it in 8:4, apparently because the presence of the Chazzan makes Pesukei De-Zimra, or anything similar, too Tefillah Be-Tsibbur-like for his position. This is precisely why a woman can’t serve in the role of Chazzav: because her presence creates a tefillah be-tsibbur type service which a woman cannot lead–as I say over and over again. Again we have here in the Rambam a place like the Tosefta where if Chazzan type 2 existed, it should appear somewhere. But it doesn’t, and the silence is compelling.
Further it would seem that nowadays we do meet the Rambam’s content concern for Pesukei De-Zimra by having Mizmor Shir Chanukat and Kaddish at the beginning of Pesukei De-Zimra (whether the Rambam would have endorsed this practice is an interesting question, see below). Particularly since the Rambam has no concept of Mourner’s Kaddish, which would mean that the Chazzan would recite this Kaddish, maybe our Pesukei De-Zimra has moved towards being a tefillah be-tsibbur. Just add in a Chazzan and we are good to go, but only if that Chazzan is halakhically acceptable–so again no woman Chazzan. This again cuts into the practice of Partnership Minyanim in a significant way.
IV. Kabbalat Shabbat
The Rambam lived long before Kabbalat Shabbat and we can only surmise how he would have viewed it. Frankly because of his frequent criticisms of new minhagim in tefillah (cf. his reaction to reciting Birkhot Ha-Shachar as a list and not in response to events as in the Gemara and his claim that we really should be nofel apayim at Tachanun), I suspect he might have rejected the entire service. However if he saw it as he did Pesukei De-Zimra, he would have precluded use of a Chazzan–which may well explain the custom of those who don’t use a Chazzan discussed in my original article.
In addition, the Rav provides one other point in this regard that is quite important. He contrasts the Rambam’s requirement to start and end with Kaddish for tefillah be-tsibbur to our usual understanding (“lefum rihata” in the Rav’s words – p.28-29) that Kaddish needs to end a tefillah be-tsibbur (for sources see the chapter on Kaddish in my Why We Pray What We Pray). Hence the Kaddish that ends a recitation of Tehillim makes it a tefillah be-tsibbur in this formulation. So too the Kaddish after Kabbalat Shabbat, for which I provide a source in my article that says it was part of the Ari’s original Kabbalat Shabbat, does the same thing for the communal recitation of Kabbalat Shabbat. That Kaddish meets our requirement for content if the Rambam’s veiw does find its way into Ashkenazi circles at all.
Therefore Dr Kaplan’s claim that: “Given this, the Meiri’s restriction regarding women leading teffilah be-tzibbur would not apply to kabbalat Shabbat or pesukei de-zimra, since they are NOT tefillah be-tzibbur.” First even according to the Rambam I believe have shown that this is not true. Pesukei De-Zimra in the Rambam’s time could have no Chazzan of any type. If Pesukei De-Zimra as we recite it today meets the Rambam’s formal requirements for something to be a Tefillah Be-Tszibbur, again no women can lead. Kabbalat Shabbat appears not to meet the Rambam’s requirements as we recite it today. It is, therefore, equivalent to the Rambam’s Pesukei De-Zimra, and so no one of any gender can serve as Shaliach Tzibbur.
Second, the Meiri does not make any of the Rambam’s distinctions between the different parts of the service. He only says that a katan cannot “yored lifnei ha-teivah” (he doesn’t mention tefillah be-tsibbur) which would seem to mean that a child may not serve as prayer leader at any point in davening where a Chazzan may be used. Any claim that all of this can support allowing women to be a Chazzan at any place in davening is simply not sustainable.
V. Kabbalat Shabbat vs. Hallel
Further the Rav discusses the recitation of Hallel and points out that it can be said individually or communally. If done in community then: “yesh bo gam kiyum amirah be-tsibbur” (p.23). I specifically refer to communal recitation of the parts of the service that are not, like the Amidah, part of the chiyuv of tefillah be-tsibbur, as a kiyum of tefillah be-tsibbur. The Rav seems to be saying precisely the same thing. And if it is a kiyum of a tsibbur experience, again women can’t lead because they don’t count towards a tsibbur.
Further the Rambam, according to the Rav, distinguishes between recitation of Hallel the fulfills a requirement to publicly praise God on appropriate occasions, and Pesukei De-Zimra, recited every day, that constitutes Talmud Torah designed to help us learn how to live (p.26). Again, one can understand why no Chazzan can serve for Pesukri De-Zimra because that would make it look like Hallel and a public proclamation of praise. Again this would be true no matter the gender of the Chazzan, so women are excluded.
Kabbalat Shabbat cannot be Hallel because it is recited on days when Hallel is not to be recited. It, like Pesukei De-Zimra, consists largely of verses from Psalms. Again we would not want its recitation to look like we are saying Hallel. This may explain the custom that some follow of having no Chazzan for Kabbalat Shabbat. But if one holds this way, then a woman cannot serve in this role either.
I thank Dr. Kaplan for reminding me of this source in the Rav’s writings. To sum up: the Rav, in discussing the Rambam, describes his position (which later poskim [especially Ashkenazim] don’t accept) as follows:
1. To create a tefillah be-tsibbur one needs a) a davar she-be-kedusha text at the beginning and the end, b) a prayer that can take on the role of a tefillah be-tsibbur, c) a Chazzan who must be a free adult male and d) a minyan. Obviously for reasons a and c a woman cannot serve.
2. Unlike other prayers that can be both individual and communal, Pesukei De-Zimra cannot be anything but an individual prayer. As such, no Chazzan of any gender can serve.
3. Kabbalat Shabbat, which was unknown to the Rambam, might well fall into the same category as Pesukei De-Zimra for the Rambam because it lacks a davar she-be-kedusha at the beginning. That would again preclude having a Chazzan of any kind.
4. Nowhere in the Rambam’s writings is there a hint of the concept of a Chazzan who sets the pace and chooses the tunes though both in his discussion of Tefillah Be-Tsibbur and of Pesukei De-Zimra such a concept should appear if it exists for him
5. Our Pesukei De-Zimra, with its introductory Mizmor Shir and Kaddish, might meet criterion a) (though this does not deal with issue b), but even if that would allow for a Chazzan to lead, since the Rambam does not know of a concept called Mourner’s Kaddish (see my Why We Pray), that Kaddish would need to be said by the Chazzan who would perforce need to be a man.
In short the Rav’s position on the Rambam adds significant support to what I say in the article and makes the position of those who support Partnership Minyanim even less tenable in halakha. Finally if I can find some time I may respond to some of the other posts in the next few days, though I do believe I have more than proven my case for any objective reader.