Beit Emunah Policy on Halachic Minyanim
A policy explaination


Tammuz 4, 5779 – Parshah Chukat.

It has been the goal of Beit Emunah since its inception, to provide a full synagogue experience online and at our physical location. We are a 501 (c)3 fully halachic traditional synagogue and shul, however there are a few drawbacks to online commuinities that must be acknowledged.

Shabbat is one of the cornerstones of our faith, and regularly attending services is an experience that every religious Jew seeks and needs. While we do offer Shabbat, Holy Day and Festival services, we do so without a minyan. This somewhat limits the full shul experience.

It is time to explore how to make Beit Emunah Synagogue a fuller experience to our members and those who may be looking for a viable option due to health limitations, or cannot travel great distances to attend a synagogue, or feel that driving on Shabbat and Yom Tovim is a desecration of Rabbinic Law.

The question then is, "how can we conduct services with a minyan (i.e. 10 male Jews above the age of 13) since we are only able to meet virtually? I have spent considerable time researching this question. I have consulted other rabbis and looked through various sources, but none has provided a foundation on which to move ahead. Some simply proclaim a minyan without rabbinic justification. The Tanach does not speak of a minyan requirement either way. This requirement is found only in Rabbinic sources, of course, we are Rabbinic Jews. To count an online minyan we would prefer rabbinic support. The majority of current Orthodox Rabbinic opinion prohibits online services on Shabbat, so we expect to find no support there for our question. I have not found to date, among those who disagree with this Orthodox prohibition, a Rabbinic source for counting an online minyan.

The main issues are:

• To be counted in a minyan, those counted need to be in the same building and even room.

• Because of the unavoidable time delay in broadcasting, people cannot respond to the prayers in real time.

• The worship leaders cannot hear the responses as they would not be real time as stated above.

So, with the background established, we need to consider the Rabbinic laws involved:

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55: 13 - 15


צריך שיהיו כל העשרה במקום אחד וש"ץ עמהם והעומד בתוך הפתח מן האגף ולחוץ דהיינו כשסוגר הדלת במקום [שפה] פנימית של עובי הדלת ולחוץ כלחוץ:

All of the 10 need to be in one place and the prayer leader with them. And one who stands inside the doorway, [in the area of the doorway that is] from the door-stop and outward... meaning [the area] that when you close the door at the place of the inner [lip] of the thickness of the door and outwards - it is like [he is] outside.

The prayer leader, by where he stands, can join two rooms into one, stretching, as it were, the santity of the minyan. This is a concept known as “dragging” (he is dragging the other in from an ajoining place).


מי שעומד אחורי בית הכנסת וביניהם חלון אפי' גבוה כמה קומות אפילו אינו רוחב ארבע ומראה להם פניו משם מצטרף עמהם לעשרה: הגה גגין ועליות אינן בכלל בית והעומד עליהם אינו מצטרף [ר"י נ"ג ח"ז]:

One who stands behind the synagogue and in-between them is [like] a window - even if it is several stories high [and] even if it's not 4 [tefachim] wide - and his face is seen by them from there, he joins with them for the 10. Rem"a: Roofs and upper stories (ie. attics) are not in the category of "a house" and the one who stands on them is not joined [to the 10].[because there is no "window"].


אם מקצתן בפנים ומקצתן בחוץ וש"ץ תוך הפתח הוא מצרפן:

If a few of them are inside and a few of them are outside, and the prayer-leader is in the middle of the doorway, he joins them [together for a minyan].

When we combine the exceptions of verses 13 - 15 I believe we have a solid foundation of rabbinic opinion on our minyan.

1. When one is "dragged" from one place to another some difference in time is implied; there is an unavoidable "delay" as the person is "dragged" from one place to the next. The unavoidable internet time delay is only a matters of seconds at most. This delay seems acceptable in this case.
2. In that one who is on an upper floor or roof has no "window" through which to see, even though he may be physically closer than one outside on the ground, seems to concretize an exception inconcievable to men living in the Middle Ages, but harmonious with current internet realities.
3. With some members of the minyan present in the room and others looking in through "windows" we find, according to a more current reading of the Shulcan Aruch than was concievable in the past,we are mere required to have one person in the shul, the worship leader, and others who can be seen through "windows."

Seeing the counted members of the minyan, whether in the room or through the window, affirms the person is paying attention and is present in intention with the minyan. With modern technology our community comes together through "windows" from across the earth. We therefore conclude that as long as those being counted in our minyan keep their "windows" open, ie., their cameras on, we can count them as a minyan.

