Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Davening in a Minyan
To dedicate this lesson

Praypal

Should the person who organized the minyan lead the prayers, or does the other man take precedence, because he is observing a yahrtzeit?

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Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Shvat 8 5781
David checked his watch again, willing the hands to slow down. He tried to convince himself that his watch might be running fast, but the pinkish orange glow that shone through the light rail window only confirmed what he knew already. The thought of being late for mincha was bad enough. But David had even more reason to get to the Kotel with enough time before sunset. In the seven months since his father had died, David had been very careful to pray with a minyan, so that he would be able to lead the davening, and recite kaddish. If the traffic had been anything like the usual, he would have been at Kotel an hour ago, he mused. But thinking about that didn’t help the situation.
"Iriya – City Hall" the mechanical sounding voice announced. As soon as the double doors opened, David raced off the train, and headed off in the direction of the Wall. As he stood before the awesome stones, he surveyed the situation. All the groups that had formed to make a minyan were well into mincha, and there was no way he could join them. Overcoming his natural reticence, he walked through the crowd of men, calling out to them that he urgently needed to form a minyan. Finally, he had ten men assembled.
David was about to begin leading the prayers, when one of the other nine men walked toward the front of the group. "Obviously, given that today is my mother’s yahrtzeit, I will be the one to lead the prayers."
David’s jaw dropped. Here, he had put so much effort into gathering together a minyan, so that he could lead the prayers. "I understand that you have a yahrtzeit today, but I assembled this minyan specifically so that I would be able to lead the prayers, because I’m a mourner, still within the year of my father’s death."
"Thank you for organizing the minyan, but the fact of the matter is that Jewish law states that someone who has yahrtzeit takes precedence over someone who is in the first year of mourning, when it comes to leading the prayers," the man countered.
Who is right? Should David lead the prayers, because he organized the minyan, or does the other man take precedence, because he is observing a yahrtzeit?
Answer of the Aderet, zt"l (Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinovich Te’umim, father-in-law of Rabbi Kook):
The one who organized the minyan gets priority.
A similar concept is found in Rashi, based on the midrash. Moshe Rabeinu requested that his sons be allowed to lead the Jewish people, following Moshe’s death. G-d responded that Yehoshua was more fitting to be the leader, because he had remained devotedly next to Moshe, throughout the Jewish people’s forty year trek in the desert. (See Rashi to Bamidbar 27:16)
Similarly, in our case, because David exerted himself to form a minyan, he takes priority.
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
The man who has a yahrtzeit takes priority, even though he did not organize the minyan. However, if it will cause an argument, it is preferable for him to forgo the opportunity to lead the prayers, and allow David to do so.




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