Can I daven Mincha in a Minyan instead of my husband?
Rabbanit Rachel Weinstein
She'elaCan I, on occasion, or as a regular routine, go to mincha instead of my husband on Shabbat afternoon? I'd like to, and last week I did. He put the kids to bed while I went to mincha. It was great. But, I didn't repeat it this week since I really don't know if it was right. I do not need to daven with a minyan, whereas he does. But, if he is busy with the kids, perhaps he does not?? If relevant, I'm not proud to say that, if I'm honest, I know I will not daven mincha at home alone, only if I go to shul, whereas he will. Nonetheless I don't think this is something we can repeat. I hope I'm wrong!
Davening in a minyan – obligation or recommendation?
Are men obligated to daven in a minyan or is it, instead, only strongly encouraged that they do so?
The Gemara in Brachot 7b records a conversation between Rav Nachman and Rabbi Yitzchak. Rabbi Yitzchak approaches Rav Nachman and asks why he didn't daven in a minyan; Rav Nachman answers that he couldn't. The Gemara goes on to describe at length how important it is to daven in a minyan.
מאי דכתיב ואני תפלתי לך ה' עת רצון - אימתי עת רצון - בשעה שהצבור מתפללין... רבי נתן אומר: מנין שאין הקדוש ברוך הוא מואס בתפלתן של רבים, שנאמר: הן אל כביר ולא ימאס...אמר ריש לקיש: כל מי שיש לו בית הכנסת בעירו ואינו נכנס שם להתפלל - נקרא שכן רע (תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף ח עמוד א)
The Gemara explains that Hashem receives the prayers of the ציבור, in this context meaning the minyan. The Gemara goes on to say that one who lives in a city with a בית כנסת but chooses not to go is described as a שכן רע, a bad neighbor.
This story in the Gemara and the strong encouragement to daven in a minyan and admonition for those who don't, leads us to believe that davening in a minyan is certainly desirable but not obligatory.
On the other hand there are a number of sources that seem to say that davening in a minyan is obligatory. In the Gemara Pesachim 46a we see that one should travel up to 4 Miles (Talmudic Miles) for purposes of Tefila and netilat yadayim. Rashi explains this Gemara in the context of how much of an effort one must make in order to daven in shul; the Tosafot understand this as a reference to davening in a minyan.
There are other interpretations of this Gemara. The Aruch and the Rambam understand the Gemara in reference to netilat yadayim (Aruch – Gval, Rambam Hilchot Tefila 4:2).
In the Rishonim we see the opinion of the Ramban that davening in a minyan is obligatory, and that of the Rambam whose opinion is disputed.
The Shulchan Aruch (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 90) stresses the importance of davening in a minyan and some understand this to mean that it is obligatory. The Aruch HaShulchan for example rules that one who lives within a mile of a minyan must daven in a minyan (Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chayim 90:20). The Mishna Berura (90: 52) criticizes lazy people who don't daven in a minyan. This of course is in keeping with the idea that davening in a minyan is very important, but not necessarily obligatory.
Others point out that the Shulchan Aruch chooses to use the word ישתדל when referring to davening in a minyan, indicating that it is important but seemingly not an obligation. The Maharil states that davening in a minyan אינה כל כך מצווה:
להתפלל בעשרה אינה כ"כ מצוה דיכול לכוון תפלתו בביתו, דלא אשכחן אשר הצריכו חכמים להתפלל בי'. (מהריל הלכות עירובי חצרות ז)
The Chavot Yair (Chavot Yair 115) quotes the Maharil and explains that although davening in a minyan is important, it is related to the mitzvah of ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל that is kept in saying Kaddish - the actual davening in a minyan is not a mitzvah.
The Aruch HaShulchan describes davening in a minyan as preferable:
התפלה היותר מקובלת והמצוה היותר גדול הוא להתפלל בבהכ"נ עם הצבור (ערוך השולחן אורח חיים סימן צ:יג)
He later uses the word הידור to describe davening in a minyan indicating that it is the better way to daven but yet again not a חובה, obligatory.
As we see, davening in a minyan is important, preferable, but not necessarily obligatory.
In a situation where davening in a minyan does not come into conflict with any other values it is clearly the right way to go and thus a great effort should be made to daven in a minyan. In your case, however, it seems there is room for discussion.
One of the components of this discussion is how regularly your husband davens in a minyan. If he is very committed to davening in a minyan three time a day, this would indicate that he has accepted the opinions of the Poskim who say that davening in a minyan is obligatory. If so, it would seem to be more problematic to ask him to change his ways.
