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Shabbat Parashat Eikev | 5768

Forming a Separate Minyan to Accommodate Another Mourner

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I have noticed recently that when there are more than one chiyuv (mourner or yahrtzeit), a second minyan forms in a side room. Is this desirable/proper?
Answer: It is often difficult and unwise to argue with chiyuvim because their demands usually stem from a sincere desire to fully honor their parents. Putting things in perspective helps develop a healthy halachic outlook, which can help where a binding ruling is not appropriate.
The Rama (YD 376:4) rules that it is proper for sons of the deceased to bring them merit by saying Kaddish and being chazan for 11 months after death. Yet, mourners do not have an absolute need or right to be chazan. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 53:20) says that a congregation may choose another chazan over a mourner if they so desire. A mourner’s absolute right applies only to the Kaddeishim designed for them (Mishna Berura 53:60). However, the congregation should allow a mourner to be chazan under normal circumstances (he is a fluent chazan and positive person).
Those who cannot be chazan were allotted Kaddeishim to bring merit to their parents. Halacha prefers that only one mourner recites each Kaddish. Acharonim arrived at detailed rules of kedimut (prioritization) to deal with cases of many mourners. Over the last few hundred years, to ward off quarreling, the minhag has spread widely from Sephardim to Ashkenazim to allow multiple people to say Kaddish together, presently limiting the rules of kedimut to choice of chazan.
Going through sources on kedimut (see Maamar Kaddishin- Biur Halacha132; Gesher Hachayim 30:10) one will not find the solution of splitting minyanim. Nevertheless, some people came up with the idea, which is still too limited a practice to have spawned significant literature. The main source that condones it is the Afarkasta D’ania (20th century). His main concern with the practice is its impact on the halachic concept of b’rov am hadrat melech (the Kingis better honored in large gatherings). He demonstrates, though, that it is not an absolute rule and can be outweighed by other factors. He assumes a mourner has an obligation to be a chazan, just that he is not always capable of doing so, and feels this is grounds for splitting minyanim. It is, though, difficult to assume that Chazal created such an obligation that is so frequently incapable of being fulfilled and that, despite this, the poskim before him did not feel a need to solve the problem. Rather, the mitzva is to follow the halachic rules, which give guidelines of how to deal with “too many” chiyuvim.
We can identify six areas in which a separate minyan can be regrettable (depending on the case): 1) b’rov am; 2) moving people from their makom kavu’a; 3) people davening not in a shul; 4) the cohesiveness of a community and its tefilla;4) small groups do not always have nine people answering everything that needs a minyan; 5) tircha d’tzibbura with an increased need to wait for a minyan at certain places. These may explain why the classical poskim did not propose the simple solution, which has been developing in a grass-roots manner.
There seem to be two sociological reasons for the change. One is the “shtiebelization” of our communities. Consistent davening in one’s shul has given way to finding the best fit for each circumstance. So why shouldn’t helping a mourner suffice to ignore the above issues, about which people are anyway lax? Secondly, once one sees a friend make his own minyan (and who wants to make a fight and stop him), others feel their parents deserves no less, causing a snowball affect. If the trend picks up steam, it will indeed cause fights (which we do not condone) to stop it. It is best if people consider that their parent will have no less merit by having a son who follows the age-old rules of kedimut and preserves the integrity of communal tefilla. This should slow the trend.
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