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An outdoor minyan is one possible attempt to deal with a public health instruction aimed at preventing spreading infections, such as keeping 6 feet from another person and avoiding indoor gatherings.

What are the halachic considerations, guidelines, and limitations pertaining to an outdoor minyan? Can anyone within earshot be considered part of the minyan if they so desire? How much must be heard to be considered "within earshot"? Is a roof or an eruv of agency in defining a minyan? With respect to the Torah service, how far apart are the gabiim and baal kriya allowed to be, halachically? Is there a halachic way to tie a Torah (ashkenaz) while maintaining 6 foot separation between people?

Remember: this is a theoretical question. Any actual outdoor minyan should be sure to conform to all local governmental, medical and rabbinic guidelines. Check with your local authorities for details.

  • Good question, but much too broad. Answers would be easier to compose and research if each question was posed separately, rather than banding all related questions in a category together. – chortkov2 Apr 22 at 15:51
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There are many questions here:

Distance

In an outdoor minyan, two conditions must be met - all participants must hear the shliach tzibbur, and must be able to see each other. Below is a quote from Minchas Yitzchok.

תלוי בשמיעת הש"ץ המבואר (באו"ח סי' קכד), וברואים זה את זה, והיינו אפילו אם המה בשני חדרים לגמרי, ומקורו מדברי הרשב"א (בתשובה סי' צו). ואף דלהלכה יש חולקים ומחמירים וכמבואר שם בשערי תשובה (אות מז), מכל מקום באין מחיצה מפסיק ביניהם, אף שאינם בבית אחד אלא בשדה שפיר יש לומר דמהני רואים זה את זה לכו"ע

Location

Regarding indoor Minyanim, there is another possible requirement, subject to debate between the Poskim. Some require all members of the minyan to be in the same room (without a halachic mechitza); others require at least ten to be in the same room - after which others can be mitztaref from another room; some permit even if the minyan is split between two rooms (as long as there is no public domain in between them).

The Shulchan Aruch (55:13) requires all participants of the minyan to be in one place. [See further, how this limitation can be circumvented.]

צריך שיהיו כל העשרה במקום אחד ושליח צבור עמהם

In the laws of Zimun (where a minyan is required to add the Divine Name אלקינו), ten people are considered a minyan even if they are split between two rooms, provided that they can see each other (see Shulchan Aruch 195). The Rashba (Responsa 91) says it's possible this law extends to Tefilla as well:

עוד אני אומר שאפשר לומר שכל שרואים אלו את אלו כאילו הן בבית אחד דמי ומצטרפים. ודומיא דזימון של ברכת המזון דתנן (ברכות פ"ז מ"ה) שתי חבורות שהיו אוכלות בבית אחד בזמן שמקצתם רואים אלו את אלו, הרי אלו מצטרפים לזימון

This suggestion of the Rashba is codified by the Mishneh Berurah (OC 55, Note 52) and Biur Halachah (ad loc).

Other authorities disagree - see, for example, Mishkenos Yackov (#75).

Reshus Harabim splitting a minyan

The source to permit minyanim in two different places is based on the Rashba, who equates the rules of tefilla to that of zimmun. Accordingly, one of the caveats that applies by zimmun will also be relevant here.

In the laws of Zimmun, the Shulchan Aruch (195) writes that when two groups are joining together to form a minyan, a reshus harabim passing in between is mafsik (breaks the connection):

שתי חבורות שאוכלות בבית אחד או בשני בתים, אם מקצתן רואים אלו את אלו מצטרפות לזימון, ואם לאו אינם מצטרפות... ויש מי שאומר שאם רשות הרבים מפסקת בין שני הבתים, אינם מצטרפין בשום ענין.

[Although the Shulchan Aruch quotes 'יש אומרים', which leads some to suggest that in a time of pressing need this opinion can be disregarded, the Kaf HaChaim writes that there is no opinion who disagrees.]