היה ש"ץ בקטנה וצבור בגדולה מוציאן ידי חובתן שהוא נגרר אחריהם אבל אם היה ש"ץ בגדולה וצבור בקטנה אינו מוציאן ידי חובתן שאין הרוב נגרר אחר היחיד:

If the prayer-leader was in the small [space] and the congregation in the large space, he [the prayer leader] fulfills their obligation [through his prayer], in that he is "dragged" after them. But if the prayer-leader was in the large and the congregation in the small, he doesn't fulfill their obligation since the majority isn't dragged after the individual.

Since the prayer leader is in the shul, he can "drag" the congregation into the prayers with the minyan.

Beit Emunah is a Sephardic-based community. Sephardic tradition is to interpret the laws in ways that permit and maintain observances for the good of our communities. Hence, based on the above referenced laws, I have determined that there is indeed Rabbinic halachical permission for us to count an online minyan under our unique conditions.

Modern technology and innovation have made many acts that would have been prohibited in the past possible today. Shabbat lights allow us to have light on Shabbat without turning on and off switches. Shabbat mode on elevators allow people to go up and down without having to walk up many flights of stairs. Slow cookers make it possible to have hot food on Shabbat. And so on.

We have available to us, instant transmission of voice and picture using such programs as Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and so on. Beit Emunah has a Zoom account with a virtual "shul" accommodating many people. Therefore, we conclude that it is possible to have a minyan for services.

Halachically the Zoom "room" constitutes the larger space and those who are logged in are “dragged” into the larger as we spoke on in reference to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55: 13. The Zoom screen acts as a window, allowing the prayer leader to see and hear those in the Zoom "room" as one who stands behind the Synagogue as referenced in Shulchan Arch, Orach Chayim 55: 14. So, each individual is "dragged" into the greater "room" by the Zoom program. The Rabbi, or prayer leader, stands between the shul and the greater "room" thus dragging them into the shul.

We can also address this by means of Shulchan Arch, Orach Chayim 55: 16. If the shul is considered the smaller courtyard and the Zoom "room" is considered the greater courtyard, then the shul is "dragged" into the greater courtyard since the Zoom breaks down the wall between the two courtyards.

There is one more thing that must be addressed. For this, we turn to:

Shulchan Arch, Orach Chayim 55: 3

אם התחיל באבות ויצאו מקצתן גומר אפילו קדושה: הגה ואם יצאו מקצתן לאחר שהתחילו להתפלל יוצר לא יתחיל הש"צ להתפלל התפלה בקול רם דכבר נשלם תפלת יוצר ואם יצאו לאחר שהתחיל בקול רם וקדושה יכולים להשלים כל סדר קדושה ולומר הקדיש שלם שלאחריה דשייך לתפלה שהרי אומר תתקבל צלותהון וכו' אבל אין קורין בתורה דזהו ענין אחר ותפלת ערבית וקדיש שלאחריו לא שייך לק"ש וברכותיה [ר"ן פרק הקורא את המגילה שבולי הלקט ות"ה סי' ט"ו]: If [the chazzan] started with [the blessing of] Avot [in the Amidah] and a few people left, he can finish even Kedusha. Rem"a: If a few of them left after they began to pray "Yotzer Ohr", the prayer-leader should not begin to pray the audible [Amidah repetition] prayer because he already completed the prayer of Yotzer. And if they left after he began the audible [Amidah repetition] and Kedusha, they can complete the entire order of Kedusha and say the full Kaddish that comes after it because it belongs to the [Amidah] Prayer, in that behold it says "may their prayer be accepted..." [in the Kaddish]. But they may not read from the Torah (ie. when some left and you are now left with less than 10 men) because this is a different matter. And the evening [Amidah] Prayer and the Kaddish that comes after it - they do not belong to the recitation of the Sh'ma and its blessings. [Ran on the chapter "the one who reads the Megillah"; Shibolei Ha-Leket ... chapter 15]

So, to conduct a full public service with a minyan, we must meet the following conditions:

If you cannot be seen on the camera, it is as if you are on an upper floor or roof and may not be counted (see Shulchan Arch, Orach Chayim 55: 14 and Shulchan Arch, Orach Chayim 55: 3 above).

Finally, Beit Emunah is now looking for adult Jewish males who will commit to attending services with the intent of constituting a minyan. This is a great mitzvah for those who take in this responsibility. This will allow us to conduct full public services and say the Kaddish Yatom for those who are observing yahrzeits.

See you in shul!

Be the Blessing you were created to be
Don't let the perfect defeat the good

index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind
index sitemap advanced
search engine by freefind