Rabbinic responses to religious accommodation in 19th- and early 20th-Century US

Hayim Lapin's picture

Anecdotally, at least, hashkamah minyanim on Saturdays have their origins in accommodations to workers who needed an early, fast service before work. The Orthodox Union's Jewish Endeavor Society reportedly organized late afternoon minhah services for similar reasons.

A friend is interested in examining the extent to which this is true, and especially rabbinic responses to these practices. Any bibliographical suggestions appreciated!

Categories: Research Query

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in a responsum (Even Ha'ezer, vol. II par. 14) that there is no problem having an early Yom Tov minyan knowing that the people will go to work afterwards. He doesn't even go into so much detail, basically saying that if you don't have a minyan these people aren't then going to stay home and not go to work. His opinion can be found in the second paragraph from the top in the left-hand column (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=918&st=&pgnum=328).

Michael Pitkowsky

For the question of Hayim Lapin regarding rabbinic responses to the practice of hashkamah minyanim for workers who need an early, fast service before work –
Actually, one can find it already in the Tur Orach Hayyim Siman 89. However, in this early text there is nothing special for workers.
I am not absolutely sure (that needs further study, that as far as I know have not been done yet), however it seems to me that the first teshuva that refers to workers who have the need for an early minyan is in shut Maharsham, Shalom Mordechai Schwadron (1835–1911) which was written to a person who lived near Kovna=Kaunas in Lithuania. See shut Maharsham vol. 1 siman 158.
Later on, (only in Israel, if I am not wrong) one can find the term “Minyan Poalim” (Worker’s Minyan) in many current Teshuvot. The most famous one is the Teshuva of R. Ovadia Yoseph, Shut Yehave Daat, vol. 2 Siman 8.
See also shut Hevel Nahalato (R. Yaakov Epstein) 17:4:

From these sources it seems that it is allowed only for workers (Poalim). That means that people who are not in a need to go very early to their work cannot adopt to themselves this special permission, nor can it be (of course) allowed in Shabat or Yom tov. See: R. Aharon Zakai, HaTefila veHilkhoteiha, Shaharit, Jerusalem 1995, pp. 102-103 Para. 29.

Admiel Kosman
Potsdam University

Thanks to Admiel Kosman, and to the others who replied!