By Rav Yitzchok Fingerer
I recently received a call from a talmid who had a very important Halachic sheilah. He moved away from Flatbush to a thriving city full of Batei Medrashim, Kollelim and Kehillos. His concern was that there were friends of his, people in his Kehilla, who were considering starting a breakaway beis medrash/shul. They wanted him to participate. Was he allowed to defect from his current shul and Rov and join the secession?
There are many potential serious Halachic issues and issurim that arise when considering a breakaway minyan such as Hasogas Gevul (Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:38), B’Rov Am Hadras Melech (Shulchan Aruch, OC, 90:9) and Shachein Ra (Shulchan Aruch, OC, 90:11), which should cause any scrupulous Jew tremendous apprehension and anxiety.
Of course, there are situations that may demand significant change and the opening of a different shul such as a membership that obstinately and recalcitrantly talk during davening, the severity of which can’t be stressed enough or a shul administration that flaunts and flagrantly violates Halacha or denigrates a Rov. Sometimes there is a geographical concern, such as the case of an expanding neighborhood, making the main shul too distant, which necessitates a satellite shul to open. Other times, there are people from different cultural backgrounds that are accustomed to a different Nussach haTefillahthen the mainstream setting.
Too often, the formation of breakaway minyanim is due to circumstances in which personalities, personal agendas and subjective vagaries are foremost and Halacha is secondary or not even part of the equation. I have seen communities that due to frumkeit have spurned the entrenched, cohesive, communal shuls in order to create independent, frummer milieus, marginalizing and disenfranchising the established community. Then there are situations I have witnessed in which one or several people have a personal, perhaps even legitimate, gripe or animus with a Rov and wish to settle score through forming another minyan. What is the proper approach to this issue?
The Yalkut (Remez 408) has an astounding teaching: The one and only time the Torah says “Vayakhel” (referring to the fact that Moshe proactively and deliberately gathered all the Jews together), was for the building of the Mishkan.
The Avnei Nezer and the Ohr Pnei Moshe (Rav Avrohom Moshe of Pshevorsk, Zt”l) explain why the singular usage of “Vayakhel” is in reference to the investiture of the Mishkan. The Mishkan was Hashem’s holy abode in our midst. It was G-d’s dwelling place on earth. The Shechina would manifest and reside amongst us mortals and humans.
Why would the pristine and unfathomably holy Shechina reside amongst mortals? People are far from perfect. We all have moments in which we falter and fail. We are all prone to miscalculations, mistakes and errors. Each and every one of us has imperfections and weaknesses. Why would the flawless and infallible, the celestial and divine, the Shechina, descend to a mundane and prosaic habitat?
Why does Hashem choose to rest amongst us? Because despite the fact that we humans are fraught with shortcomings and sullied in mire and grime, we are His children. A loving father chooses not to perceive the failings and frailties but to unconditionally recognize the virtues and merits.
However, there’s one caveat and crucial condition for the Mishkan to be built, for the Shechina to envelop us. The children, Klal Yisroel, need to be united. They need to stand together in peace and harmony, no matter what. This is exceedingly challenging. Differences of opinion, even divisiveness, dissention, jealousy, envy and altercation may arise. There will be those that feel compelled to splinter from the group. Some will conceive of forming a break away unit. When such situations arise, it is incumbent on us to not capitulate to our own predilections, whims or preferences but to sublimate our inner desires to maintain unity at all costs. It isn’t easy. It takes great strength, conviction and courage. We are human and it is natural for us to want to show our frustration, disappointment and pain. What better way then to ceremoniously leave and perhaps even attempt to create a different entity? Yet, the Torah teaches that creating a chasm or demonstrating and showing others disunity is the worst sin. Instead, we need to relinquish our egos and the innate desire for justice, vengeance and vindictiveness for the sake of Shalom. We may be entitled to our grievances and complaints but that doesn’t mitigate the damage or danger of disunity. The Zohar Hakadosh teaches that when we stand together, notwithstanding our grievances, we can’t be harmed or destroyed.
Pesach is imminently approaching. There’s an easy way to show Hashem that we all stand united. Let’s reach out to as many Jews as possible to ensure that they have a Seder. Let’s not be disingenuous when we say, “Kol Dichfin Yesei V’yechol-Whoever is (spiritually) hungry, let him come and eat.”
Rav Yitzchok Fingerer, Morah D’Asra of the BJX Beis HaMedrash and Kiruv Centers (www.bjxcenter.com), is a renowned speaker, and author of Strengthen Your Emunah (Feldheim Publishers). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.