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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?

Isaac Greenberg



Last week we discussed what an ill person should do if he can only go to shul for a limited period of time. Should he go for davening or Keri’at haTorah? We noted that tefillah is a rabbinic obligation and that the Mechaber allows one in extenuating circumstances to stay at home and daven alone at the same time that the congregation is davening in shul.

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Rav Weiss (in his Minchas Yitzchok) points out the importance of expressing one’s gratitude to Hashem – an essential component of davening – in the setting of a congregation. (The Gemara, Berachot 5a, states that “tefillat ha’rabim einnena chozeret reikam – congregational prayer does not go unanswered.”) He also notes that Keri’at haTorah is a rabbinical enactment of Moshe and Ezra that falls on the congregation; it is not an individual obligation. Tefillah, however, is.

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 135:14, Biur Halacha, sv “ein me’vi’in”) states that we don’t bring a Sefer Torah to prisoners since individuals are not duty bound to hear Keri’at haTorah when matters beyond their control prevent them from joining a congregation. It is not even necessary to make a minimal effort to bring people to prison so as to have a minyan.

We do make an effort regarding tefillah b’tzibbur, though. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 90:9) states that a person can pray at home at the same time as the congregation if circumstances prevent him from going to shul. The Magen Avraham adds, however, that a person may only do so if gathering a minyan is very difficult.

Rav Weiss presents several other factors to consider. First, tefillah comes before Keri’at haTorah in shul. Also, when it comes to an ill person, we are not really sure when he’ll feel best (and he should feel as well as possible during tefillah so as to have proper concentration). Even a well person should pray alone if he concentrates better alone than in shul. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe, vol. 5, Orach Chayim 3:7), however, states that a person should still daven in shul if he is able to muster the minimum concentration necessary. He writes that the merits of joining the tzibbur compensate for the lack of concentration. (See also Sefer HaKuzari, Ma’amar 3:18, 19.)

Rav Weiss concludes that an ill person who can only be at shul for a short while should first he pray at home with optimal concentration and then go to shul for Keri’at haTorah.

(To be continued)

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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.