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People wrote on this site that there is no requirement for a man to pray with a minyan as a general rule. I took this to mean that one need not attend a minyan he knows meets regularly, instead praying alone. This surprised me: indeed, it contradicts what I've known all my life. I seek support for there being, or not being, any requirement that a man, in order to pray sh'mone esre, attend a minyan he knows meets regularly.

Now, the Shulchan Aruch's language, in introducing the idea of prayer with a minyan (OC 90:9), says only "Someone should try much to pray in the synagogue with the community". This sounds like something less than a requirement. However, he goes on (:16) to say a traveler "must" go out of his way to pray with a minyan. That sounds like a requirement. So I don't think one can prove anything from the Shulchan Aruch per se, and I seek only clearly stated views on the issue from later halachic authorities.

  • Mishna B'rura 90:52 (on SA :16) could hardly be clearer. OTOH one could argue that the MB's merely commenting on the SA there but agrees for practical purposes that the SA in :9 means something less than a requirement and perhaps the practical halacha follows :9. – msh210 May 23 '13 at 18:27
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    see he.wikisource.org/wiki/… – Charles Koppelman May 24 '13 at 5:22
  • You're looking only for sources which are post-ShA? – Double AA Nov 14 '13 at 2:28
  • @DoubleAA, yes, only because SA is unclear on the point and pre-SA authorities are, to a large extent, resolved in our halachic clearinghouse, the SA. – msh210 Nov 14 '13 at 5:03
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אגרות משה או"ח ח"ב סי' כז says that the fact that one has to go out of his way to Daven with a Minyan proves that it is a requirement.

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Indeed there are sources that praying with a minyan is not strictly obligatory. Perhaps the most explicit is R. Aryeh Pomeranchik in Emek Beracha, Birchot Keriat Shema:

אמנם אשר נ"ל בזה דבאמת תפלה בצבור אינו כלל חיוב מצוה ככל מצות דרבנן וראיה לזה מהא דאיתא בברכות ד' ז' א"ל ר"י לר' נחמן מ"ט לא אתי מר לבי כנישתא לצלויי א"ל לא יכילנא א"ל לכנפי למר עשרה וליצלי א"ל טריחא לי מילתא ואם נימא דהוי חיוב מצוה ככל המצות המחויבות מה טענה היא זו טריחא לי מילתא הא חייב אדם להשתדל ולטרוח במצות אפי' אם קשה לו הדבר [ואולי משום בטול תורה] וע"כ מוכח מזה דתפלה בצבור מצד עצמה אינה מצוה ולפיכך אין שוב חיוב להתפלל עם הצבור אלא כיון שאין תפלת היחיד נשמעת בכל עת אלא בצבור ולפיכך צריך האדם להשתדל להתפלל עם הצבור כדי שתקובל תפלתו וזהו כל הענין של תפלה בצבור וכן מבואר הוא בלשון הרמב"ם רפ"ח מתפלה וז"ל תפלת הצבור נשמעת תמיד ואפי' היו בהן חוטאים אין הקב"ה מואס בתפלתן של רבים לפיכך צריך אדם לשתף עצמו עם הצבור ולא יתפלל יחיד כל זמן שיכול להתפלל עם הצבור עכ"ל ולשונו זה ולא יתפלל יחיד כ"ז שיכול להתפלל עם הצבור מורה להדיא שאינו חיוב כלל אלא השתדלות שתקובל תפלתו

However, that which appears to me is that in truth prayer with the congregation is not at all an obligatory mitzvah like all rabbinic mitzvot. And the proof of this is from that which is in Berachot 7[b]: R. Isaac said to R. Nahman: Why does the Master not come to the Synagogue in order to pray? — He said to him: I cannot. He asked him: Let the Master gather ten people and pray with them [in his house]? — He answered: It is too much of a trouble for me. [Soncino translation] And if we say that it is an obligatory mitzvah like all obligatory mitzvot, what claim is this "it is too much of a trouble for me"? A man is obligated to expend effort in mitzvot even if the thing is difficult for him! (And perhaps it was on account of disrupting Torah study.) It is thus clear from this that prayer with the congregation in and of itself is not a mitzvah and therefore there is no obligation to pray with the congregation. Rather, since an individual's prayer is not always accepted, unless it's with the congregation, a man therefore has to pray with the congregation so that his prayer will be accepted. And this is the entire matter of prayer with the congregation.

And this is also clear from the language of Rambam in the beginning of Chapter Eight of Prayer, and this is his wording: Communal prayer is always heard. Even when there are transgressors among [the congregation], the Holy One, blessed be He, does not reject the prayers of the many. Therefore, a person should include himself in the community and should not pray alone whenever he is able to pray with the community. [Touger translation] Thus ends his words. And this wording "should not pray alone whenever he is able to pray with the community" explicitly shows that it is not an obligation at all, but an effort that his prayer should be accepted.

R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin writes (Shu"t Gevurot Eliyahu 1:24) that the real obligation is for the congregation to provide daily prayer services, but there is not really a formal obligation for any particular individual to attend if the services can exist without him:

ואמנם כל יחיד בפני עצמו אף שיש עליו מצוה שישתתף גם הוא עם הצבור עיקר חיובו הוא כשהוא בבית הכנסת שאז אסור לו לפרוש מן הצבור ועל כן נפסק בשו"ע (סי' צ סעי' י) שכשמוכרח ראוי לו לצאת מבית הכנסת להתפלל יחידי ולא בבית הכנסת קודם לצבור וכן אסרו חז"ל (ברכות ו:) להתפלל אחורי בית הכנסת משום כדו בר קיימת קמי מארך וגם לא לעבור אחורי בית הכנסת בשעה שהצבור מתפללין (ברכות ח:) אבל כשהוא בתוך ביתו וטריחא לי' מילתא' אין עליו גדר חיוב (ברכות ז:) אף שראוי לו להשתדל בדבר כלשון השו"ע (סי' צ סעי' ט) וחז"ל זרזו וחזרו וזרזו (ברכות ו.) שאין תפילתו נשמעת אלא בבית הכנסת ואף ביחידות יותר טוב להתפלל בבית הכנסת [אחר הצבור ולא קודם לו] ונקרא שכן רע כשאינו בא לבית הכנסת (שם ח.) [אולי זהו כשאינו נכנס בשום פעם או אפילו בלא סבה המעכבת] אבל אינו בגדר חיוב גמור ונדחה מפני איזו מצוה או טרדה אפילו פרנסה

However, even though each individual on his own has a mitzvah to join the congregation, his primary obligation is when he is in the synagogue for then he is forbidden to separate from the congregation. And it is therefore ruled in Shulchan Aruch (90:10) that when when one is forced he should leave the synagogue to pray alone, and not in the synagogue prior to the congregation. And so the Sages forbade (Berachot 6b) to pray behind the synagogue because of "you stand before your master as if there are two powers", and to pass behind the synagogue when the congregation is praying. But when he is in his house and the matter is burdensome to him, he is not within the realm of obligation (Berachot 7b) even though it is proper to try in the matter, in accordance with the wording of the Shulchan Aruch (90:9). And the Sages repeatedly admonished him (Berachot 6b) that his prayer is not heard except in the synagogue, and even alone it is better to pray in the synagogue (after the congregation but not before it), and he is called a bad neighbor when he does not come to the synagogue (ibid 8a) (perhaps this is is when he does not come to the synagogue ever, or [when he does not come] even with no preventing reason). But he is not in the realm of official obligation, and it can be overridden by any mitzvah or burden – even livelihood.

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