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Question: If the tefillah begins with an exact minyan – a quorum of ten – and some individuals insist they have to leave, what is to be done, may the tefillah continue as though there was still a minyan? Is there any solution?

Zelig Aronson
Via email



Synopsis: Last week we discussed the source of the requirement of a minimal quorum of ten adult males to constitute a minyan for the purposes of communal prayer. This requirement extends to all such congregational quorum requirements. Our sages were very displeased with anyone who by their taking leave disrupt the minimum quorum. Rambam also notes the advantages of communal versus private prayer, the former always being accepted by G-d.

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Answer: Based on this Gemara, the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 55:23) rules that in regard to tefillah where there is a requirement of the minimal ten participants, if they began to say Kaddish or Kedusha with the participation of ten adult males, and a few left, they can finish the prayer, provided a majority has remained.

Rema adds, based on the Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud, that it is sinful to leave, citing the above referenced verse in Isaiah. However, it is permitted to leave as long as ten men will remain, in which case the verse in Isaiah does not apply to such individuals.

The Mechaber clarifies (55:3) that “if they began Avot [the sheliach tzibbur began to recite the Amida] and a few left, they may finish, and even recite the Kedusha [subsequent to their leaving].”

Rema adds, “If a few left after they started to pray `Yotzer or’ [the beginning of Birkat Keriat Shema], the sheliach tzibbur shall not start to say the Amida [Chazarat HaShatz] in a loud voice since Birkat Keriat Shema was already concluded.” Thus the Amida is treated as a separate tefillah.

It is obvious that Rema indicates that there was no quorum at that point, and they might want the sheliach tzibbur to recite a “hoiche (loud) Kedusha” (infra 124:2, Rema). Rema continues: “If they left after he began to recite Chazarat HaShatz and Kedusha [the Mishna Berura ad loc. notes that this applies even if Kedusha had not been recited yet], they may complete the entire Kedusha [and the rest of the Amida] and recite the whole Kaddish afterwards, as that [Kaddish] is connected to the Amida, since he recites “Titkabbel Tzelot’hon — May the prayers … be accepted.” However, continues Rema, they may not read from the Torah [on Shabbat, Monday or Thursday], as that is considered a separate, unconnected matter.

As regards Ma’ariv, Rema rules that the subsequent Kaddish is not connected to Birkat Keriat Shema. Therefore, if they started Birkat Keriat Shema with ten men and some left, the Taz – cited by the Mishna Berura – rules that he may only recite the Kaddish at the conclusion of Birkat Keriat Shema, but not the Kaddish after the Amida, as that Amida is not considered tefillah betzibbur (a congregational prayer).

When we say that a “few” left, it means that a majority of the ten remain. As to what constitutes a majority, both the Aruch HaShulchan and the Mishna Berurah cite the Pri Megadim, who rules that if six of the original ten remain, that is considered sufficient for completing the prayer.

In our case, where the individuals left during Chazarat HaShatz of Shacharit, the sheliach tzibbur can say the half Kaddish after the Shemoneh Esreh, followed by Ashrei, U’va LeTziyyon, and Kaddish Titkabbel. However, Aleinu and Shir shel Yom and their Kaddish recitals will not be said by the sheliach tzibbur. Likewise, at Mincha and Ma’ariv he would not say Aleinu and its concluding Kaddish.

We see that each segment of the prayer service is treated as a separate unit and the mere fact that there were ten men at the beginning does not allow us to continue the tefillah betzibbur beyond that particular segment.

The Mechaber (ad loc.) cites the views of those who allow, in an extreme situation, to include, with nine adults, a minor above age six who understands to whom he is praying.

Rema disagrees, and says that even when the child has a Chumash in his hand, he should not be included to complete a quorum. However, there are those who are lenient in an extreme case (Rosh, Mordecai, Hagahot Maimoniyot).

Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc.) likewise notes that we do not protest if some people do so, as they have upon whom to rely (the above mentioned authorities), whether the minor child is holding a Chumash in his hand or not.

Yet where do we find a solid basis for such a leniency?

I remember my uncle Horav Sholom Klass citing the Gemara (Berachot 47b) as leading to a possible solution – B’sha’at had’chak – in an extreme situation.

The Gemara states as follows:

“Rav Huna said, ‘Nine people and the Ark join together to be counted as ten.’

“Said Rav Nachman to him, ‘Is the Ark a man?’

“I mean,” said Rav Huna, “that when nine appear like ten, they may be joined together.”

“Some say this applies when they are all close together, while others say it means when they are scattered (ibid.).

“Rashi explains both views. If they are together, it appears as if there is a crowd and the missing one is not noticeable. On the other hand, if they are scattered, they might appear as more numerous. My uncle notes that the Ark is mentioned only as a focal point that enables us to determine whether the congregants are close together or scattered.

The Vilna Gaon (Sarei Hame’ah vol. 1, p. 104) explains this in the following manner:

Nine and the Aron (the Ark) are counted as ten. The letters of ve’aron (vav, aleph, resh, vav, nun) are an acronym of the words Echad ro’eh ve’eino nir’eh, One who can see but cannot be seen. This phrase refers to Hashem. However, it is taken here to indicate a different interpretation, the case where nine congregants are permitted to include in a minyan a tenth person who is outside [the room]. That person is aware that a group of nine people is inside, but the people inside do not see him.

The Vilna Gaon explains that Rav Huna followed the edict of Rabbi Ishmael, who states that we are not permitted to put any halachot in writing. As the Gemara (Gittin 60b) states: Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish said, “It is written, ‘Write these words’ (Exodus 34:27), and it continues, ‘For according to the tenor of these words [I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel].’ What are we to make of this? It means: The words which are written you are not at liberty to say by heart, and the words transmitted orally you are not at liberty to recite from writing.

A tanna from the school of Rabbi Ishmael taught: “It states: These – these you may write, but you may not write halachot.”

The Vilna Gaon concludes, therefore, that “‘we cannot take R. Huna’s edict literally. He disguises his halacha by using a euphemism, the Ark.

The halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 55) specifically states that we need 10 adult males to form a minyan. Even though some rabbis in the past have tried to include a young boy (under 13 years of age) as part of the minyan in case of emergency, the greatest majority of our poskim prohibited it (Mishna Berurah, ibid. 55:4:24; Aruch HaShulchan, ibid.).

Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafot, Berachot 48a s.v. veleit hilchata) ridicules the custom of some people who include a child holding a Chumash in his hand as the tenth person to a minyan. He considered it “foolishness” to classify the Chumash as a person.

Rema, however, states that in case of an emergency (where no tenth man is available) some say that we may be lenient and include a young boy to make up a minyan (Orach Chayyim 55:4). The Magen Avraham concurs and states that the custom is to include a boy holding a Chumash, but only for saying Barechu and Kedusha, not the Kaddish which follows Aleinu (ibid.) and only when there is one missing but not two. The Machatzit HaShekel (O.Ch. 55), seems to agree in an instance of great need only.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe, Orach Chayyim vol. IV, Responsum 18) offers this advice: If you are going to include a boy in case of an emergency, try and include a boy who is at least 12 years old. It is preferable that a Sefer Torah (even if it be pasul, unfit to read from) lie on the table and the child grasp the handles. He also suggests that in such a case the cantor should not say the Shemoneh Esreh for himself quietly, but should wait until the congregation finishes its prayers and should then say the Shemoneh Esreh aloud. This way he will only be saying the Shemoneh Esreh once, but aloud.”

He concludes: “Rather than discontinue a minyan because of the lack of people [such as in far off places], the above methods would be preferable.”

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.