Question: If a person was ill on Shabbos and unable to go to shul to hear Keri’at haTorah, must he have someone read it to him in shul upon his recovery?
Answer: Previously, we considered whether Keriat haTorah, which is mekudash, overrides tefillah which is not mekudash but is more tadir.
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Rabbi Weiss (Minchas Yitzchak) writes that the Taz (Orach Chayim 681) maintains that the more frequent of the two takes precedence. He also refers us to Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Responsa 9).
It would seem that Keriat haTorah, unlike tefillah, is not an obligation of the individual. That’s why the Mechaber (O.C. 146:2, based on Berachot 8a) permits one whose “occupation” is Torah to turn away before the Sefer Torah is opened for Keriat haTorah and continue studying Torah.
The Rema (O.C. 55:22) writes that people in a town having difficulty getting a minyan may force one another to assemble via fines. That way, the “tamid” (tefillah, which is in lieu of the korbanos) won’t be eliminated.
The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc sk 73) explains: “Since there is a minyan in the town the mitzvah of tefillah b’tzibbur is incumbent upon them.” He writes that in small communities, the people may force students and others engaged in studying Torah to stop and come to shul. Only in larger communities, he writes, is it proper for students to pray in yeshiva.
So great is tefillah b’tzibbur that the Talmud (Berachot 47b) relates the following: R. Eliezer once arrived at shul and saw that there were only nine people present. So he emancipated his Canaanite slave, making him the tenth man. The Gemara immediately wonders how he could have acted in this manner considering that the Torah states “l’olam ba’hem ta’avodu – you shall work with them in perpetuity” (Leviticus 25:46). Isn’t violating a prohibition to fulfill a positive commandment a mitzvah habah ba’aveirah? The Gemara answers that freeing a slave is permitted for the sake of a mitzvah. We thus see that tefillah is so great that it even overrides a biblical prohibition.
Rabbi Weiss notes that this story illustrates how important gathering a minyan for tefillah is. Indeed, the Gemara (Berachot op. cit.) states that the first 10 people in shul receive a reward equal to that of all those who come after them. If so, we can only imagine the reward of one who labors to assemble a minyan. Our sages (Avot 5:18) have actually already told us: “Sin will never befall one who benefits the masses.”
(To be continued)