Parsha Encounters



Parshas Ki Sisa:

What Really Counts

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

In the beginning of this week's Parsha, Moshe Rabeinu is told to count the Jewish people. The instructions were that all those twenty and above would donate a machtzis hashekel, which is a half shekel coin. The coins were then to be counted. Rashi quoting a Midrash Tanchuma tells us that Hashem showed Moshe a coin of fire and told him "like this they shall give." This is a most perplexing midrash. What did Moshe have difficulty with that Hashem felt it necessary to show him a coin of fire? Even more puzzling is how did seeing the coin of fire resolve this difficulty?  I once heard a most beautiful insight into this Midrash, which explains thus. Moshe Rabeinu was bothered with the following difficulty. Of all the things Hashem could have used as a vehicle to count the Jews, why was money chosen? Money is seemingly a most mundane object, possessing no spiritual value. Hashem replied by showing Moshe a coin of fire. Fire is an extremely useful tool for mankind. It can be used to cook, bake, and to heat one's home. On the other hand, fire can be utterly destructive, with the power to destroy property and even lives. It all depends on how it is used. So too is the case with money. Money, if not handled properly, can be equally as destructive as fire. However, on the flip side, if harnessed properly money can be elevated and used for very lofty purposes. It can be used to build and create great things. That is our challenge. On one hand we need to realize the destruction that money can bring, all the while recognizing how high it can take us.

I heard a second insight into this Midrash from my father R' Yonah Weinrib. Moshe was bothered with one of the laws of the machtzis hashekel. The posuk tells us that "a rich man shall give no more and a poor man no less than half a shekel." That a rich man should not give more we can understand. No one should see himself as bigger or greater because of his wealth. But why shouldn't a poor man give less? If he can't afford the donation, why compound his difficulties? Hashem in showing Moshe the coin of fire taught the following message. The most amazing property of fire is that it can give and give but the original flame is not diminished in any way. So too when one gives and uses his money properly no loss can come out from it. If anything, the opposite will take place. May we merit to do much good with our money and become more G-dlike by being givers and not takers.

Rabbi Weinrib learns full-time in the Kollel

Halacha Encounters

Davening With the Tzibur When You’re a Step Behind

Rabbi Ephraim Friedman

As is true in most areas of Judaism, one who enters a shul to daven with the tzibur must be aware of certain "rules" in order to fulfill his obligations properly and to take full advantage of the opportunities open to him. In particular, one who arrives late or davens slower than the tzibur, must be familiar with some basic halachos governing these situations. I would like to use this article to help familiarize the readers with some of the halachas of these situations, as they are found in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 109.

GENERAL PRINCIPLE: When davening in the presence of a minyan, one is not permitted to begin Shmoneh Esrei if by doing so he will not be finished (i.e. he will not have reached "Elokay N'tzor") in time to join the tzibur in responding to devorim shebikedusha.

EXCEPTION: This rule does not apply when one begins Shmoneh Esrei together with the tzibur.


¨      One who is davening Shacharis with a minyan and finds himself trailing behind so that when he is ready to begin Shmoneh Esrei the tzibur has already begun, must take the following halachos into consideration. If he is starting late enough that he will not complete Shmoneh Esrei before the shaliach tzibur reaches Kedusha in chazaras hashatz, he may not begin. The following options are open to him.

Option #1 - To wait at the words "Shira Chadosha" and participate in the recital of Kedusha by reciting the pasuk "Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh." the pasuk "Baruch Kvod Hashem Mimkomo" and the Amen at the end of "HaKail HaKadosh".  At that point he may (theoretically) start Shmoneh Esrei, but only if he will complete it before the shaliach tzibur reaches the brocho "Shomea Tefillah". The recital of Amen at the conclusion of that brocha is also considered amongst the devorim shebikedusha. In most cases it will not be possible and certainly not recommended, for the individual to daven an entire Shmoneh Esrei between "HaKail HaKadosh" and Shomea Tefillah" of the shaliach tzibur. If he would instead wait until after answering amen to "Shomea Tefillah" he would still not be allowed to begin Shmoneh Esrei until after bowing with the tzibur at Modim (as well as reciting the first three words "Modim Anachnu Lach"), and even then he would not be allowed to begin if this would mean being unable to respond to Kadish or Borchu (e.g. at Krias HaTorah). In short, waiting at Shira Chadosha would involve an awfully long wait - possibly till the minyan finishes davening. This option is therefore not extremely practical.

