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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach | 5769
A Mourner Davening at a Regular Minyan in the Same Building
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Question: If one is sitting shiva in his apartment and there is a minyan in the building’s miklat (bomb shelter), is it acceptable for the avel (mourner) to go down to the minyan if it is not easy to gather a minyan in his apartment?
Answer: Two issues come into play in this case: the positive element of a minyan taking place in the shiva house, and the problem of an avel leaving his house. We will deal with one at a time.
The Rama (Yoreh Deah 384:3) says that the deceased has nachat ruach (a spiritual good feeling) when people daven in the place he died. Therefore, if the deceased died in the shiva house, significant efforts should certainly be made to hold a minyan there. There is a difference of opinion whether davening in a shiva house in his honor causes nachat ruach when he did not die there (see Divrei Sofrim 384:25). This element would not seem to exist if the minyan was held in a different area of the building. The Har Hacarmel (Yoreh Deah 20) gives two other reasons why it is good to daven in a shiva house. 1) Often an avel says Kaddish for the deceased (i.e. for a parent), and so it is better that he has a place to do so without conflicting with other mourners. He says that the minhag was accepted across the board, even when the avel does not say Kaddish. 2) It is forbidden for the avel to leave the house and, therefore, the minyan enables him to not miss his mitzvot. Let us, then, see if this problem of leaving the house applies within the same building.
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 393:2, based on Mo’ed Katan 23b) rules that an avel should not leave his house during shiva. The Terumat Hadeshen (I, 290) explains that this is to keep his mind on mourning, which is compromised when one leaves and interacts with others. The Terumat Hadeshen, based on this reasoning, allows one who has a need to do so to go from the shiva house to a nearby house at night, when there is little activity on the streets.
Poskim considered the relative value of allowing an avel who does not have a minyan in the shiva house to go to shul. The Magen Avraham (694:8) implies that if it is just to take part in a minyan, the mourner should stay home. Note that the Terumat Hadeshen assumed that davening in shul is worse than walking home at night because in shul there is likely to be interaction with others. This is different from people gathering in the shiva house, where the focus is on the shiva. The Eliyah Rabba (132:4), though, says that if the mourner is a son, who says Kaddish for the deceased, he should go to shul; many accept this opinion (see P’nei Baruch 21:(16)). The Chochmat Adam (Matzevet Moshe 8) went further, suggesting that any avel who would be missing davening with a minyan may go. Although he is reluctant to rule against the Magen Avraham, he says that if the shul is in the same courtyard and does not require him to pass through the public domain, all agree he should go. This opinion is accepted by later poskim (see Pitchei Teshuva 393:2; Divrei Sofrim 393:42). The minyan that you decribe is equivalent to that permitted case.
However, the permission to go to the nearby minyan does not justify not making an effort to have a minyan in the shiva apartment, as those who are lenient discuss cases where the minyan not being held is a fact. Therefore, even without going outside or meeting anyone on the street, the proper thing is that the mourner takes part in a minyan that is special for the shiva for his deceased. Since different levels of difficulty and other factors impact on a possible case in a manner that we cannot anticipate, it is hard for us to give an absolute ruling. However, either for the positive reasons of nachat ruach or negative reasons of leaving the house, a minyan in the shiva house should be strongly pursued over having him participate in the miklat minyan.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.