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Question: Rabbi, thank you for answering my recent question regarding an open window in the winter. It was interesting that you sent it to me before publication. Seeing the final changes for publication are quite interesting. Now my current question in our small town – it is somewhat of a task just to get a quorum of ten for the weekday morning services. On occasion we have missed the Torah reading and Ashrei U’va Letziyyon, Aleinu, the Yom and the Kaddeshim, even though we started out with a quorum, as some members leave for work. What are we to do in such an instance? Are there any options?

Name Withheld on Request


Synopsis: We last noted the rather unusual view of the Noda B’Yehuda regarding a synagogue that has two (or more) minyan services, one following the other; in the event that those from the later service were all present at the earlier Torah reading, he nevertheless had them read again. And we are not to fear that one arriving in the midst of the later service might assume that the earlier reading (or Sefer Torah) was defective. Chaye Adam deliberates whether there is need for a majority or even a single person who requires a Torah reading, and remains without resolution. Eshel Avraham does indeed require a majority for such reading; he also discussed the possibility of beracha l’vatalah. Rabbi Yaakov Emden notes that where there were 10 at the start of the reading and some left, they finish.


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Answer: We now refer to Yalkut Yosef (Siman 135:7-80), by Rishon L’Zion, chief rabbi of Israel, Rav Yitzhak Yosef, who states: “If an individual through circumstances beyond his control prayed alone [without a quorum], according to the strict letter of the law he is not required to go [to the synagogue] to hear the Torah reading publicly. [This is so] especially in the instance of a scholar who is diligently involved in his Talmud study, as he is not required to postpone his Torah study because he had to attend another minyan to hear the Torah reading.”

Yalkut Yosef continues: “One who has missed the Torah reading on Monday or Thursday or on Shabbat is not required to read that portion from a chumash.

“Similarly, if one was forced to leave [the synagogue] in the midst of the Torah reading, causing him to miss a portion of that reading, he is not required to read that missed part from a chumash.”

The above is in contrast to the solution of Likutei Maharich we cited previously – that such would be the proper means of compensating for the missed Torah reading.

In his accompanying commentary, Rav Yosef explains his view that the Torah reading is chovat hatzibbur – a congregational requirement and not chovat yachid – an individual requirement, and thus there is no need for any reading to compensate.

He cites the Mishna (Megillah 23b), which requires a quorum of ten to be present for the following: “Perisat Shema, the introduction to the Shema; when the ba’al tefillah goes before the amud to pray publicly; Nesiat Kappayim, the Priestly raising of the hands; the Torah reading; the reading of the Haftara [portions of the Prophets that are read] at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the Sabbath, on festivals and on certain other occasions; Ma’amad U’Moshav, the halts made at the funeral to lament and eulogize the departed; Birkat Aveilim, the blessing for mourners; Nichum Aveilim, the comforting of the mourners via the shura – the row [the comforters stand in a row at either side as the mourners pass by to receive their comforting words] after the burial; Birkat Chatanim – the blessing of the bridegrooms; the zimmun for Birkat Hamazon – the invitation with G-d’s name for the Grace After Meals. Finally, a quorum is required if someone comes to redeem karka’ot [real estate] or human beings [the Gemara states that this refers to one who vowed his value to the hekdesh – the sanctified domain] from the Kohen.

He now refers us to Ba’al HaMa’ors question in this regard: If “the above is stated in a Mishna in Tractate Megillah, why is the reading of the megillah not included there?”

Ba’al HaMa’or answers: “All those enumerated in the Mishna are cases of chovat tzibbur – congregational requirements, but the reading of the megillah [Esther] is a chovat yachid, an individual requirement, and just as the congregation is required [to hear it], so is the individual [required to do so].”

Rav Yosef also cites the Ran and Ramban in Milchamot Hashem (siman 5), who rule similarly that the Torah reading is incumbent on the congregation, but not on each individual.

While he cites many who agree, and such, indeed, is the halacha, he nonetheless cites the Gaon Rav Chayyim b. Yaakov Palaggi (Responsa Semicha Lechayyim, Orach Chayyim, siman 2) who states that there is a hidden requirement “al pi sod” even for an individual to hear the Torah reading as noted in Tikkunim. Therefore, it is not proper for individuals to pray at home, even with a minyan, without the benefit of a Sefer Torah.

However, he then goes on to cite his father, the Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, who says that it is known that the Ari HaKadosh did pray [at times?] with a minyan at home without a Sefer Torah.

We thus see that the proper manner is for all to attend the synagogue, but where this is not possible, the general rule seems to be that there is no individual requirement for the Torah reading, and where an individual is subject to matters beyond his control – an oness, there is no transgression.

However, the loss of a day, and possibly three days, of [contact with the] Torah, the water that sustains us, is considerable, as the verse (Isaiah 55:1) states: “Hoy kol tzamei le’chu lemayim… – Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the water…” Thus, your synagogue should explore the possibility of starting the minyan a little earlier [and as mentioned at the outset, the possibility of a shul breakfast] so that no one will have to leave early and miss the Torah reading, or worse, any single individual being the cause of the cancellation of that day’s Torah reading. But, remember it is also the possible loss of Ashrei U’va Letzion, Aleinu [as a tzibbur] and the accompanying Kaddeshim that are also to be considered.

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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.