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Simanim 55, 69 and part of 124 Laws of Kaddish

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #31: Siman 55, Part 1

Pages 170-177


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon






            Siman 55 is entitled "Laws of Kaddish."  Most of the siman, however, does not discuss this subject directly, but instead deals with the laws of the quorum of ten - a minyan - which is a prerequisite for Kaddish.  We will therefore address ourselves mainly to the topic of minyan (which is found as well in siman 69 and in part of 124), afterwards touching upon the main points of Kaddish.



            The Mishna in Megilla 23b teaches:


"We neither have someone 'lead the Shema' ["porsin al Shema"], nor have a sheliach tzibbur, nor have the kohanim recite their blessing, nor read from the Torah, nor read the haftara from Nevi'im ... with fewer than ten."


The common denominator between these is found in Berakhot 21b:


"From where do we know that an individual (i.e. one not praying with a minyan) does not say Kedusha?  As it is written, 'And I will be sanctified in the midst of Benei Yisrael' (Vayikra 22:32) - any 'davar she-bikedusha' (prayer requiring a quorum) cannot be with less than ten... It is written here 'And I will be sanctified in THE MIDST of Benei Yisrael' and it is written there 'Separate yourselves from THE MIDST of this congregation ["eida"]' - just as there it is ten [the twelve spies, minus Yehoshua and Calev], so too here it is ten."


            We learn from here that ten are needed for every 'davar she-bikedusha' (so called because with it we sanctify God's name).  The Me'iri (ad loc.) and the Turei Even (ad loc.) classify all the items enumerated in the mishna quoted above as devarim she-bikedusha, as does the Biur Halakha (beginning of siman 128).  However, the Ran (ad loc.) apparently believes that the reading of the Torah and the haftara, and the priestly blessing, are not devarim she-bikedusha, but instead require a quorum of ten for purely independent reasons.


            Kaddish is not among the entries listed in the mishna.  Hence, there are those who conclude that Kaddish did not exist in its present form in talmudic times.  It does, however, appear in Masekhet Sofrim (10:7): "And we do not say Kaddish and Barkhu with fewer than ten."  (This tractate postdates the Gemara.)


            The Ran writes that the Gemara's derivation, though it is based upon a biblical verse, is really only an "asmakhta" - a kind of indication - but not a prooftext.  The requirement of ten is rabbinic, he asserts, as is the liturgy itself.  This viewpoint is shared by other Rishonim as well; see Yabi'a Omer (vol. II, OC 34:2), which opposes R. Chayim Vital's opinion (Sha'arei Kedusha, sha'ar 4) that it is biblically mandated.  The practical consequences of this debate arise in cases of doubt, as will be discussed. 


            The Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla 8:4) teaches us that the sheliach tzibbur is counted as one of the ten, despite the fact that there are not ten to answer amen.



            This issue arises frequently and is the focus of considerable debate among the poskim.  We will attempt to present the most accepted of the various approaches, but in order to clarify the issue we will first examine siman 69 - the law of "pores al Shema."



            As mentioned before, the Mishna in Megilla 23b states:


"We neither have someone 'lead the Shema' ["porsin al    Shema"] nor have a sheliach tzibbur ... with fewer than ten."


There are two main ways in which to interpret this mishna:


1) The Ge'onim (cited in the Ran): "Porsin" signifies "to begin."  In other words, one cannot fulfill his obligations of the berakhot of Keriat Shema and chazarat ha-shatz through another's berakha unless ten are present.  If ten are present, one can recite the berakhot, with the others fulfilling their obligation by listening.


2) Rashi, Tosafot, and the ruling of the Shulkhan Arukh (69):  "Porsin" comes from the word "perusa" - a slice.  This indicates that ten men who prayed alone can subsequently fulfill their obligations of Kaddish, Barkhu, and Kedusha.  How so?  One is chosen to say Kaddish and Barkhu and the first berakha of Keriat Shema (until "Barukh ata Hashem yotzer ha-me'orot"), then he skips until Shemoneh Esrei, and begins Shemoneh Esrei aloud and says Kedusha.  Since only a small piece (or "slice") of Keriat Shema is said, this procedure is referred to as "porsin al Shema."


