Question: I have noticed in a few shuls that a minority of the tzibbur starts Shemoneh Esrei (=SE) together and many people who come in a few minutes late do not try to catch up. Isn’t it correct to skip parts of P’sukei D’zimra (=PDZ) in such a case?
Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 52:1), based on Geonim and Rishonim, rules that one should shorten PDZ in order to catch up to the tzibbur and details the order of precedence. The Shulchan Aruch allows skipping all of PDZ if needed for that purpose (Yalkut Yosef (PDZ 24) concurs), while most Ashkenazi poskim require a minimal PDZ (Mishna Berura 52:6). (Some say it is important to finish Yishtabach with the tzibbur (see Avnei Yashfeh, OC I:10), but starting SE together is the main issue (Mishna Berura ibid.).)
Discussion was awoken by a passage in the Maggid Meisharim (quoted in Ba’er Heitev 52:1) in which Rav Yosef Karo’s angel warned him to come to shul early because skipping parts of PDZ is like "fiddling with the pipes." The Ba’er Heitiv continues that many pious people thus do not shorten PDZ even if they come late.
There are few reasons to stick by the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling despite the story involving its author. First, the maggid’s instruction was to come early to shul, which actually implies that if he did not come early, he should skip parts of PDZ (Eliya Rabba 52:4). Furthermore, we do not follow kabbalistic sources against a halachic consensus (Chacham Tzvi 36). It may be different for people who follow all kabbalistic practices (see Ma’amar Mordechai 52:1), [few of whom read our column]. While significant halachic authorities follow the Ba’er Heitev’s understanding of Maggid Meisharim, the pillars of contemporary halacha do not (see Mishna Berura ibid.; Igrot Moshe OC, IV:91; Yechaveh Da’at V:5; Halichot Shlomo 8:41).
Cases that the classical sources did not discuss explicitly are riper for machloket. The Sha’arei Teshuva (52:1) says that if one davens too slowly to keep up with the tzibbur, he is allowed (apparently not required – see Ishei Yisrael 12:22) to say everything at his own pace and miss SE with the tzibbur. The implication is that he is not required to start davening early to "build up a lead" (ibid.). (He should, though, have his tallit and tefillin on and have recited Birkot Hashachar by the time the tzibbur starts PDZ.)
The Eshel Avraham (Butchatch- 52) says that it suffices to join the tzibbur at chazarat hashatz, and one should not skip PDZ to start the silent SE together. This depends on a broad question of if or to what extent chazarat hashatz counts as tefilla b’tzibbur (see Yabia Omer II, OC 7; our column, Tazria 5766); the Pri Megadim (EA 52:1) says it does not. This question has an opposite ramification in a different case in our issue – does one shorten PDZ to make it on time to chazarat hashatz when he anyway will miss silent SE? Each fundamental approach has a strong basis, but we prefer the approach that davening along with the chazarat hashatz fulfills a lower level element of tefilla b’tzibbur, but that regarding our context the crucial point is only the beginning of silent SE (Mishna Berura 52:6; Halichot Shlomo 8:41 (citing Rav S.Z. Auerbach)). (It is very difficult to read the classical sources any other way.) Starting SE significantly late but while the tzibbur is still davening is probably a similar level as that of joining chazarat shatz, and it is also permitted only if one will finish his SE by Kedusha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 109:1; Pri Megadim 109, EA 2; see B’tzel Hachochma IV:3).
In summary, we recommend to skip as much of PDZ as needed to give one a good chance to start silent SE (and, in most cases, Barchu) together. We respect other legitimate opinions, especially under certain consequences (see above). Having a shul start SE without a large percentage of the tzibbur joining together is regrettable. While it is proper to slow down to the average participant’s davening speed, "holding back" those who come on time to accommodate latecomers is also problematic.
143 - Restrictions of Motzaei Tisha B’Av
144 - Shortening Psukei D’zimra to Catch Up
145 - Kohen Seeking a Minyan With an Additional Kohen