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Davening Late with a Minyan

I went for Shabbat for a family simcha to a community with one shul, which started tefilla at 10:00 AM, after sof z’man tefilla. Was it better to daven with a minyan or by myself at the right time?
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Question: I went for Shabbat for a family simcha to a community with one shul, which started tefilla at 10:00 AM, after sof z’man tefilla. Was it better to daven with a minyan or by myself at the right time?


Answer: There is a machloket Tannaim (Berachot 26a) whether the last time to daven Shacharit is chatzot (astronomical midday) or the end of four "proportional hours," some two hours before. The earlier opinion is accepted (ibid. 27a). Only if one failed to daven by that time may he b’di’eved daven until chatzot (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 89:1). Thus the tefilla was not bizmana (at its time).

Tefilla bizmana is important enough to trump several tefilla preferences. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 90:10) discusses the prohibition to recite Shemoneh Esrei in shul before the tzibbur does. However, if the tzibbur will not be getting up to Shemoneh Esrei bizmana, one should go ahead of them. (If he can, he should do so outside shul– Mishna Berura ad loc. 36.) This ruling assumes not only that davening bizmana overcomes the problem of davening before the tzibbur, but that davening without a minyan at the right time is preferable to davening with a minyan not bizmana. There is an opinion (Leket Hakemach (Katz) 89:11) that the Shulchan Aruch refers to a case where they are before chatzot, after which one cannot daven at all, but that it is better to daven with a minyan after the fourth hour than alone bizmana. However, that is a difficult reading, and the accepted ruling is that tefilla before the end of the fourth hour is preferable to a minyan (see Mishna Berura 46:32; Ishei Yisrael 13:10; Tefilla K’hilchata 3:(80)).

How important is it to follow this preference? Does waiting cause special problems? If one did not recite Kri’at Shema bizmana (by the end of the third hour), he recites it with its berachot during the next hour (Shulchan Aruch, OC 58:6). There is a machloket whether this applies after the fourth hour. The Rambam (Kri’at Shema 1:13) says that the berachot can be recited with Kri’at Shema all day; the Rosh (Berachot 1:10) allows the berachot only during the fourth hour, when the full effect of tefilla is present. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules like the Rosh. On the other hand, the Biur Halacha cites some Acharonim who accept the Rambam’s opinion, particularly if the delay was due to extenuating circumstances (see Living the Halachic Process, I:A-9).

One might argue that on Shabbat the matter is much more problematic. The gemara’s (Berachot 26a) discussion of davening after zmana and davening tashlumin (a make-up for a missed tefilla during the next tefilla period) can be read to equate the two. Tashlumin is not done if one purposely, without an excuse, missed the tefilla (Shulchan Aruch, OC 108:7), and if one wants to make it up, the make-up Shemoneh Esrei must be done as a nedava (voluntary tefilla). Combining the two, some say that one who purposely waited to do Shacharit until after the fourth hour should intend that if a later Shacharit it is not called for, it should be a nedava (Mishna Berura 89:6). Since tefillot nedava cannot be done on Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, OC 107:1), one could argue that it is forbidden to purposely daven Shacharit on Shabbat after the fourth hour. However, this is apparently not true. The main opinion allows davening until chatzot even when the conditions for tashlumin are missing – the idea of intending for a nedava if necessary was just a stringency when possible (Ishei Yisrael 13:(15)). Secondly, in this case, you and others davening at that time believed it was okay, and one who misses a tefilla by mistake can do tashlumin (Shulchan Aruch, OC 108:1).

All things being equal, it would have been better for you to daven on time without a minyan. However, if one lives in a place where the best thing for the community is believed to be to have a late Shacharit, one should respect that decision and take part. Likewise, a guest who has a reasonable chance of insulting the host if he does not daven with the shul also has grounds to follow the tzibbur.
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