The shaliach tzibur, as the words imply, is the
agent of the congregation, sent by the congregation to beseech mercy before
G-d. Those who send him and those who are sent should appreciate the meaning
and importance of being a shaliach tzibur. Because he is the agent of
the congregation, the shaliach tzibur is required to have the intention
of praying in the name of the entire congregation. If he excludes
anyone in the congregation from his prayers (because, for example, he is angry
with him), no one in the congregation benefits from his prayers. The
reason for this is that he was appointed on the condition that he pray in the
name of the entire congregation. If he is not faithful to his task and
excludes persons he doesn’t like, he is no longer considered the shaliach
tzibur. The person who acts as shaliach tzibur may only do so with
the consent of the congregation. If he does not have that consent, he is not
permitted to lead the davening because the davening is in place of sacrifices
offered by the public, and it is unfitting for a person to offer a sacrifice
in the name of the public against its will. If a person attempts to lead the
davening against the will of the congregation, the congregation should not
answer amen to the blessings he recites. In reciting those blessings, he is
considered to be scoffing rather than blessing G-d.
A shaliach tzibur must be careful not to contaminate
his mouth with any form of forbidden speech, so that he does not serve G-d
with a vessel which is dirty and impure.
A person who has trouble speaking and cannot articulate the
words of the prayers clearly should not be appointed as a shaliach tzibur.
Nevertheless, if there is no one else suited as he is to be the shaliach
tzibur, it is permitted. A person who stutters when he speaks with people,
but has no trouble reciting the prayers is allowed to be a shaliach tzibur.
The congregation may not appoint a person to be the shaliach
tzibur until his beard has filled out, even if he is a great scholar. This
is a matter of showing respect for the congregation, and the congregation is
not permitted to relinquish the respect which is its due. Nevertheless, this
does not apply to an individual who on occasion acts as the shaliach tzibur,
or who fills in temporarily for the shaliach tzibur. On fast days and
on the High Holy Days, a person whose beard has not filled out may not be the shaliach
tzibur at all, and the congregation should not be lenient in this matter.
A mourner whose beard has not yet filled out should not be
the regular shaliach tzibor. But he should lead the prayers of the
congregation now and then. Alternatively, he may lead the prayers in a minyan
which is not, itself, a regular minyan. Also, he can be the shaliach tzibur in a yeshiva, where, in any case, many of the members of the congregation
do not yet have a full beard.
If there is no one else who knows how to lead the prayers,
a boy who has had his bar mitzvah can serve as the shaliach tzibur so
that the congregation does not lose the opportunity to recite the kaddish and
If there is a choice between a married person and an
unmarried person, the married person is preferred to be the shaliach tzibur, even if the unmarried person has developed a full beard and the unmarried
person has not yet developed a full beard.
It is only out of respect for the congregation that the shaliach
tzibur is required to have developed a full beard. Where the congregation
is young, so that most of them do not, themselves, have a fully developed
beard, it is not necessary for the shaliach tzibur to have a fully
developed beard. That is why, in yeshivos, boys are encouraged (it is
important for them to learn to lead the congregation in prayer) to serve as
the shaliach tzibur even though they do not have fully developed