            Why is the berakha of "Yotzer ha-me'orot" included?  Writes the Beit Yosef: (1) perhaps it is in accordance with the opinion of the Rambam that the Kedusha which is part of this berakha also requires a tzibbur; and (2) if the chazzan says Barkhu ("Bless!") and they do not respond, they look like heretics.  The Rema, though, writes that the custom was to say Kaddish, Barkhu, and immediately afterwards Shemoneh Esrei, without "Yotzer ha-me'orot," with the reasons being (1) that we accept the opinion of the Rosh that the Kedusha of Yotzer Or is simply a narrative being recounted about the angels, and (2) since the congregation responds "Barukh Hashem ha-mevorakh le-olam va-ed," they do not appear to be heretics (Darkei Moshe 69:1).


            [Several verses should be recited before Kaddish, because it has to be said "upon" something.]


            The Ridbaz (IV:241) disagrees with all this and believes that if all ten had prayed already, then one of them may not pray again.  The Mishna Berura (69:1) cites the Ridbaz and goes on to say that even he would admit that if one of them had not prayed (which is frequently the case - that there were only nine to start with and therefore they prayed individually, and then a tenth arrived), he can be "pores al Shema."  In such a case, even one of those who already prayed can be "pores" in order to fulfill the other's obligation, in accordance with the dictum "All Yisrael are responsible one for the other."


            [The rationale of the Ridbaz lies in the fact that if they all prayed, their obligation of "tefilla be-tzibbur" is no longer existent.  Therefore, if there was one who had not prayed, this obligation does exist for him and he may then be "pores al Shema" and others who have already prayed may also do so for him.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan disagrees with this, maintaining that even those who have already prayed retain the obligation of Kedusha and the like.  Only with regard to zimmun (the obligation for three to join together in Birkat ‎Ha-mazon) do we say that if the three recited Birkat Ha-mazon individually then their obligation of zimmun is no longer existent.  This is because zimmun is intrinsically connected to Birkat Ha-mazon, unlike Kedusha and Barkhu which are obligations independent of tefilla.]


            This law applies as well to one who arrives late to synagogue.  After saying Pesukei De-zimra, he may say Kaddish and Barkhu and then continue with his prayer.  (If he fears that the congregants will leave before he finishes, he may say an abbreviated Pesukei De-zimra, consisting of only Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach; the Biur Halakha [s.v. She-yashlim] entertains the possibility that perhaps he should begin with Yotzer Or.)  When he reaches Shemoneh Esrei, he should recite aloud until after Kedusha, then continue quietly (Biur Halakha s.v. Yashlim - since this is, after all, not chazarat ha-shatz but rather the individual, silent prayer).  According to the Rema, if the congregation is in a rush, he may first say Shemoneh Esrei and afterward Keriat Shema and its berakhot.  However, the Magen Avraham (cited in M.B. 69:13) writes that le-khat'chila it is preferable not to do this, since he will then not be able to juxtapose ge'ula (the berakha "Ga'al Yisrael") with tefilla (Shemoneh Esrei).


            This law applies to Ma'ariv as well.  If one missed Barkhu, he may say it (together with nine who have already heard it) and then continue to pray (Peri Megadim, cited in M.B. 69:6).


            In general, though, this option is used only for Kedusha, for one who missed Barku can fulfill his obligation with the Barkhu at the end of tefilla or during Keriat Ha-Torah.  In principle, if one arrived late and missed Barkhu but the chazzan has not yet begun with Yotzer Or, the chazzan may repeat Barkhu for him.


            There is a debate among Rishonim, cited in Tosafot (Megilla 23b), regarding the number of people (who have not heard Kedusha, or - according to the Ridbaz - who have not prayed) for whom "porsin al Shema" is done:

1. Rabbeinu Tam:  Seven who have not heard are necessary, in accordance with the seven words of the verse, "In the time of tumultuous strife ["bi-fro'a pera'ot"] in Yisrael, when the people volunteered themselves; praise God" (Shoftim 5:2).  That is, for the sake of those who have behaved improperly by coming late to tefilla - "bi-fro'a pera'ot" - other people may "volunteer" to join them for Barkhu. 

