17. Chazaras Hashatz of Musaf on Rosh Hashanah

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17. Chazaras Hashatz:

A. Fulfilling the prayer of Musaf with the Chazan’s repetition:[1]

An individual cannot fulfill his obligation with hearing the repetition from the Chazan.[2] Therefore the custom of all Israel is to Daven Musaf with nine blessings as a silent Shemoneh Esrei prior to the Chazan’s repetition. Furthermore, even the Chazan must first Daven with them.[3]


What is the law if the Chazan made an invalidating mistake in his private Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah, may he rely on his repetition as is the law during the regular year?[4]

Some Poskim[5] leave this matter in question even in a case that he will be saying long Piyutim in his repetition.[6] Others[7] however rule that if the Chazan will say long Piyutim in his repetition then he must repeat the private prayer just like every individual. This applies even if he already recited the repetition nevertheless, he must repeat his private prayer.[8] Practically, Safek Brachos Lihakel[9] and hence he may rely on his repetition, and may not repeat Shemoneh Esrei if he already recited the repetition.[10]


If one is unable to Daven can he fulfill his obligation with the Chazan’s repetition?[11]

In such a case, due to lack of choice, one is to intend to fulfill his obligation with the Chazan’s repetition.

Q&A on Chazaras Hashatz

Does one have to listen to the entire Chazarah of the Chazan or may he learn Torah or recite Tehillim?

One is to listen to the parts of the repetition that are obligatory and is not to do anything else in the interim.[12] Regarding the Piyutim and verses of Malchiyos, Zichronos and Shofros, it is forbidden for one to learn Torah verbally during this time. This applies even prior to Chazaras Hashatz. One may however think words of any part of Torah without limit.[13] One may even verbally learn matters of Torah that relate to the Tekios.[14] Some[15] also permit one to say Tehillim during this time.

 Unesanneh Tokef:

The famous Piyyut [liturgical poem] of Unesanneh Tokef for many Jews represents the height of the Rosh Hashanah prayers, and invokes feelings of deep seriousness and emotion that remain etched in one’s memory. The liturgy was composed by Rebbe Amnon of Mainz/Magantza, Germany in the 1100’s. It was first recorded in the Sefer Or Zarua[16], written by the famous Ashkenazi Posek, Rav Yitzchak Ben Moshe [1200’s]. In there he relates a fascinating tale behind the composition of this liturgy by Rav Amnon. The following is a free translation of the Or Zarua:

“The following story occurred to Rebbe Amnon the great of Magantza, who was the Gadol Hador at that time. He was wealthy, of great lineage, and had a splendid appearance. The Christian bishops and aristocrats began pressing him to convert to their religion. Although Rebbe Amnon refused, they did not stop their attempts to persuade him to follow their request, and hence after great pressure, Rebbe Amnon requested three days to consider their demand. His true intent was simply to push them off. Upon him leaving the house of the bishop he realized his grave error in giving off the impression that he will consider heresy against G-d. When he arrived home, he did not eat or drink and fell ill. His family and friends came to visit him and comfort him, although he could not be comforted, stating that he will go to purgatory for what he has done. He cried very much and became very saddened. On the third day, while suffering from his anguish, the Bishop sent an entourage to escort him to the palace, although he refused. The Bishop then sent messengers of greater nobility and he still refused. The bishop then sent messengers to forcefully bring Rebbe Amnon to him. When he arrived, the bishop admonished him for not coming on his own on the date that he set to give a response to their request. Rebbe Amnon stated that he will give his own judgment, and that he should have his tongue cut off being that his tongue sinned by stating a lie. His intent was to sanctify Hashem’s name over the way he originally spoke. The bishop however replied that he will not cut the tongue, as the tongue spoke well, but rather the legs which refused to come will be cut, and the rest of the body will be tortured. He proceeded to cut off the fingers of his hands and feet and upon cutting each finger they asked Rebbe Amnon if he wants to convert and Rebbe Amnon would deny their request. When the task was complete the bishop had Rebbe Amnon placed on a table with his dismembered parts and sent home. Shortly after this incident Rosh Hashanah arrived and Rebbe Amnon requested to be brought to Shul together with his salted dismembered limbs and be laid next to the Chazzan. When the Chazan arrived to Kedusha Rebbe Amnon asked him to wait so he can sanctify Hashem’s name. He then loudly recited what became to be the famous prayer of Unesanneh Tokef. At the conclusion of the prayer, while in a state of supplication, Rebbe Amnon passed away. On the third day after his passing, Rebbe Amnon appeared in a dream to Rabbi Klunminus and taught him the Piyyut of Unesanneh Tokef, and commanded him to send it to all the Jewish people throughout the exiles in order so it serve as a testimony and memory of the events, and so was done.”