If not, there appears to be more room for discussion as it would seem that he has accepted the opinion of the Poskim who state that davening in a minyan is important but not obligatory.
Women's obligation to Daven
Another important point in this discussion is whether a woman is obligated to daven at all, and more specifically, to daven Mincha. There are differing opinions regarding these questions. The Mishna Berura holds that women are obligated to daven Shacharit and Mincha (Mishna Berura 106:3). If your husband staying home and allowing you to go to shul is the only way that can happen, it seems that is arguably a valid option. At least sometimes.
Is a man who is taking care of his children exempt from Tefila?
The reason often given for women's exemption from time bound positive mitzvot is that they are busy taking care of their children (note that this is not the only explanation given). Is this rationale transferable to men?
According to HaRav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul it is:
שו"ת אור לציון חלק ב - הערות פרק ז - הלכות תפילה הערה כד
ומכל מקום אשה המטופלת בילדים ועסוקה בכך כל היום ואין לה פנאי במשך היום להתפלל, פטורה לגמרי מן התפילה, שהרי היא כעוסק במצוה הפטור מן המצוה. (וכן דעת החפץ חיים, וכפי שהובא בשיחות הח"ח חלק א' אות כ"ז, ע"ש). ואף אינה חייבת בתשלומין, וכמבואר בברכ"י בסימן צ"ג אות ג', וראה עוד בכה"ח שם אות ט"ו. והוא הדין לאיש, שאם האשה אינה בבית, כגון שהלכה ללדת, והבעל צריך לטפל בילדים ואינו מוצא זמן להתפלל, שפטור מן התפילה משום עוסק במצוה, ואף אינו חייב בתשלומין.
Following his opinion that on the whole women are obligated to daven, he explains that while they are caring for their children, they are exempt. He goes on to say that this is true for men too, in a case where they are caring for their children. Although the case he refers to is not comparable to ours, e.g. when the mother is not home for reasons such as childbirth, it seems that the Halakhic rationale stands. העסוק במצווה פטור מן המצווה - one who is immersed in the fulfillment of a mitzva is exempt from other mitzvot.
HaRav Abba Shaul seems to equate the obligation of men and women davening, which allows flexibility regarding the question of who stays home and who goes to shul.
Is there a difference between men's obligation in regard to davening in a minyan or whether it is preferable for them to do so? Many assume the answer to this question is yes, based on the fact that a woman is not counted in a minyan. On the other hand one might argue that the Shulchan Aruch lists davening in a minyan along with other descriptions of the ideal place and time to daven (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 90). Most of the list presumably applies to men and women. If that’s the case then why would davening in a minyan not apply?
HaRav Yaakov Ariel holds that women are obligated to daven in a minyan:
מיהו נראה שגם אשה חייבת להתפלל בציבור, שנאמר "הן אל כביר ולא ימאס"). אהלה של תורה ב סימן כ"ו)
He explains that since Hashem more readily accepts the prayers of the ציבור, the minyan, women should also daven in a minyan. When later asked if he completely equates the obligation of men and women to daven in a minyan he answers:
ודאי שאין לנשים חובה כגברים והראיה שאין הן מוציאות גברים ואינן
חייבות בתפילה בציבור אבל הן חייבות בתפילה עי' משנ"ב סי' קו ס"ק
ד.אלא שיש עדיפות לתפילה בציבור גם לנשים
A woman’s obligation is not the same as a man’s and his proof for this is the fact that a woman cannot be מוציא a man. He adds that women are not actually חייבות to daven in a minyan. Interestingly, in the previous quote, HaRav Ariel seems to say that women are חייבות to daven in a minyan.
In practice it seems that there is Halakhic flexibility regarding your question. It is a viable option for you to go to shul for Mincha sometimes and for your husband to stay home and take care of the kids.
I strongly urge you to have a sincere conversation with your husband, exploring the implications of the different options. It is important to take into account how this and other decisions you make about Tefilla and spirituality affect your Avodat Hashem, your relationship with one other, and the atmosphere in your home. Finding a healthy balance is an ongoing lifelong challenge. It is important to strive to make decisions that you are both comfortable with and that promote the goals that both of you set for yourselves as individuals, as a couple and as a family. That being said I think it is also important to remember that the intensity of this challenge in the childbearing/ childrearing years is much less present later in life, or so they say….
I wish you much hatzlacha in this decision and many others to come.