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Suppose someone is at work, needs to daven Mincha, and has a choice between the following two options:

  • Pray in a synagogue with a minyan
  • Pray in an office (or any non-synagogue location) with a minyan

Are there any sources that give preference to the former option, or are they both considered equal?


Now, while drafting this question I realize that part of the answer might depend on the definition of "synagogue" and what "features" are needed that give a location this elevated status. So if your answer is feature-dependent, please indicate what features are needed for the synagogue you are referencing.

One example feature I can think of, off the top of my head is an Aron Kodesh with a Sefer Torah in it.

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    SA (OC 90:9) states one should make the effort to pray in a synagogue [with a minyan] than to pray with a minyan not in a synagogue. – Oliver Oct 8 '17 at 7:22
  • @Oliver - That sounds like an answer to me. Why not add it as one? – ezra Oct 8 '17 at 7:26
  • @ezra Bec as per the second part of the q - what qualifies as SA's term "" isn't black & white (in the old halachah) so don't have time to get into that. By all means: go for it yourself. – Oliver Oct 8 '17 at 15:41
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    "Caveat question" - Is this person's presence needed to form the office minyan? I would gather that if the office minyan would be left with 9 without his presence, but the shul has aminyan, anyway, then he should stay with the office minyan. Or, prob. better, have everyone go to the shul. Yes, the Aron Kodesh, I think, does add some importance. If nothing else, it allows one to "bow" for Tachanun, which is the preferred position. – DanF Oct 8 '17 at 22:11
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Oliver's comment above (SA OC 90:9 states one should make the effort to pray in a synagogue [with a minyan] than to pray with a minyan not in a synagogue) is already the answer.

Beyond that, here is how R Eliezer Melamed (RY Har Bracha) defines the obligation to pray in a synagogue (in Peninei Halakha - Laws of Prayer - chapter 3.1), see particularly in bold

When a person prays in a synagogue with a congregation, his prayer is heard (see Berachot 6a). Even someone who missed praying in a minyan has a mitzvah to pray in the synagogue, since it is a permanent and special place of holiness in where prayer is more accepted (Shulchan Aruch 90:9).

However, when the minyan is held in a different place, it is preferable to pray with the minyan rather than individually in the synagogue. If there is a small minyan in the synagogue and a larger minyan elsewhere, although there is merit to praying in the company of many, the value of praying in a synagogue is greater (Pri Megadim; Mishnah Berurah 90:27-28).

Every community has an obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of building a synagogue which will be their mini-sanctuary (mikdash me’at) and where people can pray in a minyan. As it is written (Ezekiel 11:16), “I have been for them a small sanctuary,” and Rabbi Yitzchak interpreted, “These are synagogues and study halls” (Megillah 29a).

Reish Lakish says whoever has a synagogue in his city and does not pray there is called a bad neighbor. Moreover, he brings exile upon himself and his descendants. Those who arrive early to synagogue to recite Shacharit and are late to leave after praying Ma’ariv merit long life (Berachot 8a; Shulchan Aruch 90:11).

It is a mitzvah to run to synagogue just as it is a mitzvah to run to perform every mitzvah, in order to express one’s passion for matters of sanctity, as it says (Hosea 6:3), “We will race on in order to know Hashem.” Likewise, when one leaves the synagogue, he should walk slowly, so that he not appear happy to leave the synagogue (Shulchan Aruch 90:12).

PS. On the definition of a synagogue, I think most people would understood as a fixed place of assembly for prayer where a sefer Torah resides in permanence. Not sure the definition matters so much although I have seen fixed places of assembly without sefer Torah (for instance, for a place used only for mincha/maariv)

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This question is (kind of) directly addressed by the Talmud:

Berachos 6a

תניא אבא בנימין אומר אין תפלה של אדם נשמעת אלא בבית הכנסת שנאמר לשמוע אל הרנה ואל התפלה במקום רנה שם תהא תפלה

It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says: A man's prayer is heard [by God] only in the Synagogue. For it is said: To hearken unto the song and to the prayer. The prayer is to be recited where there is song. (Soncino translation)

This passage states clearly that a synagogue is the preferred place of prayer, and it also tells us why. The question that remains is simply how to define the "place of song" (מקום רנה).

Rashi says that the "place of song" is the synagogue, for that is where the congregation says the songs and praises in a pleasant voice:

במקום רנה. בבהכ"נ ששם אומרים הצבור שירות ותשבחות בנעימת קול ערב

Presumably, an office where you are just grabbing a quick Minchah is not a place where the congregation says the songs and praises in a pleasant voice, or at least not to the same level as a regular synagogue.

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