Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Only Ten People In Shul For Laining And the Kohen Leaves...

We had this problem in shul this past Shabbos. We had exactly ten people, with one Kohen. For whatever reason, the Kohen decided that he did not want the first aliyah. In order to preclude the gabbai from calling him up, he walked out of the shul into the hallway.

The problem, however, was that there were only ten people in shul. The gabbai called up a Yisrael, but now we were stuck. The person who was called up can't say Barchu, because we only had nine people. If the Kohen walks back in, even after Barchu, we have to set the Yisrael aside and call up the Kohen. What to do?

The rav thought about it for a moment and ruled in an interesting manner. He ruled that the Kohen was, in a manner of speaking, both present and not present at the same time. He was present for the purpose of having a minyan (he was still visible to us in the hallway), but yet, by getting up and walking out, he clearly demonstrated that he did not want the first aliyah and so, in that respect, he wasn't there. To do otherwise, he explained, would make two people unhappy - the Kohen, who clearly didn't want the aliyah, and the oleh, who would have to be set aside and stand by the bimah until the third aliyah. To cause two people unhappiness on Shabbos, the rav said, was something that he didn't want to do. So, the Yisrael said Barchu and the Kohen walked back in as the oleh was making the bracha.

The Wolf

33 comments:

Shira Salamone said...

Nice call by the rabbi.

Please watch your own choice of language, though. What do you mean, "The person who was called up can't say Barchu, because we only had nine people."? We women may not count for a minyan, but we, too, are people. The next time you mean "men," please say so, and don't add insult to exclusion.

Rich Perkins said...

on a related minyan topic, can an orthoprax individual like myself be counted for a minyan?

When i go to minyan, I try not to be the 10th so that those who care are not effected, but sometimes you can't avoid it.

-suitepotato- said...

Interesting reasoning. A legal fiction employed at shul...

Can You Say Challal? said...

I would have hauled that idiot kohen's kiester back in to shul. What a jerk.

BrooklynWolf said...

Shira,

Fair enough. However, this happened at Mincha and, as it turned out, there were no women present.

No insult of exclusion was meant. My apologies if it came out that way.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Rich,

Ask your LOR (with the O standing for Orthodox or Orthoprax, as you see fit).

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Can You Say...,

That's fine for you. My rav did not want to do that, as explained above.

The Wolf

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

shira:

of course, if you want to really be accurate, you'd have to say adult male jews in good standing. which i have been known to do on occasion.

Joseph said...

Obviously this synagogue does not conform to Orthodoxy (even if it "calls" itself "Orthodox.")

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

That's a very loaded statement to make. Care to explain?

The Wolf

Joseph said...

If I had to take a guess, I'd venture to say that this synagogue is described as modern orthodox.

Be that correct or not, an absurdity for a Kohen to walk out to avoid an aliya is just that, unorthodox (in the simple dictionary meaning of that word.)

And to top it off, where he is 1 of only 10 in a minyan, to count him for the purposes of the minyan but to discount him for the purposes of the leining, is insanity and unorthodox.

With all due respect to the Rabbi who was wrong despite the feel-good concepts of inclusiveness, tolerance, love, compassion, and all of America's favorite liberal keywords.

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

First you said that the shul is not Orthodox, now you're saying that it's MO. Which is it? Or are the MO not really Orhtodox?

In any event, the shul is not MO.

an absurdity for a Kohen to walk out to avoid an aliya is just that, unorthodox

So, you're judging the entire character of the shul on the behavior of one person? Suppose the Kohen *was* not frum (which I don't know one way or the other), so what? Does that make the shul a non-Orthodox shul? Or does your shul have someone standing by the door checking the frumkeit of everyone who walks in? The bottom line, I suppose, is that, for whatever reason, the kohen walked out. The question now is, what to do about it? So, what would you do? Drag the kohen back in against his will?

to count him for the purposes of the minyan but to discount him for the purposes of the leining, is insanity and unorthodox

Why? Suppose he was called up and refused to go. What would you do then? Drag him to the bimah? I don't think so. Isn't this, in effect, the same situation?

the Rabbi who was wrong despite the feel-good concepts of inclusiveness, tolerance, love, compassion, and all of America's favorite liberal keywords

This rabbi is hardly a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. He happens to be very conservative (not Conservative... oh, heck, you know what I mean) both politically and religiously.

What he did wasn't done because of "tolerance" or "love." It was done because (a) the situation really had no other solution and (b) to force the Kohen back would make two people unhappy on Shabbos -- which is not permitted.

If you have some other solution that would have worked better, please feel free to say it. I'll pass it along to the rabbi.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

First you said that the shul is not Orthodox, now you're saying that it's MO. Which is it? Or are the MO not really Orhtodox?

Reread my original comment.

So, you're judging the entire character of the shul on the behavior of one person?

I judged the ACTION, not the shul or its congregation.

The question now is, what to do about it? So, what would you do? Drag the kohen back in against his will?

The Rabbi tells the Kohen to kindly return to the synagogue as there is no minyan in his absence. He then advises him that an aliya is an honor to the Torah, and its refusal is an affront to the Torah and so to kindly do his duty.

If he continues in his obstinacy, the Rabbi announces to the remaining 8 (aside from himself) in the Congregation that since their is no minyan, there will be no leining and to please finish davening b'yichidus.

BrooklynWolf said...


I judged the ACTION, not the shul or its congregation.


Yes, except that you are saying that because of the action of one person, the shul does not conform to Orthodoxy.

However, to leave that aside, there are two problems with your solution:

Firstly, a Kohen is *allowed* to forgo his kavod. You're now suggesting that he should not be allowed to.

Secondly, as soon as the Rav would announce your solution, he would walk back in and now you have your Minyan again and you're back to square one.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

Yes, except that you are saying that because of the action of one person, the shul does not conform to Orthodoxy.

My point is that, that action and its solution was quite unorthodox.

Firstly, a Kohen is *allowed* to forgo his kavod. You're now suggesting that he should not be allowed to.

If a Kohen, being the only one in the congregation, is halachically permitted to sit in his seat and forgo his alya, why didn't this kohen do just that? Why walk out?

Secondly, as soon as the Rav would announce your solution, he would walk back in and now you have your Minyan again and you're back to square one.

And so the Rabbi instructs the gabbai to call the Kohen for his aliya. If the Kohen comes, fine. If not, there is nothing to proceed with.

BrooklynWolf said...

If a Kohen, being the only one in the congregation, is halachically permitted to sit in his seat and forgo his alya, why didn't this kohen do just that? Why walk out?

I don't know why he walked out? Maybe because the custom has been for the Kohen to walk out in that situation. Nonetheless, he did -- and nonetheless, a Kohen is still allowed to be mochel on his kavod.

And so the Rabbi instructs the gabbai to call the Kohen for his aliya. If the Kohen comes, fine. If not, there is nothing to proceed with.

Sure there is, because then you put away the sefer, the Kohen walks in, you have a minyan and you have the obligation of krias HaTorah again. So the kohen walks out and you're back to square one. Once the kohen walks back in again, you once again have a chiyuv of krias hatorah. You can either keep playing this cat-and-mouse game, or you can find an alternative solution.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

I don't know why he walked out? Maybe because the custom has been for the Kohen to walk out in that situation. Nonetheless, he did -- and nonetheless, a Kohen is still allowed to be mochel on his kavod.

I can assure you with confidence that there is no "custom" in Torah Judaism to walk out of a shul to avoid an aliya, under any circumstances.

A Kohen may be moichel his kovod by something like leading a mzumin by bentching. By leining on Shabbos, according to the Igros Moshe OH II:34 it seems he cannot.

If it were permissible, than you don't have a problem in the first place and this discussion becomes irrelevant. The "solution" would be the Kohen sits as is, and announces he gave up his right to the aliya.

Sure there is, because then you put away the sefer, the Kohen walks in, you have a minyan and you have the obligation of krias HaTorah again. So the kohen walks out and you're back to square one. Once the kohen walks back in again, you once again have a chiyuv of krias hatorah. You can either keep playing this cat-and-mouse game, or you can find an alternative solution.

This "cat-and-mouse game" is a perversion by the Kohen, if he indeed walks out and in as you suggest. He clearly indicates by such sacrilegious action that he has no intention of participating in the minyan, and as such he is not counted as part of any.

(Perhaps, in such a circumstance, the service could continue for the remaining prayers, minus the leining, as a minyan.)

BrooklynWolf said...

By leining on Shabbos.

Ah, but this was by Mincha. The Shabbos Mincha laining is, essentially, a weekday laining (we don't say "V'Ya'azor," we say "L'Dovid Mizmor" when the sefer is put away, etc.)

(And, BTW, just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that this Kohen did this cat-and-mouse game [he certainly did not] nor that he would... just that it is a theoretical possibility. I don't want to cast unnecessary aspersions on this particular Kohen).

The Wolf

The Wolf

Joseph said...

Ah, but this was by Mincha. The Shabbos Mincha laining is, essentially, a weekday laining (we don't say "V'Ya'azor," we say "L'Dovid Mizmor" when the sefer is put away, etc.)

My reading of the Igros Moshe quoted does not differentiate between Shabbos Shachris and Shabbos Mincha. It only differentiates between Shabbos and weekdays.


(And, BTW, just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that this Kohen did this cat-and-mouse game [he certainly did not] nor that he would... just that it is a theoretical possibility. I don't want to cast unnecessary aspersions on this particular Kohen).


Aside from not knowing who you, the Kohen or shul in question is, I understood your analogy. :-)

BrooklynWolf said...

My reading of the Igros Moshe quoted does not differentiate between Shabbos Shachris and Shabbos Mincha. It only differentiates between Shabbos and weekdays.

I don't have an Igros Moshe handy, so I'll have to ask you directly... does R. Moshe zt"l state *why* a Shabbos laining is different with regard to a Kohen being allowed or not allowed to forgo his honor?

The Wolf

Joseph said...

I don't have the Sefer handy at this time either, sorry.

Ezzie said...

In my in-laws' shul (which is certainly not MO, and has a Chassidishe Rav), the Kohen in the shul almost always walks out for Kohen so they don't have to call him up.

While there are almost always only between 15 and 30 adult men there and there have been times where they barely had a minyan, I don't recall him ever being the 10th when laining began. I'm curious what would happen.

Pesky Settler said...

I find this whole thing to be disturbing and a dishonor to the mantle and responsibility of what it is to be born into the Priestly tribe of Levi.

Without the Beit haMikdash, the Kohen and Levi have little enough to do in the role he is born into but to further remove oneself from Priestly obligation is an insult.

I mean we're talking about getting up and reciting a few brachot for heaven's sake! Depending on how long the Aliyah is, it's what? 15 minutes of his time?

Would a Kohen dare to refuse service in the Beit haMikdash???

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

PESKY:

"I find this whole thing to be disturbing . . . Would a Kohen dare to refuse service in the Beit haMikdash???"

i think you are misunderstanding the dynamics of what is happening when a kohen "refuses" an aliyah. the practice of the kohen walking out isn't because he doesn't want the aliyah, but rather it is to afford the opportunity to someone with a hiyyuv to be able to get an aliyah. remember that at mincha (which is where this happens), there is only 1 aliyah for yisrael. let's say 2 yisre'elim have hiyyuvim, the kohen's leaves so each can have an aliyah. (actually 3 can now get an aliyah because once the kohen leaves, we need not give the second aliyah to a levi, even if present.) so it is actually a hesed of a sort that the kohen "refuses" his aliyah.

now this brings up the question of the dubious nature of many hiyyuvim and there i would question whether the kohen should be expected to walk out, but that's a different discussion.

Meir said...

A similar question is raised in the sefer Melamed Leho'il by Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman. In his community, the korei was paid by donations of the olim. However, there was often exactly a minyan, with no Levi, and the korei was a kohein, which would have necessitated giving him two aliyot and reducing his income considerably. It's a long time since I saw it, but IIRC his solution was to call a Yisrael, and instead of "bimkom kohein," to say "bimchilat kohein."

Lion of Zion said...

hey meir!cx

Pesky Settler said...

LoZ, Thanks for the clarification. I feel better now LOL.

Lion of Zion said...

WOLF,

for starters, i don't understand why the yisrael would have been "unhappy" to wait for shelishi. was he that petty? surely he understood the situation? especially since it seems in this situation that he was not going to lose his aliyah altogether, he just had to wait? (yes, i realize people get very petty when it comes to kibbudim, but this example really seems out there.) besides, i've seen many times a gabbai instruct the kohen to walk out (even a guest once), so surely "happiness" is not expected to be a consideration in this matter.

fwir, rav soloveitchik (sp?) was allegedly opposed to the custom of walking out so a yisrael could get an aliyah. leining is supposed to have a kohen, levi and yisrael. we don't have the option, according to him, to lein without these 3 unless we don't ab initio have that option.

"If the Kohen walks back in, even after Barchu, we have to set the Yisrael aside and call up the Kohen."

we set the yisrael aside if he has said only barchu. but once the yisrael starts the berakha he remains (this is acc. to SA/MB; shaare ephraim says he remains only after if says ברוך אתה ה).

[i reposted my previous comment but it included something here that i meant to delete before i hit post, but forgot.]

"both present and not present at the same time"

i don't grasp this. either he is present or isn't.

"the Yisrael said Barchu and the Kohen walked back in as the oleh was making the bracha."

i understand the distinction btw barchu and the berakha (the former is not considered a berakhah le-vatala if he steps down and the kohen repeats it, whereas the latter is). but on the other hand, i'm still not clear how the kohen could walk in after barchu. barchu is among devarim she-bi-keduah and requires a minyan (whereas the other berakhot don't).

"a Kohen is *allowed* to forgo his kavod. You're now suggesting that he should not be allowed to."

"[Joseph:] if a Kohen, being the only one in the congregation, is halachically permitted to sit in his seat and forgo his alya, why didn't this kohen do just that? Why walk out?"

a kohen can be mochel on benching and other things, but leining is actually an exception. he CAN'T be mochel it. this is precisely why if a shul has this minhag (or game as some prefer), the kohen must leave. (and note that with benching et al the kohen does not leave when he is mochel.)

JOSEPH:

"A Kohen may be moichel his kovod by something like leading a mzumin by bentching"

iirc the AS (?) rules that it is completely the prerogative of the baal ha-bayyit to chose whomever he wants, even if a kohen is present

shabbat shalom to all

Anonymous said...

Why not think positively, and judge the Kohen for the best?

He may have felt unworthy at that point in time to approach the Torah, out of respect for the holiness of it. He may have done something he felt bad about, he may have felt spiritually impure, he may have been having stomache trouble...Why not cut him some slack? If he is religious, he knows what an aliyah is about, and if he refuses one, he must have had a reason!

Yossi Ginzberg

Joseph said...

Nu Mr. Wolf,

Did you print out these comments for your Rabbi (in question) and ask for his comment on the halachic ramifications (i.e. Igros Moshe)?

Moshe Klass said...

I happen to know this rabbi, he is definitely not modern orthodox and many consider him to be brilliant. Don't know enough about the issue though.

Anonymous said...

Most probably there was no Levi, some people hold it is a Bracha L'Vatolah for a Kohen to get two aliyos one right after the other, so people who hold this way leave so that a Yisrael will get the aliyah.