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Thought for the Day: Some Things That Trump T'filla b'Tzibur

Praying with a minyan is certainly among one of the most important things we do.  On the one hand there is the very lofty and philosophical idea that t'filla b'tzibur somehow makes each individual's t'filla more appeasing to HaShem; He evaluates, so to speak, each t'filla in the merits of the tzibur rather than the merits of the petitioner.  On a more mundane and practical level, it is much easier to motivate yourself to daven properly (or at all...) as a group instead of at home alone (especially late at night).  However, it is not the only thing.  Here is a list of a few things that take precedence; just to give some perspective.

My favorite: davening regularly k'vasikin.  It is better to daven b'yichidus k'vasikin rather than with a minyan and not at vasikin.  The term "regularly" is very flexible.  Besides the daily drill, davening k'vasikin every shabbos, every rosh chodesh, during the winter (or summer), etc, are all called "regularly".  Often k'vasikin is earlier than other minyanim, but it can be the opposite.  The strangest experience I had was once Sukkos chol ha'mo'ed in Dallas.  Ha'neitz ha'chama was literally a few minutes (10 or so) different from when the congregation got to shmone esrei.  I davened in the women's section for shacharis (p'sak of the rav there, Rabbi Rodin), fit in Hallel, then joined them for krias hatorah and musaf.

Another important consideration is p'sukei d'zimra with kavana.  While it is permitted to skip certain parts of p'sukei d'zimra in order to catch up, it's not a good idea.  Since p'sukei d'zimra cut through the "klipos" (things that such the life right out of t'filos), they are very important.  I has once started davening shmone esrei, when someone came running in, got suited up in tallis and t'fillin, "davened", packed up his prayer equipment and left before I got to modim.  I know I read slowly, but ...

Here is a little detail that I didn't appreciate till recently: t'filla b'tzibur and being able to say d'varim sh'b'k'dusha (such as kaddish, k'dusha, barchu, etc).  To fulfill the mitzvah of t'filla b'tzibur you need 10 men davening.  To say d'varim sh'b'k'dusha you need 10 men.  Halichos Shlomo addresses the case of seven people who need to daven and there are three who have already davened.  That's not called t'filla b'tzibur.  However, he says, suppose one of those seven is happy to wait for a minyan of daveners, but the others will just daven b'yichudus unless minyan davens now.  In that case it is is better for the one to daven now -- even though he is foregoing t'filla b'tzibur -- in order to enable the others to say d'varim sh'b'k'dusha.  The Halichos Shlomo says that the z'chus in being m'zake the others will more than compensate for losing the z'chus of t'filla b'tzibur.

That's more than "derech eretz kadma latorah"; that's "derech eretz is torah".

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