Option #2 - To leave the room in which the minyan is davening and continue davening in a side room. By exercising this option, he would not be required to wait, but he would of course miss out on answering to Kedushah etc. (see Mishna Brura 109:1)

Option #3 - The most practical option which is halachically correct is to wait at Shira Chadosha until the shaliach tzibur is about ready to begin chazaras hashatz and at that point to continue till "Go-al Yisroel" and then begin the silent Shmoneh Esrei as the shaliach tzibur begins chazaras hashatz. Upon reaching "Mechaye HaMeisim" the individual would then recite Kedusha along with the shaliach tzibur word for word, including "L'Dor Vador." at a nusach Ashkenaz minyan. After completing Kedusha, while the individual is not required to daven word for word with the shaliach tzibur, he must continue to daven at a similar pace in order to complete the brocha Shomea Tefilla simultaneously and to reach Modim together. After bowing together at Modim, the individual is free to complete Shmoneh Esrei at his own pace, taking care to be finished in time to answer to the first Kadish which will follow. [Note: The Aruch Hashulchan 109:11 suggests that this individual should recite "Elokeinu V'Ailokei Avoseinu Borchainu." together with the shaliach tzibur. The Mishna Berura, however, makes no mention of this. See also Eshai Yisroel Chapter 33 Note 24. On a public fast day, the individual should not recite the brocha "Aneinu" together with the shaliach tzibur. M.B. 109:11]

¨      At Mincha and Maariv as well one is not allowed to begin Shmoneh Esrei later than the shaliach tzibur if this will result in his missing out on answering to any devorim shebikedusha. With regard to Mincha it would be acceptable to follow option #3 above and daven together with the shaliach tzibur. However, the following point must be considered. According to a number of Gedolei haPoskim, amongst them HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l (Igros Moshe O.C. 3:9), one who davens along with the shaliach tzibur is not credited with the mitzvah of tefillah bitzibur. Therefore, although one would not be in violation of the halacha if he were to excersize this option, an even better choice for one who came late to Mincha would be to find a different minyan davening later, as long as the hour permits it.

¨      At Maariv where there is no chazaras hashatz, one who is late in starting Shmoneh Esrei and could not finish before the shaliach tzibur recites Kadish would have no option (other than leaving the room) but to wait until after answering to Kadish following "Aleinu" and then daven Shmoneh Esrei. It should be noted, however that one is permitted to skip "Boruch Hashem L'Olam." in order to catch up and begin Shmoneh Esrei with the tzibur. After davening, he should recite Boruch Hashem L'Olam but omit the last line (i.e. the concluding brocha). [M.B. 236:11]. One, who is very late to Maariv and has no other minyan available, may skip everything up to Shmoneh Esrei in order to daven together with the tzibur. Afterwards he must of course recite Krias Shema and the brachos he skipped omitting, once again, the concluding bracha of  Boruch Hashem L'Olam. [O.C. 326:3 and M.B. 12]

Three final points remain to be clarified.

1.      We indicated above that one who is beginning Shmoneh Esrei together with the tzibur is entitled to do so even if he does not anticipate finishing in time to answer to Kedusha or Kadish etc. Sefer Avnei Yushfai (Chapter 6 note24) quotes HaGaon Rav Elyashiv shlita as ruling that as long as you assess that the tzibur is still holding in the first brocha (before "Magen Avraham") starting then is defined as together with the tzibur and is permissible.

2.      If one is holding in the paragraph "Elokay N'tzor" when devorim shebikedusha are being recited, it is permissible for him to respond in the same manner as one who is waiting at Shira Chadosha (see above).  However, he should first recite the Pasuk "Yihiyu L'Rotzone." if he did not do so before beginning Elokay N'tzor. Even better would be to abridge Elokay N'tzor and take three steps back before responding. See Shulchan Aruch O.C. Siman 122:1 and the Mishna Berura's commentary for full details.

3.      One need not be concerned about missing Kedusha or Borchu as a result of davening Shmoneh Esrei if he had, or will have, another opportunity that morning to respond to Kedusha or Borchu. (see Mishna Berura 109:5 for details)

Rabbi Friedman is a full-time member of the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters

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