Standing:[17] It is customary to stand for the recital of Unesanneh Tokef and so was the Rebbe’s custom.

The reaction of Chassidim during Unesaneh Tokef:[18] One the elder Chasidim recounted: “When I was a fleeing the authorities in Russia, I was forced to wander throughout the country. My wanderings continued for several years, and I had the opportunity to pray on the Days of Awe in different congregations. I was able to notice an interesting difference: In most Shul’s they recite the words “Uteshuvah Utefila Utzedaka” with deep emotion, much more than the other part of the prayer. However, in the synagogues of Chasidim they storm and clamor for the words Veata Melech Hu Chaiy Vekayaam.”

B. Bowing on the floor by the Chazan’s repetition:

The custom is to bow on the ground in the paragraph of Aleinu Lishabeiach that is said within the Chazan’s repetition.[19] One bows by the words “Veanachnu Korim.”[20] [One neals on the floor by the words Korim, and bows by the word Mishtachavim.[21] One begins getting up by the words “Lifnei Melech Malchei Hamelachim.”[22]]

Who?[23] The congregation and Chazan all bow when the above words are recited.

The bowing of the Chazan:[24] It is forbidden for the Chazan to move his feet during the repetition and walk backwards in order to perform the bowing. One is to protest against those that do so. The custom therefore is for the Chazan to begin Shemoneh Esrei with enough of a distance from the Amud that he will be able to bow on the ground without moving his feet.

Shabbos R”H:[25] One bows on the floor by the above words even when Rosh Hashanah coincides with Shabbos.

How to bow: One bows the same way he bows on Yom Kippur, placing one’s forehead to the ground [i.e. Nefilas Apayim].[26] [There are two methods of performing the above bowing: a) The widespread custom is to kneel to the ground, resting his body on his knees and down, and bow his head to the floor until his forehead touches the ground.[27] b) One prostrates himself completely on the ground to the point that his entire body lies flat on the floor.[28] Some write that this later custom should not be seen as a directive for the public.[29] Practically the widespread custom is like the first method.[30]]

Placing an interval on the ground: It is forbidden for a person to bow his head onto a stone floor, in a way that his head directly touches the stone.[31] This applies even if he is merely kneeling on the ground[32] and is not prostrating his entire body.[33] Thus if the floor in Shul is made of stone it is forbidden to directly touch one’s face[34] to the ground and one is to place an interval between [his head[35]] and the ground.[36] [Any material can serve as a valid interval, whether a towel, tissue, paper, plastic bag, grass[37] and the like. The interval is only required to be placed between the head and the ground and is not required to be placed under the knees or other body parts.[38] If the interval is placed only between the knees and the ground and not between the face and the ground it is invalid.[39]] If the floor is made of wood or other non-stone material, one may bow onto the floor without any interval, having his forehead directly touch the ground, and so is the Chabad custom.[40] However, if one fully prostrates himself on the floor with spreading his hands and feet then he requires an interval [between his face and the ground] even if the floor is made of wood or other non-stone materials.[41]

Opening the Aron by Aleinu:[42]

By Aleinu we open the Aron until the words “Velo Sam Chelkeinu Bahem”. The Aron is then momentarily closed and reopened by the words Veanachnu Korim.