2. Rambam (and another opinion in Tosafot):  Six are necessary; "barkhu" is the sixth word of the verse.

3. Rabbeinu Tam in Sefer Ha-yashar:  Five are necessary; there are five words in the verse until "barkhu."

4. Tosafot's conclusion:  Three are necessary; "Bi-fro'a pera'ot be-Yisrael" are three words, corresponing to the three latecomers.

5. Talmidei Rashi (cited in Tosafot there):  It may be done even for one.


            The Shulchan Arukh rules that le-khat'chila six are needed, but if there are not six, it may be done even for one.


            From the law of "pores al Shema" we learn that though a "davar she-bikedusha" requires the presence of ten, it may be recited for the benefit of even one who has not yet heard it (le-khat'chila, it is preferable to have six).



            The Darkei Moshe (siman 69) writes in the name of Maharam Mintz (Responsa, 15) that it is only with "perisat Shema" that there are those who are lenient (i.e., for Kaddish, Kedusha, and Barkhu), but for tefilla (i.e., chazarat ha-shatz) ten who have not yet prayed are needed.


            The Darkei Moshe himself disagrees with this and says that the words of the Beit Yosef indicate that six who have not prayed are sufficient for chazarat ha-shatz as well, which is in fact a logical position to take since these are all devarim she-bikedusha and there is no reason to distinguish between them.


            The Rambam (Tefilla 8:4) too appears to regard six as sufficient even for chazarat ha-shatz:


"How does communal prayer [tefillat ha-tzibbur] work?  One prays aloud and the others listen.  And this is not done with less than ten people, and even if some of them have already prayed and fulfilled their obligation they may supplement the number, provided the majority of the ten have not prayed."


            This opinion is found likewise in the Hagahot Maimoniot (there) in the name of Rabbeinu Tam.  Apparently, those who believe that one is enough for "perisat Shema" (which indeed is accepted as halakha) hold the same for tefilla.  However, the Magen Avraham (69:4) writes that chazarat ha-shatz requires six.  Why?  The Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav (69:5, and this is implicit in the Magen Avraham there) explains it well: if we were to repeat it for the sake of an individual, it would no longer be a prayer of the tzibbur, and therefore we need a majority of ten (i.e. six). 


            [There is actually disagreement as to the position of the Magen Avraham: the Shaa'rei Teshuva and the Responsa Tzvi Ve-chamid (siman 9) believe it should read "ten," not "six."  But the Minchat Yitzchak (vol. III, 10) and the Yechaveh Da'at (vol. V, 7) say that "six" is the correct version.]


            We see now that there are two distinct concepts: "davar she-bikedusha," and "tefillat ha-tzibbur."  Each of these requires the presence of ten, but for the former it is in principle sufficient to have one who has not fulfilled his obligation, while for the latter, six who have not prayed are necessary.


            Chazarat ha-shatz, therefore, requires six who have not prayed.  The Responsa Imrei Yosher (II:9) and Minchat Yitzchak (I:57) add that if one of the six did not begin Shemoneh Esrei together with them, they are still permitted to do chazarat ha-shatz, even if that one is still in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei.


            For Kaddish, Kedusha, and Barkhu, one person who has not said these is theoretically sufficient (though six are preferable).  Ma'ariv, then, can be repeated even for one, since it lacks a chazarat ha-shatz.  This opinion is expressed in the Responsa Melamed Le-ho'il of R. David Zvi Hoffman (siman 7).  It is apparently also the view of the Peri Megadim (cited in M.B. 69:6) who writes that he should say Barkhu, "and it is possible that he can also say the Kaddish that is before Shemoneh Esrei."  (According to this, if there are not six, he should not say the Kaddish which follows Shemoneh Esrei.)  It still makes sense to say, though, that as long as there are not six present, it is not considered tefillat ha-tzibbur (this seems implicit in the Responsa Melamed Le-ho'il, siman 3).


