Congregation Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Kesser Maariv Anshe Luknik - Newsletter
I hope you all stay well.
Some Shul-related issues during Covid-19
March 23, 2020
Rabbi Ben Zion Lazovsky
Davening not with a minyan
Our three prayers, Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv, were instituted to represent two separate things: 1) That our forefathers prayed: Avraham instituted Shacharis, Yitzchak instituted Mincha and Yaakov instituted Maariv. 2) In place of sacrifices offered in the Beis Hamikdash: Shacharis and Mincha in place of the morning and afternoon Tamid offerings, and Maariv in place of burning various sacrificial parts which was done at night (Brachos 26b).
From the perspective of “Prayer in place of the Forefathers,” every Jew may pray individually. However, from the perspective of “Prayer in place of sacrifices,” there obviously is an important obligation to daven with a minyan. A minyan of ten represents a gathering in place of all of Klal Yisrael. See also Rambam, Klei Hamidash Chapter 6, that a minyan of righteous people would always pray in the Beis Hamikdash that the sacrifices should be accepted on behalf of all Klal Yisrael.
Because of that, The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 90) paskens to daven with a minyan. However, if one is unable to (especially in our current situation – my emphasis) one should daven at the time that the community davens – i.e, at the regularly scheduled minyan time of the shul.
Musaf (Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh)
The Musaf was an additional sacrifice offered on Shabbos and Holidays. Musaf is only “in place of sacrifices” and not “in the place of our Forefathers,” since none of our forefathers davened Musaf. Therefore, there is a reasonable expectation that one would only daven Musaf with a minyan. This, however, is not true. Shulchan Aruch paskens (Siman 286) that an individual davens Musaf, but it is best to do so at the time the Shul davens. (Thursday March 26 is Rosh Chodesh Nissan).
Torah Reading of Shabbos
We only read Torah with a minyan. However, the community completes the Torah every year (Rambam Tefila 13:1) - on Simchas Torah. What should we do when we cannot read the Parsha with a minyan?
There is a halacha (Shulchan Aruch 285) to read the Parsha twice every week including the Targum Onkelos. The poskim discuss if one should read it in a translation one understands. While not everyone agrees that the obligation is fulfilled reading a non-Onkelos translation, it is certainly a very good practice to read the Parsha with a translation one understands. Most opinions hold this halacha to read the parsha applies to everyone, every week. However, a lone opinion of the Raavan, cited in the Haghos Maimonides to the Rambam (Tefilla 13:25) states that this halacha applies to someone who is not in Shul - such a person reads the Parsha twice and once in translation at the time the Shul would be reading the Torah. In our current situation we should follow this opinion. Additionally, if possible, the Parsha should be read from a full Tanach (heard from my father).
Rosh Chodesh when we did not bless Rosh Chodesh in Shul on Shabbos
The Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh we “bless” the new upcoming month and announce the Molad - first possible time to see the new moon in Yerushalayim. When we don’t do this - and if perhaps no minyan took place anywhere, would Rosh Chodesh still take place?
(The following is my adaptation of an article by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik)
When there was a Sanhedrin - and even for a time after the Sanhedrin - those Sages had the only authority to declare Rosh Chodesh and leap years. When that stopped, the new months and years are calculated by a calculation which is an Oral tradition received by Moshe at Sinai. “That which we announce in all cities ‘Day X will be Rosh Chodesh’ - that does not establish Rosh Chodesh… it depends on the calculation and establishment of those living in Israel; we announce it for informational purposes only... (Rambam, Kiddush Hachodesh 5:13). This is Rambam’s opinion; the Ramban holds the Sages in the time of Hillel the Second established the calendar until Moshiach will come. Rabbi Soloveitchik further explains that Rambam’s opinion that Sanhedrin has the authority to declare Rosh Chodesh does not stem from their power as a judicial authority, rather the authority to declare Rosh Chodesh lies with the Jewish people themselves, but Sanhedrin acts as their representatives.
When the Sages no longer declare Rosh Chodesh, according to the Rambam, the calendar is established by the actions of the Jews of Israel keeping the calendar - celebrating certain days as Rosh Chodesh and holidays.
Thus we see that even if Rosh Chodesh was not blessed [in advance] last Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh will still take place in its expected time, because the calendar does not depend on our blessing the month, rather by the Jews of Israel keeping certain days as Rosh Chodesh and holidays, which they will.
Rabbi Benzie Shiur on Minyan for Davening - starts at 27:18