The custom of the Chabad Rebbe’s:[43]

The Rebbe Rashab would prostrate himself completely on the ground, supporting his body only on his fingers and toes. The Rebbe Rayatz told the Rebbe that the bowing is to be done in the following way: One first kneels down on the floor resting his body on his knees and toes. One then spreads his arms and rests on his fingers. One lifts himself off his knees and is hence now being supported only by the fingers of his hands and toes. The Rebbe would close his fist, leaving his thumb out of the fist, and rest on his fist and thumb to support himself.


Is one to bow when he says Aleinu in Musaf of his silent prayer?[44]

One is to bow slightly, as otherwise it appears like he is not exemplifying the words which he is saying.


Are women to bow by Aleinu?[45]

The custom is not to do so. Possibly this is due to reasons of modesty.


Is the congregation to read Aleinu together with the Chazan?[46]

Yes. The congregation reads along silently together with the Chazan


Q&A on separations

May one use his Tallis to separate between the floor and his head?[47]

If nothing else is available, one may use the Tallis that he is wearing to separate between his head and the floor.


May one use his sleeve or other clothing as an interval?[48]

Clothing that a person is wearing is not a valid interval as it is nullified to one’s body.[49]


Is a separation needed by a marble floor?

This matter is disputed in Poskim.[50] Practically one requires an interval.[51] This certainly applies if he is prostrating with spread arms and legs.[52]


Is a separation needed by a cement floor?

No.[53] However if one is prostrating with spread arms and legs then an interval is required.[54]


Is a separation needed by a rubble floor?[55]


 A Chassidic message

The Rebbe Maharash noticed a certain Chassid placing a towel on the floor to prevent his silk clothing from becoming dirty. On Motzei Yom Kippur the Rebbe Maharash told him “We speak so much of Bittul but when it comes to actual practice people forget about it”.[57]



[1] 591:2-4; Regarding the necessity of having nine people answering Amen for the blessing-see 594:1.

Background of Admur ibid:

The letter of the law: Although throughout the year the Chazan’s repetition of the Amidah can only fulfill the obligation of those people who do not know how to pray, while one who knows to pray does not fulfill his obligation [as explained in 124:1] nevertheless by the Musaf prayer of Rosh Hashanah the Chazan can fulfill the obligation for even those which know how to pray. [Raban Gamliel unlike Baal Haiitur, brought in Tur] The reason for this is because the blessings are very long. Nevertheless, this only applies if the person is present in Shul with the Chazan and hears the entire prayer from him from beginning to end. However those that are unable to make it to Shul due to reasons beyond their control, such as those that are not found in the city or the old and sick, then the Chazan exempts them with his prayer even though they did not hear the prayer from him. [591:2; Tur 591]

The law if Piyutim are said in Chazaras Hashatz: Today that the Chazan recites Piyutim in middle of the repetition there is no person [even the sick and old] that fulfills their obligation with the repetition, even if he did not hear the Piyutim. The reason is because [these hymns] take longer to say than the entire prayer and hence the repetition [is completely invalid] and must be repeated [if one were to fulfill his obligation with it] as is ruled in 65:1. Furthermore even if the hymns do not take more time to say than the entire prayer, nevertheless it is [considered an interval within the prayer as] it is initially forbidden to make even a small interval in ones [obligatory] prayer. [591:3; M”A 591:1] This law applies even for the Chazan, that if he did not Daven the private Shemoneh Esrei he does not fulfill his obligation with Chazaras Hashtaz if the Piyutim are longer than the prayer. [M”E 591:1]

The law in an area that does not say Piyutim in Chazaras Hashatz: Even in an area that the Piyutim are not recited in the repetition, nevertheless it is best for every individual to Daven to themselves [and not fulfill their obligation with the Chazan]. The reason for this is because one who desires to fulfill his obligation with the Chazan’s repetition must listen to everything the Chazan is saying, and if he missed even one word which he did not hear from the Chazan then he does not fulfill his obligation, and not every person is able to withhold himself to do so. [591:4; Tur 591]

[2] The reason: Since the Chazan adds hymns to his repetition to the point that the hymns said are longer than the actual prayer, one does not fulfill their obligation with the repetition. Furthermore, one must listen to every word of the Chazan in order to fulfill one’s obligation through his repetition, therefore one does not rely on the chazzans repetition. [Admur ibid brought in background]

[3] 591:4; Rivash 37 brought in Beis Yosef; See Kaf Hachaim 591:5

The reason: In order for the Chazan to be fluent in his repetition, as ruled in 124. [Admur ibid] This implies that the Chazan fulfills his obligation with his repetition. This must refer to a case that the Chazan is not saying long Piyutim in his repetition, otherwise even he does not fulfill his obligation in the repetition, as explained in Admur above, and so rules M”E 591:1; Kaf Hachaim 591:1] See Q&A!

