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Shabbat Parashat Va'eira 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Does One Starting Shemoneh Esrei With the Chazan Count for the Minyan?

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I arrived at a small minyan for Mincha as the chazan was waiting for one more person needed to start chazarat hashatz. The question arose whether I could be counted if I started along with the chazan, considering I was doing my own davening and not answering Amen. 


Answer: If eight people plus the chazan had finished Shemoneh Esrei, they could have started without you. The main source for that assertion is the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 55:6, in the context of Kaddish), who says that someone who is sleeping or is in the midst of Shmoneh Esrei and cannot answer can count as one of the ten people needed for a minyan. This comes from the Hagahot Maimoniot (Tefilla 8:9), who is based on opinions in the gemara that are lenient regarding the qualifications of the tenth person for a minyan.

There is not unanimity on two related points. Some Acharonim (see Eliya Rabba 55:7, Aruch Hashulchan, OC 55:13) say that while we can count only one sleeping person, we can use more people who are reciting Shemoneh Esrei, as they are involved in sanctifying Hashem and can stop their tefilla to at least listen. Only six people (including the chazan) have to be actively involved in the Kaddish. The Mishna Berura (55:32) is inconclusive on the matter. Another matter is that the Shulchan Aruch Harav (OC 55:7) says that for chazarat hashatz we require nine people to actually answer and cannot even use one who is sleeping or davening. In Living the Halachic Process, vol. I, A-10, we took the middle approach – we can use one person in Shemoneh Esrei toward the minyan for chazarat hashatz (see Tzitz Eliezer XII:9).

Does someone who is starting with the chazan count as one who is involved in chazarat hashatz or is he like anyone else who is in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei? It is brought in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach Halichot Shlomo (Tefilla 9:2) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Tefilla 10) that one who is reading along word for word with the chazan counts fully toward the minyan, as doing so is no worse than listening and answering Amen. Assuming others will finish Shemoneh Esrei by Kedusha, you would no longer need the daveners to be reading along word by word.

There is a classical source that one who is reading along counts like one who is answering Amen. One is not supposed to start Shemoneh Esrei if he will not be able to answer Kedusha and Amen to a few critical berachot (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 109:1). However, he may recite these passages along with the chazan (ibid. 2). This is because reciting the beracha along with the chazan is like saying Amen (Beit Yosef, ad loc.).

Following this logic, it would seem that you could use more than one such person toward the minyan. Could you say that all can be davening for the first time along with the chazan? We do have a similar practice in heiche kedusha (see Rama, OC 124:2), but that is conceptually different. In heiche kedusha there is actually no chazarat hashatz, as the chazan himself is not repeating Shemoneh Esrei but saying it for the first time. Here, we probably need a majority of a minyan to make chazarat hashatz meaningful, and the people who are reading along make it considered that a full minyan are related to do it.

It is not crucial to have nine people answering Amen. While the Rosh (Shut 4:19), who is the main source that nine people have to be listening, says that all should answer Amen, in regard to b’dieved he is bothered only if others are not following along. In general, saying Amen is an important mitzva but is not required to be credited with the beracha (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 213:2). (In the context of heiche kedusha, the Rama says that there should be at least one answering.)

Therefore, if you would have read along with the chazan, you could have counted toward the minyan, unlike those who were up to different sections of Shemoneh Esrei.  Whether it paid to wait for more people who had finished Shemoneh Esrei depends on a few things, certainly including the extent of tircha d’tzibbura
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