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Shabbat Parashat Vayechi 5774

Ask the Rabbi: A Minyan Which Loses Its Tenth Man

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: My minyan for Shacharit was short one person. Someone who had already davened agreed to join us until the end of chazarat hashatz. Could we recite Kaddish Shalem, like when a regular davener leaves? Was it permitted to complete the minyan with someone who had to leave before the end?


Answer: You are apparently aware that when there is an exact minyan to begin a part of tefilla and someone leaves, the rest can finish up the unit, if six remain (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55:2-3, based on the Yerushalmi, Megilla 4:4). The poskim do not distinguish between when the one who left had been davening with the minyan or not. However, the Yerushalmi says that it is a sin and a bad omen for the one whose departure left them without a minyan.

Your question of whether the group can take advantage of the halacha of continuing when they knew they will lose the minyan is discussed by several Acharonim in slightly differing cases (see references in Ishei Yisrael 15:(120) and Piskei Teshuvot 55:7). There are also many shades of answers. Rav Pealim (I, OC 15) deduces from the Yerushalmi’s language (one can argue) that a group mustn’t start a unit if it expects to lose its minyan before the unit ends. The logic is that being in the middle without a minyan is a bad situation, and one may not knowingly create it. The Pitchei Teshuva (Isserlin – 143:1) is unsure. Levushei Mordechai says (OC 15) it is generally permissible.

Several responsa deal with the matter from the perspective of the person who was asked to help out but had only a few minutes to give. Should he put himself in the situation of leaving and ostensibly be subject to a bad omen? Ohel Yissachar (OC 6) said that since if he joins he cannot leave in the middle, he can, when necessary, refuse to join. The Shevet Halevi (IV:7) says that only if the “helper” has a very important reason to leave may he join and leave, with the people continuing according to the regular rules. The opinion we prefer is that the Yerushalmi’s criticism cannot apply to one who comes from outside the minyan to help the maximum that he can, as he should (Kinyan Torah Bahalacha II:111). Similarly, Rav S.Z. Orbach is cited (V’aleihu Lo Yibol I:27) as positing that the ability to help create a minyan outweighs the negative elements.

Your case has a lenient element missing from the cases that most of the Acharonim discussed – your helper stayed until the end of chazarat hashatz. One would think this is the end of a unit, and it is permitted for one to leave before the next unit (Mishna Berura 55:12). However, the Terumat Hadeshen (I:15) and the Rama (55:3) say that after losing a minyan in the middle of chazarat hashatz, the group can say the first two Kaddishes afterward because they relate to chazarat hashatz. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) says that consequently one should not leave before the second Kaddish. On the other hand, the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch (see Beit Yosef, OC 55) disagree with the Terumat Hadeshen. Also, the Eshel Avraham (OC 55) says that leaving is forbidden only during chazarat hashatz, which consists of berachot. Furthermore, it does not make sense that the concern over an improper Kaddish should cause a group to miss out on s full chazarat hashatz, which is an older, stronger obligation.

Let us end with an innovative idea, linking stringency and leniency. Since the helper is following the group’s request within his limitations, it is the group more than the helper that is responsible for the minyan disappearing in the middle. (In the classic case, one leaves against the community’s will.) Therefore, the fall-out should be on the group, and to avoid it, they should look for another helper to take the first one’s place (there is not a need for the same ten the whole time). Given this stringency, the group has a right to expect that they will find a replacement. If they do not, the situation is like the standard one where a minyan was expected the whole time and lost.

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