Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Vayeira
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
I will not destroy [Sodom] on account of ten (18:32)
TEFILLAH B' TZIBUR: HOW IMPORTANT?
The mitzvah of davening with a minyan (a religious quorum: ten
males over bar mitzvah), though Rabbinic in nature, has a
Biblical source: When Abraham importuned G-d to save Sodom in
the merit of the tzaddikim who dwelled there, he ceased pleading
when he realized that there were fewer than ten righteous
individuals. This, says the Ibn Ezra(1), is because the fewest
number of people that can constitute a tzibur - the basic unit
for communal prayer - is ten. It follows that tefillah, the
daily prayer service, should be conducted within a tzibur so
that its manifold benefits will be realized. Indeed, the
Rambam(2) and the Shulchan Aruch(3) rule that all men should
make every effort to daven all tefillos with a minyan, for
tefillah b'tzibur is much more than a preferred course of action
- it is a Rabbinic obligation(4).
Despite the paramount importance of tefillah b'tzibur, however,
there are several cases when it becomes secondary to other
halachos or situations that take precedence. For example:
It is forbidden to eat before davening Shacharis. A weak person
who must eat before davening should daven at home early in the
morning, eat, and then go to shul to answer to Kaddish and
If tefillah b'tzibur would cause a monetary loss, one may daven
alone. But if it merely causes one to earn less profit, he is
not allowed to skip tefillah b'tzibur6. A deduction from a
paycheck due to lateness caused by tefillah b'tzibur is
considered a monetary loss(7).
It is forbidden for a scholar to learn till late at night if it
will cause him to miss tefillah b'tzibur the next morning(8).
Even if one can concentrate better at home, he is still
required to daven with a minyan as long as he can concentrate
sufficiently to understand the simple translation of the words
he is saying(9).
Wearing tefillin during Shema and Shemoneh Esrei takes
precedence over tefillah b'tzibur(10).
One who is particular to daven k'vasikin(11) on a steady basis
may daven by himself when he cannot find a minyan(12). Even if
he does not daven k'vasikin daily, but is particular to daven
k'vasikin at specific times, e.g., on erev Rosh Chodesh, he may
daven k'vasikin without a minyan on those specific days(13).
One who must leave for work at a certain time and is faced with
a choice of davening in a slow minyan (such as a yeshiva or
kollel) and leaving before the end of davening, or davening in a
quicker minyan where it is difficult for him to daven properly,
should rather daven in the slower minyan - even if it means that
he will miss kerias ha-Torah on Mondays and Thursdays(14).
Kerias ha-Torah takes precedence over tefillah b'tzibur(15) and
QUESTION: How far must one travel from his home in order to
daven tefillah b'tzibur?
DISCUSSION: If the closest minyan is an eighteen-minute walk or
more [each way] from one's home, he is exempt from davening
b'tzibur(17). If he owns a car and uses it routinely, he must
travel by car for up to eighteen minutes [each way](18). If he
uses his car only for emergencies, then he is not obligated to
use his car for tefillah b'tzibur either(19).
QUESTION: How many people should be finished with Shemoneh Esrei
before the chazan may begin his repetition of the Shemoneh
DISCUSSION: The poskim debate this issue. Some maintain that the
chazan may not repeat Shemoneh Esrei until there are nine other
people listening to him. Those who are still davening Shemoneh
Esrei are not included(21). Other poskim are more lenient. They
allow the chazan to begin the repetition as long as there are
six people listening to him(22).
The Mishnah Berurah does not directly rule on this issue. On a
related matter, he quotes both views and suggests that in a
situation when the chazan suspects that there may not be nine
people answering "amen" to his repetition, he should make a
condition (tenai) before starting that his Shemoneh Esrei is a
tefillas nedavah, a voluntary prayer, should nine people not
answer "amen" to his blessings(23).
L'chatchilah, therefore, since some poskim rule strictly on
this issue, the chazan should wait for nine people to finish
their Shemoneh Esrei. If, however, people are rushing to go to
work, etc., we may rely(24) on the more lenient view and begin
Shemoneh Esrei before all nine people have finished(25). The
chazan should do so with the aforementioned precondition.
1 Makkos 24a.
2 Bereishis 18:28. See also Targum Yonasan 18:24 for a similar
3 Hilchos Tefillah 8:1.
4 O.C. 90:9.
5 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:27. See, however, ha-Tefillah B'tzibur (pg.
34) quoting the Eimek Brachah's view that the Rambam holds that
tefillah b'tzibur is not an absolute obligation.
6 Beiur Halachah 89:3.
7 Mishnah Berurah 90:29.
8 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfei on Tefillah, 2nd
edition, pg. 74).
9Igros Moshe O.C. 2:27.
10 Igros Moshe O.C. 3:7.
11 Mishnah Berurah 66:40.
12 As explained in the Discussion on Parashas Vayigash.
13 Beiur Halachah 58:1. According to the understanding of Harav
S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfe on Tefillah, 2nd edition,
pg. 62) even one who does not daven regularly k'vasikin, but
would like to daven k'vasikin on a certain day just for the sake
of davening k'vasikin, may daven without a minyan.
14 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in ha-Tefillah B'tzibur, pg. 116).
15 Written responsum from Harav S.Z. Auerbach (published in
ha-Tefillah B'tzibur, pg. 250) who adds that he should make sure
that the other congregants - who see him leaving early - are
aware of the reason for his early departure. Harav Auerbach adds
that even if he is the tenth man who completes the slower
minyan, and his early departure will break up the minyan before
the last Kaddish, he should still do so.
16 Minchas Yitzchak 7:6; Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Harav S.Y.
Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfe on Tefillah, 2nd edition, pg.
17Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Tefillah K'hilchasah pg. 73).
18 Mishnah Berurah 90:52; Igros Moshe O.C. 2:27.
19Based on Beiur Halachah 163:1; Aruch ha-Shulchan Y.D. 375:17.
See Hebrew Notes to Parashas Ha'azinu for elaboration.
20Rulings of Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfe on
Tefillah, 2nd edition, pg. 75 and in Tefillah K'hilchasah pg.
21Our discussion covers Chazaras ha-Shatz only. The halachos of
Kaddish are more lenient.
22Shulchan Aruch Harav 55:7; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 20:2; Kaf
ha-Chayim 55:48. This ruling is based on the view of the Taz
23 Aruch ha-Shulchan 55:13; Imrei Yosher 2:9-1; Eimek Berachah,
Tefillah 6. This ruling is based on the view of Magen Avraham
55:8. This also seems to be the view of the Pri Megadim (MZ
55:4) and Beiur Halachah 55:6. See Tzitz Eliezer 12:9 for an
24Mishnah Berurah 124:19.
25See Salmas Chayim 1:24; Tzitz Eliezer 12:9; Beis Baruch 29:1;
Yalkut Yosef 1:287.
26According to Chayei Adam 29:1 and Eimek Berachah, Tefillah 6,
this should not be relied upon unless there are at least eight
people who finished Shemoneh Esrei. See also Orchos Rabbeinu
1:51 that this was the view of Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
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Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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