6

Are there any halachic implications of relocating an established minyan?

Here is a specific example that might help clarify my question: Suppose there is a small community that normally has Shabbat mincha and maariv at their synagogue every week. One week a member decides to invite the community to his home for seudah shlishit, and proposes that they can daven maariv there, at his home, after services. Is this okay? Does it matter whether this is a one-time event, or whether it becomes a regular thing?

There are certainly practical considerations that would need to be taken into account: what if someone doesn't get the memo and shows up for maariv at the shul, only to discover that nobody's there? Then there are the social dynamics: some people who might normally come to services at the synagogue might feel less comfortable going into a private home, especially if they do not know the hosts well, and might therefore decline to attend.

I'm seeking insight into whether there are any halachic aspects of relocating a minyan from its usual public location into a private space. I know, for example, that one is not supposed to transport a sefer torah from its regular location for single or temporary use elsewhere. Are there analogous concerns about relocating an entire minyan?

On the other hand, I also know that it is not uncommon for a daily minyan to temporarily relocate to a home where shiva is being observed. But shiva is an exceptional circumstance, one where the needs of the mourners may temporarily take priority over other considerations.

I'd appreciate any references to codes or commentators that discuss this (or related matters).

2
  • 2
    Always better to pray in a dedicated synagogue than a house, ceteris paribus.
    – Shalom
    Dec 3, 2023 at 21:51
  • @Shalom can you provide a source?
    – mweiss
    Dec 3, 2023 at 21:52

2 Answers 2

3

I like how you wrote up the question. It became quite relevant post-COVID when people had to decide whether to disband home/street minyanim and come back to synagogues.

A person in this situation would need to consider the halachic preference for praying in a synagogue over a home, since a synagogue has a din of mikdash meat, a small sanctuary. The Mishna Brura writes (OC 90:27)

להתפלל בבהכ"נ - ואפילו אם יש לו עשרה בביתו ישתדל בבהכ"נ ועיין בסי"ח במ"ב ס"ק נ"ד:

[A person should make an effort to pray in the synagogue with a congregation] Even if there are 10 people in his house, he should endeavor to pray in the synagogue.

R Yitzchak Botton expands on some of the rationale and writes

It is better to pray with a minyan in shul than to pray with a minyan at home. If one has a choice to pray between two shuls, he should go to the one with more people. This is because there is greater honor accorded to G-d when there are more people present.

See also Peninei Halacha on the topic.

Of course permanently relocating a minyan, where the whole community moves to e.g., a different synagogue, would have different rules. One should pay attention there to the issue of destroying a synagogue before the next one is built up (see Bava Batra 3b and commentaries).

2
  • These sources seem to assume that the community is gathering at the synagogue, and say that in that case the individual is better off praying at the synagogue than at home (even with a minyan). That somewhat misses the point of the question, which is: is it appropriate for the entire minyan to relocate for an ad hoc service at someone's house?
    – mweiss
    Dec 4, 2023 at 18:24
  • 1
    I understand - I think there are two sides of a similar issue but agree the rationale is quite different. To not complexify this answer, I wrote another answer which hopefully better addresses your specific situation. Remember to ask a rabbi for the specifics of any particular situation
    – mbloch
    Dec 4, 2023 at 19:13
1

In my other answer, I addressed the specific issue of an individual praying in a home minyan rather than in a synagogue. You asked in comments to clarify the halacha for an entire community that would decide to relocate itself to a private home (although it is not clear if they would do this permanently or temporarily).

This is rather problematic because of Kedushas Beit HaKnesset - in the words of R Aryeh Lebowitz (in this very relevant article)

The strongest argument against house minyanim is that they undermine the value of a beis haknesses. Considering the halachos governing the usage, structure and honor of a beis haknesses, it seems that Chazal were very interested in having Jews daven in a place that has kedushas beis haknesses, the sanctity of a synagogue. Indeed, the Gemara (Brachos 6b) teaches that a person’s tefillos are only heard in a shul. [8] The Meiri (ibid.) explains that this is not only due to the kedushah of a shul, but also because it is easier to have proper kavanah when davening in a shul.

There are other issues, e.g., the lack of an aron kodesh (ark) or Sefer Torah in most house minyanim, the fact it is more difficult to set a makom kavua (a fixed seat) in a house minyan, the possible greater difficult in concentrating, the fact some people might be more hesitant to join a minyan in a private home where they don't know the owner (or maybe are not on friendly terms with him). See detailed sources.

All these constraints are sometimes lifted in case of great need, e.g., forming a minyan around a great person who can't walk anymore or enabling people who wouldn't otherwise go to synagogue to have a minyan.

All these factors should be weighed by a rabbi who can help the community make the right decision.

For further reference see also here.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .