By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
One of our most revered Torah sages of the last century was Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, of Jerusalem. We are concluding our series of articles featuring rulings culled from the prestigious Torah journal Mevakshei Torah printed in Israel (POB 41170, Jerusalem). For the benefit of the reader, the rulings for each topic are preceded below by a brief introduction to the topic.
Laws Of Birkas Kohanim
The Kohanim, the priests of a nation of priests, are enjoined by the Torah to bless the nation. This, too, has a protocol; one for the Kohanim and for the nation receiving their blessing. What should we be doing while they recite their blessings?
55. One who, while reciting the Shemoneh Esreih, is standing in a place where the Kohanim will duchen may pass by someone who is in the middle of his Shemoneh Esreih in order that the Kohanim may be able to stand in their place.
56. If one cannot wash his hands before the blessing of the Kohanim because he cannot step backward, he may, if he has no other option, wash his hands before davening, and make sure that he guards his hands carefully that they not become impure. Even though the Acharonim have written not to do so, in this situation where there is no other recourse and he knows that he can maintain the purity of his hands, we may be lenient.
57. One who is standing in the middle of Shemoneh Esreih and the shaliach tzibbur has reached Birkas Kohanim should remain silent and be attentive to their blessing. This is because it is the opinion of the chareidim that there is a positive mitzvah incumbent upon Bnei Yisrael that they be blessed. Even without this, it would be permitted to stop because he wishes to be blessed with Birkas Kohanim.
58. One who is davening his silent Shemoneh Esreih while the shaliach tzibbur is davening his repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih (and the one davening the personal Shemoneh Esreih is keeping up with the shaliach tzibbur) should answer Amen to the berachos of the Kohanim (but not to the berachah that the Kohanim make “asher kidshanu b’mitzvosav,” etc.).
59. Those who have the custom to recite the blessings of the Kohanim silently so that just the Kohanim and not the congregation will hear are mistaken, and should recite them aloud.
The Final Parts
Here are listed other rulings of Rabbi Auerbach that take us through the end of davening, and into other aspects of davening in a shul. We begin with the laws of Tachanun, literally, “supplication.” Jewish history, marred as it is with blood, tears, and tragedy, gave rise to this section of davening. Below we find the halachic aspects of its recitation. Other rulings that follow it give details of how the final sections of the tefillah interact with previous parts.
60. One who is davening in a minyan and the congregation reached the 13 Attributes, yet he did not [reach it], must stop and recite them and then go back to where he left off.
61. If one is unable to recite the entire Tachanun of Monday and Thursday carefully, it is preferable to say less of it but more carefully, as quality is better than quantity.
62. Regarding a shul in which a b’ris has taken place, all minyanim that are praying after the b’ris has been performed recite Tachanun.
63. One who is reciting Tachanun and the congregation has already reached the 13 Attributes should join them, and not say them privately with the taamim.
64. One who receives an aliyah in a place with a different pronunciation than his own, that is Sephardic or Yemenite, should say the berachos with the pronunciation practiced at that place.
65. One who prays with a Sephardic pronunciation may read the Torah with an Ashkenazic pronunciation to an Ashkenazic congregation. For Parashas Zachor, however, he should hear it specifically in a Sephardic pronunciation.
66. If one is in the middle of Shemoneh Esreih and the congregation is up to the reading of the Torah, it is prohibited to stop his prayer in order to listen to the reading. This is too great a hefsek and it is inappropriate to interrupt his tefillah. He also does not have to make it up later by hearing the reading elsewhere unless he wishes to on account of hiddur mitzvah.
67. One who began to say La’mnatzeiach on a day that this Mizmor is not said, should stop and not continue the Mizmor even though he already began the pasuk Ya’ancha Hashem be’yom tzarah.
68. One who prays Nusach Ashkenaz and already recited the Aleinu after Uva L’Tzion and is now saying Ein KeElokeinu while the congregation (which is Nusach Sephard) is reciting the Aleinu, does not have to stop and say Aleinu with the congregation since he is involved in his prayer. However, ideally, he should be careful to pray just as the congregation is praying.
Appointing A Shomer
The Talmud informs us of the prohibition of eating (even of learning Torah) within half an hour of the time to recite the Kerias Shema of night. The concern is that perhaps we will continue in our meal (or our studying) and forget to recite it. It is unfortunate that this concern is more applicable today than ever before. The Mishnah Berurah, however, provides us with an interesting footnote to this halachah. In Orach Chaim 235:17, he quotes the opinion of the Acharonim that if one appoints a person who is not learning to remind him to recite the Shema, it is permitted. This person is called a shomer.
69. Placing a sign on one’s clothing (such as switching his watch to his other hand) in order to remind oneself to daven is not considered equivalent to appointing a shomer (person who will remind one to daven); however, setting a watch or clock alarm that will surely remind him is considered equivalent.
70. In a yeshiva where they eat before Ma’ariv, there is no need to appoint a shomer since everyone reminds each other and the time for davening is well established. However, one who does not pray with regularity at the yeshiva must appoint a shomer.
Minchah And Ma’ariv
Just as davening Shacharis with a minyan is important, so too is davening Minchah and Ma’ariv with a minyan most important. Among many yeshivos and some shuls, the custom at Minchah has become prevalent for the reader to recite a half Shemoneh Esreih (i.e., to say aloud until Kedushah and then everyone begins his personal Shemoneh Esreih silently while the reader merely continues silently). Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, recommended against this practice (at least in a shul setting). Below we find two rulings about the Shemoneh Esreih for Minchah and Ma’ariv.
71. It is better to say Minchah with a full Shemoneh Esreih even if the repetition of it will be after shekiyah (sundown) than to say a half Shemoneh Esreih.
72. Even though there is an opinion that davening at the same time as the shaliach tzibbur’s repetition is still considered tefillah b’tzibbur, this does not work for one who is davening Ma’ariv when the shaliach tzibbur is davening Minchah, for this is a prayer of the day and the other is a prayer of the night. Even Kaddish Tiskabel of the evening should not be said for the day prayer, but the custom is not like this.
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It is the author’s hope that presenting this small glimpse of the rulings of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, will motivate the reader to take a fresh look at some of the halachos discussed herein. We hope that the reader will perhaps have the opportunity to delve further into the halachic issues discussed with his or her rabbi, in the actual sources. v
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.