            This matter still calls for further examination.  From what we have seen until now, six participants - in conjunction with four others - are considered a quorum.  As the Mishna Berura writes (69:8), "When there is a majority of a minyan, they are like a full congregation."


            However, the Chayei Adam writes (klal 19:1):


"The essence of communal prayer is Shemoneh Esrei, meaning that ten adults pray together, unlike what the masses believe - that the main reason for having ten is to say Kaddish, Kedusha, and Barkhu, and therefore they are not careful to pray together and content themselves with having ten in the synagogue, but this is a grave mistake."


            It appears from this that only when ten pray together is there communal prayer, and a majority is not enough.  But the Mishna Berura after writing in siman 69 that a majority is considered a full congregation, quotes these words of the Chayei Adam in 90:28!


            A satisfactory explanation is found in the Responsa Machazeh Avraham (siman 9) and the Beit Barukh (on the Chayei Adam, se'if katan 3).  They wonder at the many who learn from the Chayei Adam that the dictum that "majority rules" does not hold true for communal prayer.  The context of his statement reveals that he simply meant to rule that the essence of tefillat tzibbur is the praying of Shemoneh Esrei together, as opposed to Kaddish or Kedusha.  But six (plus four) are indeed considered a tzibbur.


            This issue has ramifications also in the case of six who start Shemoneh Esrei together when the others have not yet reached that point - they too are considered a congregation.  Of course, it is preferable and desirable to have ten who begin together. 


            It should be noted that the Igrot Moshe (vol. I, 28-29) deals with this matter and rules that only ten praying together are considered as tefillat tzibbur, as in the simple reading of the Chayei Adam.  However, he distinguishes between tefillat tzibbur (which is the ideal way of saying Shemoneh Esrei) and devarim she-bikedusha (such as Kaddish and Kedusha).  Here is his view of the matter:


            "Devarim she-bikedusha" can be said with fewer than ten [who have not discharged their ogligation] - either with one, according to Rashi, or with six according to other opinions.  For Kaddish and Kedusha we are more lenient in that one is enough, while for chazarat ha-shatz we are more stringent and require six.  This is based on the idea that chazarat ha-shatz is not considered tefillat tzibbur (and therefore does not require ten who have not prayed), but rather is a davar she-bikedusha.  On the other hand, it differs from other devarim she-bikedusha in that it is an obligation which rests upon a majority of a minyan (i.e. six, even when all are well-versed in tefilla).  If there are not six, the obligation does not exist unless there are those who are unfamiliar with the tefilla.


            It follows that chazarat ha-shatz when there are not six (and all are well-versed) is recited solely for the purpose of saying Kedusha.  That being the case, it is preferable to begin Shemoneh Esrei aloud immediately; this provides an opportunity for Kedusha just as well, without an unnecessary repetition of the tefilla.


            The Igrot Moshe addresses this issue again in siman 30, citing the Rambam (Tefilla 4:8) who indicates that a majority is sufficient to create a tefillat tzibbur:


"How does communal prayer [tefillat ha-tzibbur] work?  One prays aloud and the others listen.  And this is not done with less than ten people, and even if some of them have already prayed and fulfilled their obligation they may supplement the number, provided the majority of the ten have not prayed."


Since this ruling of the Rambam seems to contradict Rav Feinstein's previous assertion about tefillat ha-tzibbur, the Igrot Moshe here concludes with a "tzarikh iyun"- leaving it as an open question.


            So, since the Igrot Moshe left it as a "tzarikh iyun," and since it appears clear that the Rambam believes that six who have not prayed can have a tefillat ha-tzibbur, and since this is the ruling found in the responsa of the Machazeh Avraham, the Emek Berakha, the Yechaveh Da'at and others, we wrote above that a majority of a minyan is considered as a tzibbur, though whenever possible it is desirable to have ten who began together.



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)