- Question: [Motzei Shabbos, 26th Teves 5781]
According to Chabad custom is it proper to pray out loud? I am not referring to the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei which I understand is forbidden to be said out loud, but rather to the rest of the prayer, such as Pesukei Dezimra, Birchos Shema, Shema, and after Shemoneh Esrei. I have observed that in Chabad it is generally not accustomed to pray aloud and everyone prays silently on their own, while by other Hasidim groups I have seen that they specifically pray aloud in unison. If I stand correct, I believe also the Rebbe did not pray out loud. The issue is that it’s very hard for me to concentrate without being able to raise my voice in the prayer, and hence would like to know what to do as a Chabad Hassid.
The fact is, that not only may a Chabad Hassid pray out loud similar to what you have witnessed by other Hasidim groups, but furthermore this is the recommended custom that has been directed to us by our holy Rabbeim, starting from the Alter Rebbe until our Rebbe. This concept is recorded in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch that praying out loud helps with one’s concentration, and hence certainly one should be commended for doing so, despite the seemingly false public notion that somehow in Chabad we are accustomed to pray in silent. In face of clear directives by our holy Rabbeim in how to pray, the fact that one does not witness this being performed by the masses, should not be a deterrent for you to follow that which is requested from you by the Rabbeim and that which is the true Chabad custom which is to pray out loud. Hence, you should not hesitate to Daven out loud for the sake of increasing your concentration, and hopefully you will become an example for others to follow as well, and return the masses to their roots of how they too are meant to pray according to the directives of our holy Rabbeim. [To note, however, this simply refers to praying out loud and not to screaming the prayer in a way that disturbs everyone present.]
Halachic background: Although it states in the Talmud and Poskim that one is not allowed to pray out loud, this refers specifically to the prayer of Shemoneh Esrei, while by the other sections of prayer, not only may one pray them out loud, but furthermore is encouraged and praised to do so. Now, while there are some Poskim who rule that even the other parts of prayer should not be said out loud, practically we do not rule this way. Furthermore, even regarding Shemoneh Esrei it is ruled that one may pray out loud for the sake of increasing his concentration, if he is not present by a minyan, and thus certainly one may and should pray the other sections of prayer out loud for the sake of increasing concentration, and doing so is permitted even when one is with a Minyan. Nonetheless, one should not scream the prayer in a way that will disturb everyone else’s concentration.
In the words of our Rabbeim-The Alter Rebbe: In Sefer Hatanya, the Alter Rebbe instructs in numerous areas for one to pray out loud. To quote from Igros Kodesh 22, “I have come to remind…. That one should uphold the service of prayer to pray with a loud voice and to strengthen himself with all of his power against all impediments from inside and outside.” The quote from the last letter in Tanya, “This is the advice and set established custom which may not be transgressed G-d forbid…. To pray word for word out loud.” From another letter of Admur from his Igros Kodesh letter 10 “Through reciting Pesukei Dezimra and Birchos Kerias Shema out loud which arouses the intent of the heart.” and from letter 82“While speaking of the old institutions I will mention… That it is the responsibility of the Chazzan to gather 10 people around him who Daven out loud from the beginning of Hodu until after Shemoneh Esrei.”
In the words of our Rabbeim-The Mittler Rebbe: Also, from a letter of the Mittler Rebbe printed in Igros Kodesh Admur Haemtzai p. 263 “There is another evil that come from wise men who think they understand Chassidus…. To make fun of others in a way of Yeish, which is opposite the character of Bittul. They make fun of the simple folk who sincerely desire closeness with God during their prayer and therefore specifically pray out loud in order to arouse the concentration… Furthermore, I know that there even amongst those people who do know Chassidus that are unable to concentrate unless they say it out loud… And thus even those with great concentration and contemplation need to recite Pesukei Dezimra specifically out loud….. The second institution is that they should make a law that everyone should gather to pray together with the Chazan and to recite in unison the entire Pesukei Dezimra and Birchas Shema out loud, until Shemoneh Esrei which is said quietly, and to pay attention to each word which is said out loud to arouse concentration…. One should pray specifically from within the siddur and not say the words quickly to the point that he doesn’t understand what he is saying and how his lips move without any audible voice, as it is known that it is the voice that arouses the concentration and therefore every person is to strengthen himself to specifically scream in a loud voice and pay no attention to the scoffers.”
In the words of our Rabbeim-The Rebbe: In case anyone would be mistaken to think that these instructions of the Alter Rebbe were only for his generation and that today somehow things are different and that for us we should not Daven out loud, as the Chabad custom has changed to silent Davening, then let these words of our Rebbe suffice to negate this false notion. The Rebbe stated in a talk said in 1992 Parshas Beshalach, which was only several weeks before the 27th of Adar and is amongst one of the last few talks that we merited to hear from the Rebbe: “Being that we are standing by Shabbos Shira, we can learn from this the following lesson and practical directive. The concept of song in the service of man is during prayer… And this is the practical lesson, that prayer needs to be in the way of song, which means it should be out loud with singing and joy. This matter is relevant [not just to men but] even to women and children that they too are to pray in the above-mentioned way. However, regarding this there is a difference between women and men, as women must beware of the issue of Kol Isha and therefore they must pray in a modest fashion, Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penima, while adult men and male children on the contrary should pray with singing and joy and specifically out loud. And here’s the place to make mention regarding a wild custom, and despite the fact that this is become a set custom, it is nonetheless wild: There are some people that when they see a Jew going up to the Amud to pray, not only are they themselves particular to pray silently to the point that they can barely hear their own prayer, but furthermore if they see a certain Jew that desires to pray out loud in a way of singing, they immediately tell them to be quiet by saying “Sha Sha” in order to force them to also act like they do. And therefore, they must know that even if this custom [of praying silently] has a foundation, this is not the Chabad custom! As we find that the Alter Rebbe would Daven specifically out loud with singing, and in fact due to this we have learned some of his Niggunim, and the same applies for all the Rabbeim who followed after him. From all this we need to learn that prayer must specifically be with song joy and out loud.”
Sources: See regarding Shemoneh Esrei: Admur 101:2-3; Brachos 31a; Yerushalmy Brachos chapter 4; Tur/Michaber 101; Shlah p. 250a; Kaf Hachaim 101:57; See regarding Pesukei Dezimra and the rest of Davening-raise voice: Siddur Shaar Hashamayim of Shelah; Sefer Chassidim 18 and 158; Ramban end of Parshas Bo; Elya Raba 51:10 in name of Mateh Moshe 46 in name of Or Zarua; 101:3; Beis Shearim 1:18; Hagahos Divrei Shaul Sotah 32a; M”B 185:3; Imrei Eish 3; Shulchan Hatahor end of 49; Minchas Elazar 2:20; Maharsham 8:24; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 51:20; Write not to raise voice: Shaar Hakavanos Inyan Birchas Hashachar, brought in M”A 101:3 in name of Arizal and P”M 101 A”A 3 and Shaareiy Teshuvah end of 49 and M”B 101:7; Admur Hazakein: Tanya Igeres Hakodesh 22; Tanya Kuntrus Achron-end; Igros Kodesh Admur Hazakein letter 10 and 82; Mittler Rebbe: Igros Kodesh Admur Haemtzai p. 263 The Rebbe’s Sicha: Sichos Kodesh 5752 Parshas Beshalach p. 594