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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5774

Ask the Rabbi: Lack of Unity in Unified Minyan

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Occasionally, I join an ad hoc minyan of 10-12 men for weekday Mincha, in which whoever leads chooses the nusach. Several participants start Tachanun even as a Nusach Sephard chazan is leading Viduy andYud Gimmel Middot (=YGM). Are the following a problem: 1) A noticeable lack of uniformity? 2) The need for a minyan to recite YGM? If there is a problem, does it justify saying something?


Answer: We begin with clarifications. First, the daily recitation of YGM is a post-Talmudic minhag, not found in the Shulchan Aruch. Second, there is zero halachic problem for a Nusach Ashkenaz devotee to recite YGM with a minyan.

 Next we deal with the “hybrid minyan” phenomenon. From a purist perspective, chazanim should follow a shul’s established minhag, which is to be established by majority (see Bemareh Habazak VI:2). There is a common minhag, primarily in the Israeli Dati Leumi community (as is Eretz Hemdah’s practice), that the chazan follow his nusach. This is based on a belief that the unity and respect toward “minority” groups within a minyan fosters are important and doable. The idea is to achieve an “I’ll join you; you’ll join me” attitude, not one of “I’ll ignore you; you’ll ignore me.”

Rav Moshe Feinstein says that one who is in a Nusach Sephard shul should say YGM with the tzibbur (Igrot Moshe, OC III:89), citing the rule of avoiding things that can cause machloket. One can argue that a “unity minyan has no set minhag to uphold and therefore no issue of machloket. However, we submit that snubbing another group (without halachic need – see above) when it is their turn to lead the davening can be insulting. If some participants refrain from saying YGM because they do not know it by heart, cards containing the text should be made available.

Besides possible insult, how does the situation of people not taking part affect matters? There is a machloket whether YGM can be said without a minyan. The Tur cites Rabbi Natan Gaon, whom the Shulchan Aruch (OC 565:5) follows as requiring it. (The Tur argues.) Two reasons are given to require a minyan. The Rashba (Shut I:211) infers from the gemara (Rosh Hashana 17b) describing the power of reciting YGM that it is like a davar sheb’kedusha (a saying that requires a minyan). Rav Amram Gaon (Ta’anit) explains that this “powerful ammunition” is called for only when a tzibbur joins together in prayer and righteous behavior.

According to the Rashba’s approach, the parameters of the minyan are like that of Kaddish and Kedusha (see Torah Lishma 96; Halichot Olam I, Ki Tisa 1, who apply general minyan rules to YGM). While ten men are needed to usher in the sanctity, six suffice to answer a davar sheb’kedusha (see Mishna Berura 55:32; Ishei Yisrael 15:(16)). One can argue that that six suffice for reciting YGM too. However, it is not unanimous that six suffices even for Kaddish/Kedusha, and certainly not that it is l’chatchila (see ibid.). Furthermore, there are strong indications that according to Rav Amram Gaon, the necessary effect that justifies saying YGM requires a minyan reciting it together, as Igrot Moshe (OC IV:34) assumes. Elsewhere (OC III:89), Rav Moshe explains that the practice that people stop learning to join in YGM with a later minyan is to add to the power of that minyan’s YGM by increased participation.

Finally, we address the question of what to do. If there are at least six men reciting YGM, they can continue doing so. If they want to be stringent or if there are less than six, most poskim would suggest reading the p’sukim of YGM with tropp (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 565:5; Yechaveh Da’at I:47). Details are beyond our present scope; we believe this is a solution for a savvy individual, not for a tzibbur. How does one deal with people who do something that could cause machloket? Our approach is that it is very often unwise to try to stop them, as this often brings machloket even closer. The halachic stakes here are not high. If sharing our words helps – wonderful. If not, leave things. Only one who knows the personalities and dynamics can decide.

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