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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa | 5768

Minyan Functioning Without 10 men

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I once learned that when a minyan starts with ten men and one or two leave, the minyan can continue normally. Is this so?

Answer: The general concept you refer to exists, but we have to refine some details.

The mishna (Megilla 4:3) lists parts of tefilla that require a minyan, including Kaddish/Barchu and chazarat hashatz (repetition of Shemoneh Esrei). The Yerushalmi (ad loc.:4) comments that for each, if a minyan was present at the section’s beginning, they can continue with it even after some have left. (It reprimands those who leave in a manner that leaves the rest without a quorum, even though the remaining people may continue). The Rashba (Shut I, 95) extends the matter a step, saying that if a group started chazarat hashatz with a minyan and someone left, they recite even Kedusha (which is in chazarat hashatz), even though they started Kedusha without a minyan. The Terumat Hadeshen (I, 15) goes even further. If a minyan was in the midst of chazarat hashatz when some left, they can even say the full Kaddish that follows U’va L’tziyon without ten. The rationale is that the key addition to that Kaddish (“Titkabel tzlot’hon…”), the request that Hashem accept the completed tefilla of Shemoneh Esrei, demonstrates that all of the tefilla until this point was a continuation of Shemoneh Esrei. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 55:2-3) codifies the above concept and the applications mentioned. So indeed that which you remember learning is correct.

There is further leniency than you remember regarding the number of people who can be missing. The Ran (Megilla, ad loc.), reasoning that a significant part of the minyan must remain for the group to continue as if there were still a minyan, sets the minimum at a simple majority of six (including the chazzan). This too is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.).

However, this concept has limitations. The group can continue only with sections that are directly connected to the davar shebekedusha (section of the tefilla that requires a minyan) that began with a minyan. The Yerushalmi (ibid.) posits that each of the sections mentioned separately in the mishna is a separate section. Therefore, having a minyan for Kaddish/Barchu does not entitle them to do chazarat hashatz without one. A minyan that disbanded during chazarat hashatz would have to skip over nesi’at kapayim (the kohanim’s duchenin, daily in Israel and on holidays abroad). They would not be allowed to do kri’at hatorah (laining) without a minyan even though the Shemoneh Esrei unit continues until after the Torah is normally returned (see above).

There are too many permutations to mention in this forum, but we will mention a few interesting ones. At Ma’ariv, if there was a minyan for the opening Barchu, the group can recite the Kaddish before Shemoneh Esrei because Barchu is the beginning of the berachot of Kri’at Shema, which concludes with Kaddish (Mishna Berura 55:22). However, since the Kaddish at the end of Ma’ariv relates to Shemoneh Esrei, one would need a minyan for Shemoneh Esrei. While it is sufficient to have a minyan for Shemoneh Esrei of Ma’ariv in order to recite Kaddish after it, at Shacharit and Mincha, chazarat hashatz, not Shemoneh Esrei is necessary. This is because that Kaddish was composed primarily for chazarat hashatz, with the exception being at Ma’ariv, where there is no chazarat hashatz, where it relates to the silent Shemoneh Esrei. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 124:4) speaks about the critical need to have nine people listening to all of chazarat hashatz. However, based on the concept at hand, if there are nine listening in the beginning and three stop listening, the chazzan can continue, just that it is as if they physically left without leaving a minyan, which, we mentioned, is criticized (Igrot Moshe, OC IV 19; see Derisha, OC 124:1).

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