[4] See Admur 126:4 that a Chazan that made a mistake in his private prayer is never to repeat it being that it is a Tircha Detzibura as he is anyways able to rely on his repetition.

[5] Elya Raba 591:3 [states that he must repeat the silent prayer however concludes with Tzaruch Iyun]; P”M 591 A”A Hakdama [brings the Elya Raba ibid that is questionable if may rely on Chazarah]; brought in Kaf Hachaim 591:1; Alef Hamagen 591:1

[6] Seemingly the question is whether the repetition counts as a real Shemoneh Esrei for the Chazan or counts only as a Chazarah Shemoneh Esrei due to the Piyutim. However, one cannot say that the repetition does not carry any validity as otherwise it would be forbidden to say the Piyutim as it causes the Chazarah to be in vain. Hence the question is to what extent is the Chazarah with Piyutim valid.

[7] M”E 591:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 126:5 [contradicts himself in 591:1]

[8] Piskeiy Teshuvos 126:5 footnote 35

[9] Kaf Hachaim 591:1; Alef Hamagen 591:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 591:1 [contradicts himself in 126:5]

[10] May the Chazan choose to Daven again prior to his repetition according to all? Seemingly according to all the Chazan may quickly repeat the prayer in silent prior to Chazaras Hashatz and the entire doubt is whether he is obligated to do so, or if he may choose to rely on his repetition, due to Tircha Detzibura. [See wording in P”M ibid that implies this. The reason is because even according to the first opinion above they agree that he has not yet fulfilled his obligation [see 126:4], so what could be wrong with now Davening properly prior to the repetition. It is certainly not a blessing in vain and the phrase of Safek Brachos Lihakel is not applicable to it.] Vetzrauch Iyun Lemaaseh! To note however that according to all one can have another person do Chazaras Hashatz and he can then repeat his private prayer.

[11] Kaf Hachaim 591:1

[12] Admur 124:6; Minchas Yitzchak 4:48; See ibid and Piskeiy Teshuvos 592:1 regarding the novelty of the Griz of Brisk that one must listen to the parts that invalidate the prayer if they are omitted in order to be Yotzei the Tekios of Musaf. However, the Chazon Ish 137:3-5 negates this novelty.

[13] Har Tzevi 1:42; Piskeiy Teshuvos 592:4; See Minchas Yitzchak ibid and 4:47; as one may not make an interval between the sets of Tekios.

[14] Minchas Yitzchak 4:48 in explanation of the Leket Yosher from the student of the Terumas Hadeshen p. 128

[15] Yesod Veshoresh Havoda 11; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; however perhaps there he is only referring to Chazaras Hashatz of Shacharis, Vetzaruch Iyun; See however Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 128 that the Rebbe at times would say Tehillim during the Chazan’s recital of Hineni Heani. Seemingly the reason this is not considered an interval is because it is similar to matters relating to prayer which one may even initially speak of during this time.

[16] Vol. 2:276, end of the laws of Rosh Hashanah

[17] Otzer Minhagei Chabad p. 131; For the order of the recital by the Chazan and congregation-see Hiskashrus 947.

