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SA O.C. 90:26 mentions that one cannot say amidah in an area where there is a bad odor such as from feces.

There is a nursing home near my home that has a minyan. Occasionally, the hallway gets a bad odor from patients. On the other side of the shul wall is a dialysis center, and while most of the time there is no problem, occasionally a foul odor passes through the wall.

Some of the patients that join the minyan may have "accidents" during davening. We had this a few weeks ago, and we had to end davening prematurely. (Someone proposed continuing outside on the patio, but we couldn't move about 5 patients all in wheel chairs.)

Considering all these factors, there's a fairly high possibility of having a foul odor occur during the services, esp. on Shabbat or Yom Tov when services are longer (as quickly as we try to make it, anyway.) With this consideration can one still establish a minyan in such an environment in the first place?

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    I know of a fellow who cannot control his bodily functions who was advised to put on Tefilen say shema (maybe also shemonah esrai) and say the rest of davening without Tefilen. – mroll May 27 '18 at 16:35
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    This is a very inspiring act of gemillut hassadim. Thank you for setting a personal example! – Lee May 30 '18 at 18:08
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    @Lee I don't run the minyan. A rav of a shul I occasionally attended, left that shul and decided to start this one in the nursing home. So he, along with the non-patient attendants are doing the chessed. We have a lot of stiff competition with numerous other neighborhood shuls. Unfortunately, a nursing home is not a "family" shul, so, I can see this place facing a continual struggle. – DanF May 30 '18 at 18:13
  • @mroll indeed this is straight from SA OC 80:1 – mbloch May 31 '18 at 9:29
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+100

First of all, I note you are speaking of odors, not excrement itself, as the laws for the latter are stricter.

Second, I note that these minyanim exist all over the world. I personally prayed multiple times in two such minyanim which happen on a regular basis. Many nursing homes in Israel also have synagogues and Google brings many more examples. So this answer will be about answering the halachic basis allowing such minyanim.

R Abraham S. Abraham brings a number of relevant sources in the volume 1 of his Nishmat Avraham pp. 45ff.

  • SA OC 79:9 says it is forbidden to recite Shema (meaning also praying or saying blessings) until foul odors dissipate
  • Mishna Brura comments this is because he can leave the area and recite Shema where there is no odor
  • Someone who is bed-bound (or I assume wheelchair-bound and cannot move on his own) should wait until the odor dissipates before continuing to pray
  • OC 80:1 writes someone who will not be able to recite Shema and Shmonei Esrei without emitting odors should let the proper time pass rather than pray. He is considered as being in extenuating circumstances

Therefore I understand the halachic basis for minyanim in nursing home to be that one can pray as long as there are no foul odors. Should one occur, one needs to wait until it dissipates. If someone cannot "stay clean" he should not join the minyan to not prevent the other congregants to pray and is himself exempt from praying until the time he can keep a clean body.

Of course CYLOR before trying anything you read here in the real world.

  • Thanks for the comprehensive answer that answers the halachic issues. The practicalities of following them are a bit problematic. E.g., we're dealing largely with people that have minimal or no control of their body emissions. So, when something happens, the odor won't dissipate. They need to be wheeled out of the room and cleaned. This means that a hospital attendant needs to come and do it, and as you can surmise, they're not readily available. So, in actuality, either the minyan itself needs to move, elsewhere - not that practical to have 1 or 2 people wheel 5 others, (cont.) – DanF May 31 '18 at 14:09
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    @DanF indeed these are very specific issues to a group of people with less control of their body emissions than most "typical" older people. As OC 80:1 writes these people are "anousim" (in forced circumstances) and wouldn't need to join the minyan esp. if they prevent others from praying together. I can see how this is (1) difficult to tell them and (2) makes it harder to get a quorum – mbloch May 31 '18 at 14:16
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    Thanks. Definitely areas to discuss with the rav, IY"h, this Shabbat. B"N, I'll edit your answer if he adds anything to the above. – DanF May 31 '18 at 14:22
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    My pleasure in getting a through answer on this topic. And, BTW, Torah should be far less of a "business" than it, presently, is. FYI - I understand that the rav of this nursing home takes no salary. One of the nicest and most realistic rav you'd ever meet, but, I hope he has enough parnassa otherwise to afford to do this for a good while. – DanF Jun 6 '18 at 16:29
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    FYI update - B"H, the shul is growing somewhat - at least on Shabbat. A testament to the rav and his assistant's personalities. B"H, it's wonderful. No "overhead" costs and no cooling / heating expenses, etc. – DanF Jul 31 '18 at 21:52

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