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Kri’at HaTorah at Mincha

When it is not possible to get a minyan together for a weekday Shacharit, may we lain at Mincha?
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Question: When it is not possible to get a minyan together for a weekday Shacharit, may we lain at Mincha?



Answer: The matter hinges on whether the Rabbinic enactment of weekday kri’at haTorah was made specifically for Shacharit or that it is just the preferred time. The mishna (Megilla 21a) lists times for kri’at haTorah, starting with: "Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat Mincha." While some believe the order hints whether Mincha is or is not a possibility for weekdays (see Yehuda Ya’aleh, Orach Chayim 5; Beit She’arim, OC 50), it is more likely that we cannot make a reliable inference (Shut Maharshag II,92). In the Rambam (Tefilla 12:1), we find weekday kri’at haTorah attached to Shacharit. However, there are variant texts (Kesef Mishneh ad loc.), and perhaps he only means that Shacharit is the time l’chatchila (Shevet Halevi IV,15).

The rule (see Megilla 20b) is that mitzvot for a certain day can be done (at least b’di’eved) all day, unless there is a reason/source to limit them (e.g., Kri’at Shema; each of the daily tefillot). Regarding weekday laining, the Maharshag (ibid.) finds no reason to limit it. Some Acharonim, though, provide spiritual reasons. Yabia Omer (IV, OC 17) cites those who connect weekday kri’at haTorah to the idea that Monday and Thursday mornings are effective times for supplications (i.e., long Tachanun). In contrast, afternoons (except on Shabbat) are times of strict judgment. Goren David (OC 5) posits that public kri’at haTorah must resemble how Moshe instituted it – when all Jews were together. Nowadays, that is lacking, but it is important that all Jews do it at one time period. He leaves it up in the air as to whether different time periods on the correct day are considered a unified time.

There are 250 year-old sources on a similar case. The Dagul Mei’revava (to OC 135:2) rules that if a shul was unable to lain the parasha on Shabbat morning, they should do so that Shabbat afternoon. The Chida (Chaim Sha’al I, 71) disagrees, saying that one can read a whole parasha only on Shabbat morning; rather, one should read two parshiyot the next Shabbat. There are different indications as to whether the Zohar is in line with the Chida or it is not conclusive (see Yabia Omer ibid.). The Mishna Berura (135:5) and most Ashkenazi poskim accept the Noda B’Yehuda, whereas the Kaf Hachayim (OC 135:9) is among Sephardi poskim who rule like the Chida.

At first glance, regarding our case, the Dagul Mei’revava should say to lain at Mincha, and the Chida should say not to. However, there are distinctions in either direction (see Yabia Omer ibid.). On the one hand, Shabbat Mincha is a time for kri’at haTorah of some sort, which may not be true of weekday Mincha. On the other hand, Shabbat Mincha is the time for a different type of laining and the next Shabbat is a valid alternative, whereas all day Monday/Thursday is likely valid for laining and doing it on a later day is a problem because of the idea of three days without Torah (see Bava Kama 82a).

The explicit sources regarding our question begin around 200 years ago, with accounts that the Chatam Sofer, Rav Yehuda Assad, and others arranged Mincha laining for themselves when travelling (see Goren David and Yehuda Ya’aleh ibid.). Most poskim, including the Mishna Berura (135:1), assume that this is fundamentally correct (see also Shevet Halevi IV,15). Some argue that the case is not strong enough to introduce such a strange-seeming innovation (Beit Shearim, OC 50), and therefore it is better to refrain from it (this is also Rav Ovadia Yosef’s conclusion (Yabia Omer ibid.).

What is clear from many of the sources (not all quoted here) is that in practice, a few subjective factors are important: whether it was at all possible to do it at Shacharit (see Yabia Omer ibid.); if it is on a regular basis (see Tzitz Eliezer XIII, 27); how people will react (Maharshag ibid.). It is unclear if it makes a difference how many people missed morning laining (see Yabia Omer ibid.). Therefore, each specific case behooves rabbinic guidance.
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