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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: When is it permitted for a gabbai to speak in performing his various responsibilities?

Question: When is it permitted for a gabbai to speak in performing his various responsibilities, such as choosing and informing people about aliyot, finding out their names, and discussing who should be chazan? Specifically, I was wondering about during chazarat hashatz, Kaddish, and Kri’at Hatorah.


Answer: Chazarat hashatz is a logical time to take care of planning the aliyot (as the Torah is being taken out is better but is often not enough time). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:7) speaks sternly about one who speaks “mundane talk” during chazarat hashatz, which implies that matters that are of an appropriate nature are permitted. Granted, it is not simple to allow other positive things, like learning, during that time, and, as a rule, people should listen, be careful to answer Amen to the berachot, and not ruin the discipline of others in shul (see Shulchan Aruch ibid.:4 and Mishna Berura 124:17). However, everyone should understand that a gabbai has little choice but to use that time for his basic tasks. (It is unfortunate that some gabbaim take the opportunity for unnecessary schmoozing.) Exceptions during chazarat hashatz are when there may not be ten people (actually, nine plus the chazan) answering besides the gabbai and the person he is speaking to (see Shulchan Aruch, ibid. and Igrot Moshe, OC IV, 19) and during Kedusha (see Rama, OC 125:2) and Modim D’rabbanan.

Speaking during Kaddish is more severe than during chazarat hashatz (see Mishna Berura 56:1) and can and should be avoided at almost all costs.

The big question is in regard to various parts of Kri’at Hatorah (laining). The gemara (Sota 39a) says: “Once the sefer Torah is opened, it is forbidden to speak even in matters of halacha.” In order to reconcile this gemara with the gemara in Berachot (8a), which mentions that Rav Sheshet learned during Kri’at Hatorah, Rishonim make different distinctions regarding who the learner is and his circumstances are (see Tur, OC 146). However, according to at least most of them, it is forbidden for a gabbai to speak during the actual laining. This could be because it is disrespectful, disruptive (Rashi), or he is missing words that he needs to hear (Igrot Moshe, OC IV, 40.5; see opinions in Yabia Omer, IV, YD 31). Only in a situation where there is no choice would it be permitted (see Aruch Hashulchan, OC 146:2).

In general, there is a machloket whether it is permitted (Bach, OC 146) or forbidden (Beit Yosef, OC 146) to speak divrei Torah in between aliyot (bein gavra l’gavra = bglg). The Beit Yosef’s main objection is a concern that one who begins to speak might not stop speaking in time for the next aliya. It doesn’t make sense to apply this strictly to a gabbai on duty for two reasons: he needs some latitude to do his job; the laining will generally not commence while he is still at work.

The remaining question, then, is how to view the beracha after each aliya: is it part of the laining, to which everyone must listen, or is it part of bglg? The Ritva (Megilla 21b) says that the reason that this beracha begins with “Baruch” and is not a “continuation beracha” is that it is permitted to talk before it.  Regarding the halacha that one may leave shul bglg, the Pri Chadash (146:1) says that after the reading but before the beracha is already considered bglg. Some had the minhag to deliver a derasha before the beracha (see Yechaveh Da’at V, 17).There is significant discussion as to whether the berachot are an obligation of the whole congregation or just of the oleh and whether it is important for ten people to hear them (see Teshuvot V’hanhagot I, 143). After weighing the factors, it makes sense that assuming all the following – ten people hear the beracha, the gabbai can do it without distracting the oleh, and it will save time for the congregation (which halacha deems as precious) –  the gabbai may speak for the needs of his job before or during the ending beracha. Others should listen to the beracha intently.


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