Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5771
Ask the Rabbi: Pressuring Participants in a Minyan to Never MissRav Daniel Mann
Question: We have a minyan of exactly ten men during the week, and everyone is committed to coming every day. Recently a tzaddik came to town, and three people went to daven with him, leaving us without a minyan. There are many shuls in town, but we are trying to keep our shul going and hope it will grow. Was it right for our members to leave us without a minyan?
Answer: While a major part of the concept of makom kavu’ah is to be consistent about davening in one’s normal minyan (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:19), one may certainly normally decide for himself when he is justified to daven elsewhere. Yet, there is precedent for one’s counterparts to prevent him from leaving them without a minyan.
Firstly, after stressing the importance of davening with a minyan, the gemara (Berachot 8a) says that one who does not daven with the community is a bad neighbor. Partially based on this source, the Rivash (518, accepted by the Rama, OC 54:22) says that when there is a problem putting together a minyan, the community can fine those who do not regularly take part in the minyan. The Mishna Berura (54:73) cites the Eliya Rabba who says that even those who learn and daven in a beit midrash (which is better for their learning and normally for their davening) should come to the local shul to make sure they have a minyan. The Peulat Tzaddik (Salah, I, 178) goes as far as to say that even if the local beit knesset does not have a sefer Torah, if the majority of the minyan does not plan to go to the next town, one should stay to keep the minyan going.
What if there are other shuls in town? The Aruch Hashulchan (54:26) says that in that case, people do not need to go out of their way to insure the viability of a minyan at a specific shul. However, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, OC III, 16) says that the minyan at all shuls is worthy of preservation. His main source is from the aforementioned Eliya Rabba, instructing “learners” from the beit midrash to come to the shul. Since even learners should normally daven with a minyan (see Rama, OC 90:18), it must be talking about a case where there is a minyan in the beit midrash and still they are to leave their place to make sure that the town’s shul has a minyan. Since there is a preference for one to daven in his own beit midrash over a local shul (Shulchan Aruch, OC 90:18), we also see that keeping an existing minyan justifies giving up a religious preference, which is extremely instructive for our case.
Contemporary poskim agree with Rav Feinstein’s approach. Shevet Halevi (X, 9) told yeshiva students in a town that did not have a stable minyan in the local shul to go to ensure their minyan (and considered it educational). Rav Shternbach (Teshuvot V’hanhagot II, 62) speaks of one who wants to daven in a slow minyan in the city instead of the fast minyan in the suburb where he lives, and told him to stay.
The extent to which one should go to preserve an existing shul when there are others may be related to the halacha that one does not knock down an existing shul until a new one is in place (Shulchan Aruch, OC 152:1). The Taz (152:1) says that this does not apply if there is another proper shul in town with room for the displaced, whereas the Magen Avraham (152:5) says that even when there is another shul in town one cannot take a shul out of use without a ready replacement.
All of the aforementioned poskim discuss cases where without the minyan continuing, there will be people who will not find or agree to take part in an alternative minyan. If, in your case, everyone or almost everyone has little problem davening elsewhere for the day, it is not reasonable to “hold people hostage” and never allow them to miss once even for a good reason. It is reasonable to ask them to look for someone to replace them (a parallel to the Shulchan Aruch’s mention of hiring a replacement).
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