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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


Answer: What I gather from your question is that it seems you need to start the services a bit earlier and maybe find sponsors for a breakfast every day. That extra bit of gashmiyut will save people the need to go home for breakfast – or perhaps do so only on Monday and Thursday if cost is a problem. But it seems to me that even on other days, the concluding parts of the Shacharit tefillah might also be missed. Thus, starting a bit earlier and possibly having a breakfast every day might be in order. Also, do you mean that they leave before “Chazarat HaShatz – the reader’s repetition, thus missing out on Kedusha and Modim and that if not enough people remain, those remaining will miss the Chazarat HaShatz completely?

Now, as to the need to have 10 adult males (the quorum you refer to) present in order to publicly read from the Torah, Rabbi Yisrael Chaim Friedman, in his work Likutei Maharich, cites Rabbi Yechezkel Landau’s Noda B’Yehuda (Mahadura Tanina, responsum 15), stating that such a reading would be in order even in the event that all 10 have heard the reading previously (such as when all 10 had heard the Torah reading at an earlier service in the synagogue, where they all arrived early for the later service and as such came at the tail end of the earlier service, thus hearing the Keri’at Ha’Torah. The obvious problem with not repeating the Torah reading at that later minyan might come about when one came later, at the beginning of the second minyan, and sees that they do not read, he will assume that the reason they are not reading is that the Sefer Torah was found to be defective. This is very similar to why, when there is no Levi present, we don’t call up a second Kohen for the second aliyah – because some seeing this will assume that the first Kohen was found to be defective. However, he also cites Chayyei Adam (31:11), who deliberated whether there might be a need for the presence of a majority of congregants who have not heard the Torah reading. He required further contemplation and offered no resolution.

Likutei Maharich cites other views that seem to support the approach of Noda B’Yehuda. Eshel Avraham (Responsum 69) who, at the outset, was of the opinion that the Torah reading can take place even if only one person had not previously heard the reading – as is the case for Kedusha and Barechu. He later recanted and stated that it applies where there is at least a majority of the quorum who have not heard it.

He also does not resolve the question of whether in a situation where most of the congregants had previously heard that day’s Torah reading, reading the Torah at the later service would have engendered a beracha l’vatalah – a blessing said in vain – for those who were called up to the Torah for an aliyah at that service.

Finally, Likutei Maharich refers us to the siddur of Rabbi Yaakov Emden – Siddur Beit Yaakov – a siddur with accompanying halachic indices where the author requires a quorum of men who have not previously heard the Torah reading (see Laws of the Sabbath Torah Reading, ibid.). But he remains undecided as to whether a Torah reading is allowed in the event some of that minyan had already heard the Torah reading, maybe at an earlier service, while some have not.

Rabbi Emden also explains (Laws of the Weekday Reading) that the Mechaber’s statement (Orach Chayyim 143:1), “If they started with a quorum of 10 and some left, they finish,” refers only to a situation where there were 10 present at the beginning of the Torah reading. The Mechaber had stated earlier (Orach Chayyim 55:3) that we do not include the Torah reading with the Shema blessings and the Amida in the same unit, where we rule that if we started with 10, we may finish; each stage, in this case, is an individual unit, and the only inclusion is the Kaddish Titkabel after U’va Letziyyon, for its very message is “Titkabel tzelotehon – May [all] our prayers be accepted,” which refers back to and applies to the just completed Amida.

The Torah reading has its own half-Kaddish, which denotes its separate status. Obviously, central to our discussion is whether the Torah reading is chovat gavra, an individual’s requirement, or chovat tzibbur, a congregational requirement.

(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.