[18] Days of Awe, Days of Joy p. 102

[19] M”A 131:22 [“one kneels and bows on R”H by Aleinu”]; Rama 621:4 and Admur 621:12 [regarding Aleinu recited in Yom Kippur Davening-not mentioned in Shulchan Aruch regarding Rosh Hashanah; Also in Rama 131:8 only Yom Kippur is mentioned]; M”E 591:1; Alef Hamagen 591:2; Machzor Chabad; Shaar Tziyon 131:44 [“Our custom is to bow by Rosh Hashanah just like Yom Kippur]; Otzer Minhagei Chabad 318

[20] M”E 592:1; Machzor ibid

[21] See Reshimos 4:22

[22] Mateh Efraim 591:1

[23] Alef Hamagen 592:2; Machzor Chabad; Otzer Minhagei Chabad 318

Other customs: Many communities are accustomed that only the Chazan bows with his head to the floor by Aleinu. [Daas Torah 591; Likkutei Mahrich]; Seemingly this is a compromise between the two opinions regarding whether one is to prostrate by Aleinu. [See Otzer ibid]

[24] 621:12; Rama 621:4

[25] Machzor Chabad; See Otzer Minhagei Chabad 323

Other customs: The custom on many communities is not to bow or prostrate during Aleinu on R”H or Yom Kippur that coincides with Shabbos. [Ashel Avraham Butchach 621:4; Hagahos Chochmas Shlomo 592; See Divrei Yatziv 2:265]

[26] Rama 621:4 and Admur 621:12 [regarding Aleinu of Yom Kippur]; Alef Hamagen 592:2; 621:16; Shaareiy Tziyon 131:44 [“Our custom is to bow by Rosh Hashanah just like Yom Kippur]; Machzor Chabad; Custom of Chabad Rabbeim as brought in Otzer Minhagei Chabad 319:321 [“The Rebbe Rashab had dust on his forehead after bowing”]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim write that one does not place his forehead to the ground when bowing by Aleinu [of both R”H and Yom Kippur] and this is only done on Yom Kippur by “Kohanim”. [M”A 131:22 “one kneels and bows on R”H by Aleinu however does not place the face to the ground”; M”E 592:1; 621:14; Kaf Hachaim 131:118]

[27] Alef Lamateh 621:15; Kaf Hachaim 131:115 [“on Yom Kippur one does not prostrate his hands and legs”]; See M”A ibid that says on R”H we are “Korim Umishtachavim” and according to our custom we simply add the touching of the head to the ground. This follows the form of bowing mentioned in Admur 131:1 which is called “bowing to the ground without spreading the hands and legs (even if he sits on the ground and bows his head to the floor)”. And “This was the main form of Nefilas Apayim done in previous times” [ibid]

[28] See Admur 131:1 that this is called bowing “with spread arms and legs”; This was the custom of the Gr”a [Maaseh Rav  16-The new print] and was the custom of the Chabad Rabbeim. [Otzer Minhagei Chabad 319:321] However see later footnotes that the Rabbeim would support themselves off the ground using their fists and toes and hence perhaps this is not the true prostrating referred to by Admur ibid.

[29] Piskeiy Teshuvos 591 footnote 11; See Admur 131:1; Rama 131:8

[30] See Poskim ibid

[31] Rama 131:8; Admur 131:1; M”B 131:40

The Biblical prohibition-Prostrating: It is Biblically forbidden for one to prostrate himself on a stone floor with spread hands and legs. One who does so receives lashes. This prohibition is learned from the verse “One may not place stone on the ground for purposes of prostrating”. This was only permitted to be done in the Temple.” [Admur ibid]  Thus there must be two conditions met for it to be Biblically forbidden: 1) That one is bowing with spread arms and legs. 2) That one is doing so on a stone floor. [M”B ibid]

[32] This is referred to as Derech “Keida”. [M”B 131:40]

[33] Admur ibid; M”B ibid; Tur; Beis Yosef

The reason: It is Rabbinically forbidden to bow on a stone floor with one’s face touching the floor even if one does not prostrate himself with spread hands and legs, due to a decree against prostrating in a Biblically forbidden method. [ibid]

[34] Rivash 412 brought in Beis Yosef; Olas Tamid 131:28; M”A 131:20

[35] Elya Raba 131:15 in name of Shlah; M”E 621:14; Kaf Hachaim 131:117; See Rambam Avoda Zara 6:7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 131:27

[36] Rama 131:8 [Place grass between the face and floor]; M”A 131:22 that an interval is valid as rules Rambam. See the following Poskim regarding the two different versions of the Rama here: Taz 131:15; P”M 131 A”A 22; M”B 131:44. See P”M ibid for the reason why an interval is valid.

