Is a Minyan Factory Kosher?

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by R. Gil Student

I. One Shul, Multiple Minyanim

It is now common for some synagogues to hold multiple minyanim (prayer services) at different times. The most active are open nearly 24 hours a day, holding morning services every half hour, alternating rooms so there is no overlap, and afternoon and evening services every fifteen minutes. Colloquially, they are called minyan factories. Even those shuls with only three or four morning, afternoon and evening services might be called minyan factories also. Setting aside questions about the proper times for the different prayer services, there is another, more basic question to address. Is it permissible to hold more than one minyan in a shul?

Rav Yehudah Mintz (15th cen., Italy; Responsa Mahari Mintz, no. 15) was asked whether after one minyan service is finished, another minyan can start for newcomers in the same shul. The questioner offered three possible reasons why it might not be allowed. First, it might seem that people are praying to two different gods. The first service is to one god and the second service is to another. This was a particular concern in Babylonia, the home of the Talmud, where Manichaeans believed in a form of dualism. We still retain some practices from that time when there was a real concern not to imply that we believe in dualism. For example, the Mishnah and Gemara (Berakhos 33b) forbid saying “Modim Modim” or “Shema Shema.” For this reason, it is improper to sing religious songs that repeat God’s name (such as “Ribbono Shel Olam, Ribbono Shel Olam”). Does this also apply to two minyanim in one shul?

Second, the questioner asked whether this violates the prohibition of “lo sisgodedu”? The Gemara (Yevamos 13b) interprets this to mean that we may not split into different factions. Does holding two prayer services constitute a forbidden split in the community? Third, does it constitute adding to the Torah? Since daily prayer corresponds to the daily tamid sacrifice in the Temple, does holding two prayer services in one synagogue equate to offering two morning tamid sacrifices in the Temple, which is forbidden?

II. In Defense of Minyan Factories

Rav Mintz replies that two minyanim are allowed, with one condition. As to the possible prohibitions, Rav Mintz explains that there is no concern with appearing to embrace dualism. The Gemara (Berakhos 50a) considers guests of the exilarch who would recite the grace after meals in groups of three. Why not in groups of ten, which is preferable? Because the exilarch might notice groups that large and get upset that they were leaving the meal early. The Gemara seems unconcerned with the problem of dualism if two or more groups recited blessings at the same time. It also seems unconcerned with the problem of splitting into different factions. It is merely a temporary split for convenience, nothing more.

And finally, as long as different people are praying, it is not considered like a new tamid sacrifice. There is ample precedent for individuals who overslept or just arrived in town to come to shul after the service is over and pray privately. Why not another minyan? However, Rav Mintz adds, the shali’ach tzibbur who leads the second service should not stand in the same place as the shali’ach tzibbur for the first service. Doing so implies that there was something wrong with the first service that necessitates this second minyan. Rather, the shali’ach tzibbur for the second minyan must stand somewhere else.

This last point is important. Rav Yehudah (Mahari) Mintz requires the shali’ach tzibbur of the second minyan to stand in a different place than the shali’ach tzibbur of the first minyan. Rav Yehudah Mintz was among the last of the Ashkenazic Rishonim (as was his first cousin, Rav Moshe (Maharam) Mintz). One of the defining features of being in an earlier era is that those of a later era (i.e. Acharonim) defer to them. As we shall see, Acharonim could not ignore this ruling of Mahari Mintz. Most significantly, Rav Moshe Isserles (16th cen., Poland) quotes this ruling in his gloss to Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 69:1). Instead of ignoring the ruling, later authorities limit it to specific circumstances. Rema does this by saying that it only applies if people from the first minyan are still in shul. Even if they are done praying, they may be learning Torah, reciting Tehillim or doing something else. If they have all left, then there is no concern that people might think the first prayer was defective and requires repetition.

III. The Problem of Multiple Torah Readings

Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th cen., Poland; Magen Avraham 69:9) quotes Rav Shmuel Kalai (16th cen., Greece; Responsa Mishpetei Shmuel, no. 3) as saying that a second minyan may not use the same Torah scroll as the first. It makes it seem like there was a problem with the Torah scroll the first time it was used so they had to remove it again, fix it and then read from it.

Rav Yechezkel Landau (18th cen., Austria; Responsa Noda Bi-Yehudah, second rescension, Orach Chaim 15) was asked by the new rabbi of Triebitz about the practice in his shul. After Shabbos morning services are finished, some individuals take out the Torah scroll again and re-read the Torah portion. He was concerned that this violates the rulings of Mahari Mintz and Rav Shmuel Kalai. Rav Landau responds that, in the synagogue in his home in Prague, he personally has two services on Shabbos. First the regular minyan and, after it finishes, a youth minyan. Rav Landau points out that Rav Shmuel Kalai was not advocating a strict stance prohibiting the use of a Torah scroll twice. Rather, he was justifying the custom in his city of prohibiting it. His language betrays a lack of confidence in the custom but he tries to uphold it with a reason. There is no implication that others should adopt this custom. With this, Rav Landau effectively dismisses Rav Gombiner’s ruling in Magen Avraham.

IV. Scheduled Minyanim

Rav Landau explains that Mahari Mintz’s ruling has no real basis in the Talmud and codes. However, we can’t simply ignore Mahari Mintz or Rema, who quotes him. I attribute this deference to Mahari Mintz to his having lived in the earlier era of the Rishonim. We defer to authorities in an earlier era. But, Rav Landau limits the ruling. He suggests that Mahari Mintz was only discussing an ad hoc second minyan. In such a case, the shali’ach tzibbur should stand in a different place so as not to imply there was something wrong with the first minyan. However, this is not necessary for a regularly scheduled second minyan. Everyone knows why people are praying later and the existence of this second minyan does not imply anything negative about the previous minyan.

Indeed, Rav Chaim Yosef David Azulai (Chida, 18th cen., Israel; Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 69:4) says that the custom in Egypt in his day was to take a Torah scroll out even three times for different minyanim, contrary to the custom described by Rav Kalai. Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson and Rav Mordechai Zev Itinga (19th cen., Ukraine; Magen Giborim, Shiltei Ha-Giborim 69:2) reach the same conclusion as Rav Landau. Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan (20th cen., Poland; Mishnah Berurah 69:18) follows them, as well.

In the end, if a shul plans multiple consecutive minyanim, they can proceed in the normal way. The shali’ach tzibbur can stand in the regular place and the same Torah scroll can be used. If there is an unscheduled second minyan, there might be some restrictions on where the shali’ach tzibbur stands. Often, when there is a bar mitzvah in a shul, the family might want to pray minchah immediately after lunch. This minyan is not scheduled but it also comes before, and not after, the scheduled minyan. Therefore, presumably, none of these restrictions apply.

(reposted from Jan ’23)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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