Theoretical question. Yankel is a born Jew, and he marries a giyores, Shprintze. The two of them live a happy life together, and Shprintze eventually gives birth to a son, Berel.

Decades go by. Eventually, something comes up that nobody had noticed before that makes Shprintze's conversion invalid. (Let's assume, for the sake of the question, that her conversion is actually invalid, and not just out of doubt.) She and Berel plan to convert once again the following week.

Reuven eats over at Yankel's house Shabbos day, and Yankel, being very close with Reuven, decides to reveal this piece of information, trusting him to keep it a secret. (Please don't ask about any questions of how Reuven may have violated some piece of Halacha by eating there. Just go with it.)

Shabbos afternoon comes. They've got eight guys for a minyan, including Reuven. Just before they give up at finding a minyan, in walks Yankel and Berel. Perfect! Ten guys for a minyan.

Except... Berel isn't Jewish. Everyone thinks he is.

Except for Reuven.

(Again, ignore the halachic issues that may surround a non-Jew being in a shul.)

The chazzan stands up to begin Ashrei. Yankel and Berel, for some reason oblivious to the problem they've just started, quietly take their seat in the back of the shteible and are making no effort to stop the minyan now in progress.

What should Reuven do?

  • Should he allow the minyan to go on, causing the chazzan to say Kaddish and Kedushah without a minyan, as well as the Brachos Levatalos involved in repeating Shemoneh Esrei?
  • Or should he stop him, thereby embarrassing Berel in front of everybody?
  • If he asks Berel to step out, he's stopping the minyan, which will still cause embarrassment to Berel, albeit not as much as the previous option. Still, he will be put in the awkward situation of explaining his actions to the kehillah, which could still lead to the secret coming out.
  • Or maybe he should pretend he needs the bathroom for long enough that the minyan disbands, which would possibly lead to his needing to lie about his whereabouts or else spill the beans.
  • There is no option to find another tzenter; remember, they were struggling enough to find a ninth person until Yankel and Berel came along.

2 Answers 2


While I'm not sure of the best way to prevent embarrassment to Berel, davening a "minyan" with only 9 halachic jews is obviously not an option. While it is important not to embarrass someone, it is not important enough to make many berachos levatalos. Obviously though, the best option would not be to flat-out reveal that Berel is not a jew. Rather, like you suggested, Reuven should perhaps excuse himself to the bathroom, or use some other method, to both stop the minyan and prevent embarrassment to Berel. In no way, however, is it more important to not embarrass Berel than to daven a minyan with 9 people.

-And just to add, even if a tenth person will not be found, davening with only 9 people is just as good as davening be'yichidus!

  • Is it a brachah l’vatalah if it’s said b’tzibbur? Also, if it is, maybe this relies on whether it’s d’Oraisa or d’Rabbanan - issurei d’Rabbanan are waived for kavod haBrios.
    – DonielF
    Nov 20, 2017 at 4:22

The Rama y'd'303'says that should a person find someone wearing kilayim on the street unbeknownst to him he shall not tell him that on the street in order to save him from embarrassment,for he were to tell him ho would be obligated to unclothe himself of that garment.

According to the Rama it is as such even when it is kilayim min hatorah.

On this basis we may let the prayers precede as although there will be brochot le'vatalah we are saving one from embarrassment.

However the shaggas aryeh in siman 58' holds that being that we are causing one to do a maaseh avairah not in a passive state we may not allow one's embarrassment to override it.

Still Tosafot says in Rosh Ha'Shanah 33'a' that a bracha lavatalah is a derabannan only and thus once again the embarrassment will override.

Another point to consider is that even according to those that say it is min hatorah nevertheless here it shall be de'rabanan,being that by shevuah in siman 239' there is a concept of haadom bishvuah meaning that a shvuah when sworn on the ground that it is a shevuat emet (being that he thinks the circumstances are as such) wont be considered shevuat shov or sheker.

Therefore by us being that the issur of beracah levatalah comes one and the same as by shvuat shove the same conept shall apply there.Thus,since they think they have minyan the berochot are not considered le'vatalah,and again we may let the teffilah precede.

However i would like to conclude with a solution that should turn the entire issue derabanan and would surely won't be a problem.The one who knows the truth he shall be the sheliach tsibbur and being that he knows there is no minyan, he shall have in mind that it shall a teffilat nedavah,and then the only isssue would be the kedusha which although it is said with a minyan only is only a question of a de'rabanan.

In conclusion prayers may precede and best would be that he himself be the sheliach tsibbur.

  • Amazing answer. I’ll have to go through it more thoroughly when I get a chance. In the meantime, may I request that you add where the Shaagas Aryeh says that?
    – DonielF
    Nov 23, 2017 at 22:35
  • 3
    Does Kavod HaBriyot of a gentile qualify to allow a Jew to do a rabbinic prohibition?
    – Double AA
    Oct 29, 2018 at 23:26
  • To go the full nine-yards, it might be better to daven chetzi Chazaras HaShas - i.e. just let everyone daven on their own and do the first berachos outloud. That way, he'll be even minimizing those berachos. However that would be for a weekday, in the example cited (Shabbos) - what about taking out a Sefer Torah and leining - that was a takanas Ezra - it would be hard to imagine a Mincha on Shabbos where you found a minyan and a sefer Torah, unless you quickly go to shul!
    – user18155
    Oct 30, 2018 at 10:36
  • 1
    This answer is based upon a false premise. The Rema which you quote is discussing if you see "a Jew" on the street wearing kilayim. That is because both Jews have the same obligation. But in the context of including a non-Jew as part of the essential 10 for a minyan, they are not the same type. The best course of action, if you didn't want to embarrass Reuven or Berel, is to leave the group and pray alone. You are not leaving a minyan and you don't betray your promise to Reuven either. If asked why you are leaving, you could say you don't feel well. Aug 1, 2019 at 16:37

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