Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Praying with a Minyan

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

It is somewhat unclear whether or not praying with a minyan is truly an obligation or merely a recommended or meritorious practice. The confusion lies in the wording of the Shulchan Aruch in which Rabbi Yosef Karo writes that "one should make an effort to pray with a minyan".[1] Nevertheless, many contemporary halachic authorities insist that praying with a minyan is an outright obligation[2] and that the ambiguous wording of the Shulchan Aruch should simply be dismissed.[3] Indeed, some sources depict praying with a minyan greater than any mitzva of the Torah![4] Even one who feels that he would have greater concentration and focus by praying alone should still pray with a minyan,[5] though there are authorities who permit one to pray alone for these and other such considerations.[6]

Click here for moreOther authorities explain that while prayer with a minyan is certainly to be preferred, it cannot be declared an outright obligation.[7] Similarly, it is preferable for one to pray alone at a preferred time, rather than to pray with a minyan that is not careful to observe the proper zemanim, prayer times. For example, according to most authorities it is preferable to daven mincha alone before sunset rather than with a minyan which does so after sunset.[8]

One of the sources for the importance of ten people joining together in the service of God is derived from the episode of Avraham and the city Sodom.[9] We find that when Avraham realized that there weren't even ten righteous people in all of Sodom in whose merit the city could be spared from destruction he ceased pleading with God not to destroy it. He figured that if Sodom was a place where even a minyan couldn’t be gathered together for productive purposes then the city was not worth saving.[10]

We are taught that the prayers of a congregation are always heard even if the congregation is comprised of sinners.[20] Even the prayers of otherwise unworthy people are accepted when recited as part of a minyan. In fact, even one who does not have proper concentration during his prayers is nevertheless assured that his prayers will be heard. The prayers of a minyan are said to save the Jewish people from all forms of persecution.

One who is careful to pray with a minyan is considered to be an "adam kasher", a "kosher" person. We are told that those who daven in a minyan will never need to worry where their sustenance will come from.[21] It is permitted to wake up another person if it is in order that they not miss praying with a minyan.[22] Although women are exempt from praying with a minyan, they are rewarded for doing so.[23]


[1] O.C. 90:9
[2] Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 90:20-21, Igrot Moshe O.C. 2:27
[3] Piskei Teshuvot 90:9:8. See there for a number of interpretations of the Shulchan Aruch's ambiguous wording. Cf. Minchat Yitzchak 7:6
[4] Shulchan Aruch Harav 90:17
[5] Igrot Moshe O.C. 3:7
[6] Perisha O.C. 101:7, cf. Biur Halacha 101 s.v. "D'ati", Shulchan Aruch Harav 101:3, Teshuvot V'hanhagot 2:62
[7] Az Nidberu 14:37
[8] Mishna Berura 236:14
[9] Bereishit 18
[10] Ibn Ezra to Bereishit 18:28
[20] Rambam Tefilla 8:1
[21] Piskei Teshuvot 90:8
[22] Chayei Adam 67:11
[23] Sota 22a

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