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Q & A: Selichot Restrictions (Part I)


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Question: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch states that an individual praying selichot without a minyan is not allowed to recite the Thirteen Midot or the Aramaic prayers. What is the rationale behind this halacha?

Moshe Jakobowitz
Brooklyn, NY

Answer: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128:9 – Hilchot Chodesh Elul) is your source. He notes that an individual praying selichot without a minyan may not recite the Shelosh Esreh Midot – the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy – as found in Parshat Ki Tissa (Exodus 34:6-7) as a prayer or supplication. He may, however, recite them as if reading from the Torah with the proper melody (indicated by the cantillation). The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch also states that he should not say any of the references to the Thirteen Attributes in selichot, i.e., “z’chor lanu hayom brit shlosh esreh – remember for us today the covenant of the Thirteen [attributes].” Finally, he rules that he shouldn’t say the Aramaic entreaties – “Rachmana,” “Machei u’massei,” “De’ani le’aniyyei aninan,” and “Maran di’bi’shemaya.”

The Beit Yosef in his peirush to the Tur (Orach Chayim 565 sv “katav R. Nattan she’ein…”), citing Teshuvot HaRashba, refers to the Thirteen Attributes as a davar she’b’kedushah – a matter involving great holiness. They therefore need a minyan to recite. He cites Rosh Hashanah 17b, which states that G-d donned a tallit in the style of a chazzan to demonstrate to Moses how Israel should pray (the Thirteen Attributes) before Him to expiate their sins. The implication is that the Thirteen Attributes should be said in the presence of a congregation of Israel, and as such, are an aspect of tefillah b’tzibbur.

A mishnah in Tractate Megillah (23b) enumerates the situations that require the presence of at least 10 men because they incorporate a davar she’b’kedushah. Tefillah betzibbur is one of them. This halacha is based on several Biblical verses; see Leviticus 22:32 and Numbers 14:27 and 16:21. A discussion on this topic is found in Tractate Berachot (21b). (The parallel passage in Talmud Yerushalmi (Megillah 4:4) utilizes different verses to deduce the gezerah shavah on which these rules are based – namely, Leviticus 19:2 and Genesis 42:5.)

Other situations that require a minyan include prisat Shema. (Rashi explains that this situation concerns a group that enters a synagogue after the congregation has already recited Shema. This group may together recite Birkat Keriat Shema, including the preceding Kaddish and Barchu, if they constitute a minyan [although even then, they only recite the first berachah of yotzer ha’meorot].) Other situations include the repetition of Shemoneh Esreh by the chazzan, the Priestly Blessing, the public reading of the Torah and haftarah, certain practices at a funeral, the mourner’s consolation, public wedding blessings, the invitation to join in the Grace after Meals (which includes the name of G-d), and the appraisal of consecrated land.

While codifying this halacha based on the mishnah in Tractate Megillah (23b), the Rambam notes that congregational prayer is conducted in the presence of at least 10 adult men who are bnei chorin – i.e., not slaves (Hilchot Tefillah 8:4). The chazzan is included in the count. The Rambam adds that the recitation of Kedushah and the reading of the Torah and haftarah (with the appropriate blessings that precede and follow them) cannot take place unless 10 men are present. He also states (8:5) that we do not do Prisat Shema, recite Kaddish, or invoke the Priestly Blessings without a minyan.

Returning to the Beit Yosef, we see that he refers to the Thirteen Attributes as belonging in the category of davar she’b’kedushah. Hence, its recital is limited to occasions when a quorum of 10 adult males is present.

(To be continued)
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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