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Shabbat Parashat Vayikra| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: The Applicability of the Idea of Davening at the Same Time as Shuls

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 90:9) rules that one who cannot make it to a minyan should try to daven at the same time as a minyan. Given the multiple minyanim we find in one town, how does one fulfill that obligation today?


Answer: There are many sources on the idea of connecting one’s tefilla to that of the tzibbur (congregation). Not only do important sections of tefilla require a minyan and it is more respectful to Hashem to join a group when turning to Him (the larger the better- Mishna Berura 90:28), it is also more conducive to the tefilla being accepted favorably (Berachot 6a). The matter of davening at the time the tzibbur davens comes up within the latter context. The gemara (Berachot 7b) tells that Rav Nachman told Rav Yitzchak that he had been too weak to come to shul. Rav Yitzchak asked why he did not have someone tell him when the tzibbur was up to tefilla (apparently Shemoneh Esrei) so that he could benefit from the eit ratzon (time of good will) at that time to help his tefillot. Tosafot (Avoda Zara 4b) says that there are different levels of advantage: together with the tzibbur, one’s tefillot are “heard”; at the same time in different places, they are “not pushed away.” These levels of acceptance probably depend on other factors, and we are not able to comprehend such Divine matters’ exact meanings.

In any case, following this guideline is not a full halachic requirement but something one should try to avail himself of (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:9.). It is related to the idea of davening in a shul even if one cannot do so together with a minyan (ibid.). The latter matter is a double-edged sword, as the one real prohibition in this regard is davening in a shul ahead of the tzibbur (Berachot 28b).

Let us now address your question. The closest source we have found in the Rishonim is in the Semag (Aseh 19, p. 102a, cited by the Rama, OC 90:9), who says that if there is no local minyan, one should follow the time that “communities of Israeldaven. This implies that, ideally, one follows the local minyan but that there could be some type of official average time. We do not know the extent to which there was a uniform time in his days, but we cannot identify such a time nowadays. (There is a general preference for vatikin, but if the Semag had that time in mind, he would have said it.)

The Mishna Berura (90:31) seems to say that in places where there are many minyanim, all times are good. However, he and his source, the Chayei Adam (16:3), is talking about refraining from davening before the right time, and says that it does not apply when there are many minyanim. One can still ask whether there is something to do if one specifically wants to avail himself of the positive element. Ishei Yisrael (8:(32)) seems to say that all times are good. Avnei Yashfe says in the “name” of an unnamed gadol that in such a case there is no preference (sounding like nothing is particularly good). However, we prefer the following compromise approach. Rav S.Z. Auerbach is quoted as saying that the gemara implies that this matter requires one to focus on a specific minyan (Ishei Yisrael, op. cit.). While it is not clear to us where Rav Auerbach saw this in the gemara, it leads in the logical direction of his disciple, Rav Neuwirth (cited ibid.). If one usually davens with a specific minyan but cannot make it on a certain day, he gets the positive element of davening when he davens at the same time as they do even if there are many other minyanim in town. (This makes particular sense if this matter depends more on psychology than on mysticism.) Rav Neuwirth brings an interesting precedent from the Sha’ar Hatziyun (551:56) that if one is eating fleishig at seuda shlishit during the Nine Days, he should stop when his regular shul has davened Ma’ariv. If one is not connected to a specific minyan and there are many minyanim in town, then there is apparently neither anything positive nor any requirement to try to correspond to some random minyan.


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