Does an interval help even when one is prostrating with spread arms and legs? This depends on the two versions of the Rama ibid. Practically we rule like the second version and hence the interval helps, as explained in P”M ibid that when there is a detached interval there is no decree.

[37] Rama ibid

[38] Poskim ibid that only the head must have the interval, and that the entire prohibition is placing the head on the floor; See “A Chassidic message” for a story of the Rebbe Maharash on this matter and how one is not to be particular against getting his clothing dirty.

[39] Pashut from Poskim ibid and so writes Piskeiy Teshuvos 591 footnote 10; 131:27

[40] M”A 131:20 [that cement is permitted]; Admur ibid [“on a stone floor”]; Sefer Haminhagim p. 120 [English edition]; The Rebbe Rashab would bow on a wooden floor and when he would lift his head dust was visibly seen on his forehead.

Other Customs: Although from the letter of the law one is not required to have an interval between the face and the ground by floor materials other than stone, nevertheless many are accustomed to place an interval on the floor even if the floor is made of wood as a stringency so they don’t come to be lenient by a stone floor. [Toras Chaim 131:9; M”E 621:14; Alef Lamateh 621:15; Kaf Hachaim 131:116; Piskeiy Teshuvos 591:3]

[41] Rama 131:8; Rivash ibid; Bach 131; Olas Tamid 131:28; M”B 131:40; Kaf Hachaim 131:111

The reason: It is Rabbinically forbidden to prostrate with spread arms and legs on any material, even not of stone, due to a decree against prostrating on a stone floor which is Biblically forbidden. [Levush; Taz 131:14; M”B ibid] Alternatively the reason is because we suspect that there is a stone floor under the wooden material floor and the wood was simply built over it. [Rivash ibid brought in M”A 131:22; Kaf Hachaim 131:114]

The Rebbe’s custom: The Rebbe had a carpet on his Bima which seemingly served as an interval for when he prostrated. However, from the memoirs recorded of the Rebbe Rashba, who also prostrated on the floor, it is evident that there was no interval between his face and the ground. Likewise, some Poskim rule that a set carpet is not a valid interval. [Levushei Mordechai 23] Vetzaruch Iyun. Perhaps however one can say that in truth the method used by the Rebbe and Rebbe Rashab is not the real prostration referred to here, as they supported themselves off the ground using their fists and toes and did not fully lie on the ground. Hence it did not require an interval on a non-stone floor. However, one who lays flat on the ground without any support is the definition of prostrating that requires an interval on all floors. [Heard from Harav Asher Lemel Hakohen] Vetzaruch Iyun.

[42] Machzor Chabad; Otzer Minhagei Chabad 318

[43] Otzer Minhagei Chabad 319-321

[44] Piskeiy Teshuvos 592 footnote 14

[45] Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:270; Hiskashrus 947

[46] M”E 592:1

[47] Elya Raba 131:15 in name of Shlah; Mateh Efraim 621:14; Ateres Zekeinim 621; Shaareiy Tziyon 131:44; Kaf Hachaim 131:117

[48] Daas Torah 131; Piskeiy Teshuvos 131:27

[49] The reason however why a Tallis is valid Bedieved is because it is not attached to one’s body like other clothing. [Shevet Hakehasi 2:61]

[50] M”A 131:20 records a dispute on this matter.

[51] Sheivet Halevy 1:23; Piskeiy Teshuvos 131:27

[52] Sheivet Halevy ibid that when fully prostrating, according to all it is forbidden on all floors, as explained in all Poskim ibid.

[53] M”A 131:20 [“As cement is not stone”]

[54] Toras Chaim 131:9; Kaf Hachaim 131:113

[55] Piskeiy Teshuvos 131:27

[56] The reason: As it is made from small rocks and cement.

[57] Rishimos Devarim 2 p. 90 told over by the Chassid Reb Shmuel Gronam Estherman

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