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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 02 - The Minyan > 09 – How Is a Person Counted in a Minyan?

09 – How Is a Person Counted in a Minyan?

As we have learned, a minyan is a gathering of ten Jewish males who are of sound mind. In order for them to join as a minyan, they must be together in one place. If nine of them are in the synagogue and one is outside or in an adjacent room, they are not considered a minyan. If the person outside the synagogue is standing next to the door or window, and his face is visible, according to most poskim he can be counted as part of the minyan, because their eye contact unites them. It is not necessary for everyone to see him, rather it is sufficient for only some to see him. Nevertheless, there are poskim who maintain that eye contact cannot be used to link a person to a minyan, and only if he inserts his head into the window will he be considered present with them and thus be counted in the minyan. L’chatchilah, we are to be stringent about this, but in extenuating circumstances, when he cannot come inside and join them, we may rely on most poskim who are lenient and count him as long as his face is visible.[11]

Someone whose face is not visible to those praying inside the synagogue, but is in the ancillary room of the synagogue, does not complete the minyan. Even so, if a minyan already exists without him, when he prays with them he is considered to be praying in a minyan.[12]

Ten people who are standing in a field, as long as they can see and hear one another, are considered a minyan (Minchat Yitzchak 2:44).

When there is a minyan of ten inside the synagogue, anyone who hears the chazan may respond. For instance, a sick person who is bedridden and hears the congregation’s prayers from his house, though he is not regarded as one who is praying in a minyan, he may answer Amen, since not even a steel barrier can separate a Jew from the Shechinah that dwells with the minyan (Shulchan Aruch 55:20). Similarly, if he hears the sound of the shofar blowing or the megillah reading from the synagogue, he can have kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah by hearing it.

A person who hears a chazan via a live broadcast on the radio or television may answer Amen after him. However, he cannot fulfill his obligation by listening to the megillah reading on the radio or television, because he is not hearing the actual voice of the chazan himself.[13]

In summary, there are four levels of joining together for matters of sanctity: 1. When a person is situated in the same place as the people praying or he is visible to them (according to most poskim) he can complete a minyan. 2. A person who is in the ancillary room of the synagogue but is not visible to the people praying cannot complete the minyan. If, however, there is a minyan without him, he is considered to be praying in a minyan. 3. One who is in a different room or outside the synagogue is not considered praying in a minyan, but may fulfill his obligation by hearing the chazan. 4. One who hears the chazan on the radio may answer Amen, but cannot fulfill his obligation by hearing him.

[11]. It is implied in the Shulchan Aruch 55:14, that anyone who is visible, even if he is in a different domain, can be counted. That is what the Beit Yosef says in the name of Orchot Chaim who quotes Rav Hai Gaon and the Rashba. Additionally, it is enough that a few of them can see him, as is clarified in the ruling of zimun (literally, invitation, three people blessing Birkat HaMazon together) Orach Chaim 195:1. However, the Sheyarei Knesset HaGedolah, Hagahot on the Beit Yosef 6, writes that according to the Shulchan Aruch, only if he brings his face into the space of the window can he be counted. So it is written in Kaf HaChaim 55:70, based on some Acharonim. The Mishnah Berurah 55:52 essentially rules according to the lenient opinion, and therefore, one who prays in the women’s section, if his face is visible, is counted as part of the minyan. However, he writes that l’chatchilah it is good to follow the stringent opinion, and hence it is better that he actually enter the synagogue in order to complete the minyan.
[12]. The Mishnah Berurah 55:58 writes, based on the Radbaz, that one who prays in a room in which the only entrance is through the synagogue, even if he is not visible to those praying and therefore does not complete the minyan, he is indeed considered as praying in a minyan since the room in which he is present is ancillary to the room in which they are praying. According to this, a person who prays in the women’s section, even though he does not show his face and he does not complete a minyan, is considered to be praying in a minyan. The reason for this is that the women’s section is auxiliary to the synagogue, and although it has its own separate entrance, in its essence it is subsidiary to the synagogue. However, l’chatchilah, it is good to actually enter the synagogue to pray because there are those who are stringent concerning this matter and do not equate the women’s section with the inner room to which the Radbaz refers (Halichot Shlomo 5:12).
[13]. Yechaveh Da’at 2:68. Ishei Yisrael 15, note 69, writes that Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach extracts from the Shulchan Aruch that whoever is not present with them “may answer,” but is not obligated to answer. However, in the name of the Chazon Ish, he writes that one is obligated to answer. If there is an idol worshiper or a statue of idol worship standing between the chazan and the one who hears him, or if there is excrement located there, he may not answer Amen after the chazan. But if he listens to the radio, we do not fear that the radio waves pass through filthy places, since the voice is recreated through a receiver. That is also the reason why we may not fulfill our obligation of prayer or hearing megillah reading by listening to the radio, because the sound that is coming out of the radio is considered a different voice.

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The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman