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"breaking" a minyan


Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 22, 5774
On one of fast days our shul had a minyan with only 10 men and it started late. I had to go to work and I waited for a completion of Shmone Esre and left. Rest of people could not read Torah and so on. Rabbi send me a message that I was the 10th men and that I break the minyan. As I was told by another rav in a similar situation (except it was not a fast day and I had to say Kaddish and I could not) someone is obligated to stay with a minyan only for Amida if he has to leave premature. Is it true and where can I found the source of halacha for that situation. Thanks
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are certainly correct that there is a problem to leave a minyan early, especially if you are the tenth man. The Shulchan Aruch refers to this in Orach Haim, chapter 55, laws 2 and 3. The Rema there writes "that it is a sin to leave [the minyan], and those who leave are referred to as "those who leave Hashem went away"" – quite strong language! None the less, when someone absolutely must leave early, one must wait until the end of the section of prayers he is up to, as the Rabbi told you, for example, to wait until the end of the repetition of the amidah – but one does not have to stay until the end of the complete service (see the Mishna Brurah ibid 12). What exactly constitutes a good and valid reason for leaving early (at the end of the section of prayers)? I have been unable to find a clear definition, but it would seem that loosing wages, business, or all the more so the possibility of being fired, are valid reasons. See the responsa of Rav Y.H. Henkin shlitah, (B'nie Banim, volume 2, 4) where he addresses the question of when one may leave a minyan early. He writes that he himself left a minyan early in order to get his children to the school bus, so they would not miss a days learning. He implies that this is certainly a valid reason. He adds there that the minyan also started half an hour late, which he adds as another validating factor. In your case, I understand the frustration of the rabbi – he certainly has to be concerned with making certain that there is a daily minyan. On the other hand, if you made the effort to come to minyan on time, and had to leave to get to work on time, I am not so certain that you are the person who needs to be made to feel guilty. Perhaps the rabbi was unaware of your work obligations. It might be useful for you to discuss the matter with the rabbi, and tell him in advance that you can only stay until a certain time. You might also want to offer to help find a plan to strengthen the minyan, such as offer to make some calls the night before, or help create a roster list. I am sure that when the rabbi sees that you are truly concerned with getting a minyan he will be more accepting of your need to get to work on time. May you merit to help establish the prayers of Israel from amongst the congregation of the Devine Presence.
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