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Praying Out Loud

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Topic: Amidah for Visually Impaired

Eric Rosenberg from Indianapolis, Indiana wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I was leading Shabbat services at a local Jewish nursing home and noticed that some of the congregants were visually impaired. When I came to the shemoneh esrei [silent prayer] I wasn't sure what to do - should I have read the shemoneh esrei out loud for those who cannot see well enough to read? (They didn't know the prayers by heart.) Also, I assume it was O.K. for people to sit who did not feel they had the strength to remain standing? Thank you.

Dear Eric Rosenberg,

As you know, after the congregation says the silent prayer, the Cantor repeats it out loud. This repetition of the shemoneh esrei is intended for exactly the situation you describe - to help the people who don't know the prayers by heart and can't read them. Therefore, here's what you should do in such a situation: Before the prayers, announce that anyone who has difficulty reading the prayers should listen carefully during the repetition. If possible, they should say the prayer along with you word for word, and if that's not possible they should just listen carefully to the entire prayer and say amen to each blessing.

As for sitting during prayer, you're right: A person who finds it a hardship to stand may sit during shemoneh esrei.

By helping out in a nursing home you are doing a great mitzvah. Keep up the good work!

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