The Pri Megadim (Ashel Avraham, OC 55) rules that this limitation applies to tefilla too:

וכן מה שכתוב שם רשות הרבים מפסקת אין מצטרף, הוא הדין כאן

The Taz (195:2, quoted in Mishneh Berurah) explains that the definition of reshus harabim in this context is different to the regular definition in regards to Shabbos, and here it includes even a private pathway.

נראה דלאו דוקא רהות הרבים ממש שהוא רחב י״ו אמות אלא אפי׳ שביל היחיד מפסיק ביניהם כדתנן ריש פאה ומייתי לה בחזקת הבתים דף נ״ה דזה מפסיק בין הרשויות לפאה ולשבת וא״כ ה״ה נמי כאן דחד טעמא הוא עם רה״ר

Some contemporary poskim (see R' Moshe Shternbuch) ruled that this problem applies only to those standing on ground floor; those in upper level floors standing on balconies would not suffer from this problem. Others (see here) disagree.

As a resource for further treatment on specific scenarios, see here and here. [I don't know the authors, and caution readers to make their own careful judgment.]

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    +1. A small nitpick. The following sentence is somewhat misleading “ The Shulchan Aruch (55:13) requires all participants of the minyan to be in one place.” SA allows tziruf as long as 10 are in one place (55:20). Further, the opinions that rely on the Rashba assume that that is the also the option of SA in 55:14 (see eg Magen Avraham there). – Joel K Apr 22 at 16:28
  • I would also add the Aruch Hashulchan which is more stringent with minyan – sam Apr 23 at 0:43
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A posting today by Rabbi Gil Student addresses this: https://www.torahmusings.com/2020/04/are-porch-minyanim-kosher/

I quote part II of this posting:

"II. Modern Rulings

Rav Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Chida, 18th cen., Israel; Machazik Berakhah 55:11) discusses a case of quarantine in Italy, in which guards would not allow people in two adjacent houses to mix. Chida felt that if the four men of one family could stand outside the open door of the second house which had six men so that they can all see each other, even though the four are forbidden to enter the house, they could join as a minyan based on Rashba’s condition of being able to see each other. However, his colleague Rav Yosef Chazan (18-19th cen., Turkey; Chikrei Lev, Orach Chaim 1:28) argues at length against following this difficult minority opinion, even in a case of quarantine.

Citing this Chikrei Lev and many other similar strict rulings, Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rav Yosef Yitzchak, in a recent responsum forbids participation in a porch minyan (but allows answering amen if such a minyan is taking place). Similarly, Rav Hershel Schachter in a recent responsum distinguishes between prayer (which is a davar she-bi-kdushah) to a zimun (which is not), and therefore forbids porch minyanim. Rav Schachter points to a contradiction within Bi’ur Halakhah whether to follow Rashba or Rashbash and concludes that we cannot rely on Rashba even in a time of great need.

Rav Asher Weiss, in a recent responsum, allows relying on Rashba’s leniency in this time of great need and permits porch minyanim if people can see each other (setting aside the issues mentioned at the beginning of this essay). However, he points out that even regarding zimun, you cannot join together with someone across a street. Therefore, all the porches must be on the same side of the street. Rav Moshe Sternbuch, in a recent responsum, rules leniently also but adds another leniency — if the people are standing on porches 10 tefachim above street level, then they can join even across the street. In a responsum unrelated to Coronavirus, Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein was asked whether Jewish guards and prisoners, who are forbidden to mix, can join for a minyan through prison bars (Chashukei Chemed, Pesachim 85b). Rav Zilberstein says that you can rely on the Chida but is not entirely comfortable relying on it for people in a holding cell, who will only be there for a short time. It seems that he would rule leniently for those in long-term quarantine.

Because this is so current a question, I urge everyone to ask their rabbi before putting anything into practice, especially considering the other very important considerations mentioned above."

Part one of the posting is titled "I. Pesach, Prayer and Bentching".

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    A porch minyan is very different from an outdoor minyan - each porch is its own domain, which makes joining their inhabitants for a minyan much more difficult when compared with ten people standing in a park – Joel K Apr 22 at 13:26
  • That would depend if you go with the Aruch Hashulchan or MB – sam Apr 22 at 14:23

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