Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh | 5768
Reciting "Me’ein Sheva" in a Makeshift Shul on Shabbat
Ask the Rabbi
Question: I was at a Shabbat bar mitzva at a hotel in
Answer: The phenomenon of Me’ein Sheva (=MS) is interesting. It is like a shortened chazarat hashatz (repetition of Shemoneh Esrei), which is surprising at Ma’ariv, which does not usually have a chazarat hashatz. The gemara (Shabbat 24b) says that we recite it because many shuls were in dangerous places, so the Rabbis wanted to stretch out the davening to give latecomers time to finish before everyone else finished and left.
Because of the unusual nature of the institution of MS, it is not surprising that Rishonim limit it to circumstances that resemble the original situation. The Ra’avya (see Tur, Orach Chayim 268) says that the danger the gemara discussed is no longer prevalent and that although we continue the practice, we only do so with a minyan. The Beit Yosef (ad loc.) and Rivash (40) say that it does not apply to makeshift minyanim, as it is not as likely for people to come from all over to daven and for one to come late. This approach is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (OC 268:10).
What is considered close enough to a regular shul, which warrants the saying of MS? The Taz (268:8) seems to have a relatively broad definition, as he says that when a group goes to an area and sets aside a place to daven for a few days, they do recite MS. This is more set than the cases of a minyan formed in a home where sheva berachot or a shiva period is held, where the Shulchan Aruch says not to recite it. There is some disagreement as to whether the few days have to be consecutive days or could be on weekends only (see opinions in Minchat Yitzchak X, 21), as is likely the case in the hotel in question. The Eliyahu Rabba (268:19), in bringing this Taz, adds the necessity that a sefer Torah be present (possibly because he did not feel it was likely that they would go without one), and the Mishna Berura (268:24) also adds this as a requirement. On the other hand, some poskim say that the presence of a sefer Torah suffices without other requirements (see opinions in Yabia Omer II, OC 29). It is also possible that if the area is part of the same complex as the hotel’s main shul, it is considered an extension of it and would thus be considered a set beit knesset (see a similar idea in D’var Moshe, cited, Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.). On the other hand, there is logic to say as follows. The main distinction should have to do with the nature of the group that assembled more than with the history of the place in which they meet (unless it is a full-fledged shul). In this case, the bar mitzva group is a one-time thing and MS should not be recited.
In the final analysis, your case is one of a safek (doubt) as to which definition to accept. What does one do in such a case? Firstly, some rule (based on kabalistic sources) that once instituted, MS is to be said at any minyan; this appears to be the minhag in Yerushalayim (Rav Pe’alim III, OC 23; Har Tzvi OC I, 152). Secondly, the Magen Avraham (268:14) says that even in a case where the indications are that one should not recite MS, one need not correct those who are doing so. It is possible that even if not required, it may not be a problem for a minyan to recite it anyway, as they are close enough to the institution to make it acceptable. However, the Pri Megadim (MZ 268:8) raises the possibility that those who recite MS out of doubt run the risk of a beracha l’vatala (in vain). Thus, in the final analysis, it is safer to rule that one should not have recited MS, but if they did (which I guess most groups do) there was insufficient reason to try to dissuade them.
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