Question: Should a chazan daven a long private Sh’moneh Esrei or stretch out his davening through extensive singing?
Short Answer: A chazan must be careful not to cause discomfort to the congregation by either singing too much or davening an extra-long silent Sh’moneh Esrei. However, if a chazan does stretch out his davening, we should have a positive attitude.
I. Too Much Singing
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 53:11) writes that it is okay for a chazan to stretch out davening through extensive singing, as long as the singing stems from the chazan’s true joy of praising Hashem. However, it is wrong for a chazan to stretch out davening through extensive singing just because he loves to hear his own voice or because he likes showing off his nice voice or tunes. This is forbidden because of “tircha d’tzibura” – the extensive length of davening makes the congregation uncomfortable.
II. Even on Shabbos?
The Rama (Orach Chayim 281) writes that a chazan should not stretch out davening on Shabbos and Yom Tov because it is forbidden to fast past chatzos on these days.
One could argue that because the Rama does not give the reason of tircha d’tzibura, it must be that the Rama allows stretched-out davening on Shabbos and Yom Tov, as long as you finish by chatzos. However, one can argue to the contrary, that the Rama is teaching that even where the tzibur enjoys the stretched-out davening, one must be careful to finish by chatzos. See Journal HaMaor (61:6).
Indeed, the Maharshal (Chulin 50) rules explicitly that one should not stretch out the davening even on Shabbos and Yom Tov because of tircha d’tzibura.
Notably, Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l (Shaarei Orah, Vol. 2, p. 251) writes that the classic example of a “crooked tzadik” is a chazan who stretches out the davening too long.
III. Rabbi Akiva’s Practice
But what about the chazan’s silent Sh’moneh Esrei? Can he daven a long silent Sh’moneh Esrei?
The Gemara (B’rachos 31a) relates that although Rabbi Akiva generally davened a long Sh’moneh Esrei, when he davened with the tzibur he was careful to daven a short Sh’moneh Esrei so as not to cause “tircha d’tzibura.”
The Ri Migash (siman 180) cites Rabbi Akiva as proof to his ruling that a chazan should only daven a long Sh’moneh Esrei when the tzibur anyway needs to wait for the Rabbi of the congregation who is davening a longer Sh’moneh Esrei. Otherwise, the chazan should make sure that he does not daven his silent Sh’moneh Esrei for too long, as this will cause tircha d’tzibura.
This ruling is cited by many Acharonim, including the Chayei Nefesh (6:33), Ishei Yisrael (24, n. 43), Zeh HaShulchan (124).
Moreover, the Ben Ish Chai (cited in the sefer Va’y’vareich Yehudah, Vol. 2, pg. 36) understands that the Gemara regarding Rabbi Akiva shortening his davening when “with the tzibur” refers to when Rabbi Akiva served as chazan, thereby supporting this ruling of a chazan shortening his private Sh’moneh Esrei.
Notably, the Piskei T’shuvos (53:13) cites Acharonim who rule that a stretched-out Sh’moneh Esrei is one that goes on for more than nine minutes on a weekday and six minutes on Shabbos. Others hold that it can go for 11 to 12 minutes on a weekday and seven-to-eight minutes on Shabbos.
IV. Long Is Good
On the other hand, the sefer Va’y’vareich Yehudah (ibid) notes that the Rambam writes that a Sh’moneh Esrei cannot stretch “very long” – implying that a little bit long is fine.
Moreover, the sefer Va’y’vareich Yehudah (Vol. 3, p. 24) cites Rav Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt”l who ruled that while Sh’moneh Esrei can be stretched out, there is a limit on how long it can be stretched out. However, he adds that one should not get upset when the chazan stretches out Sh’moneh Esrei past the acceptable time, but should rather exclaim, “How fortunate are we to be able to stay in shul and wear t’filin for extra time.” This is the correct attitude.
New Series Next Week: Bris Milah
Next Week’s Topic: May one make a shalom zachar in a shul, or must it be in the house with the baby?