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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.



The Shulchan Aruch(1) records the long-standing and universally held custom for the son of a deceased parent to lead the weekday(2) prayer services as the Sheliach Tzibbur. This obligation is in addition to the recitation of Kaddish, and is practiced throughout the eleven months when Kaddish is recited.(3) A son in mourning should do his utmost to observe this custom; for Chazal teach that when a son serves as the Sheliach Tzibbur, he is actually fulfilling the Biblical commandment of Kibbud Av V'eim(4) by honoring the neshamah of his departed parent and alleviating its suffering in Gehenom.

One who does not read Siddur fluently or has difficulty pronouncing Hebrew words correctly should not lead the congregation even if he is a mourner.(5) If a son feels that he will have to rush his davening and compromise the level of his kavanah (concentration), he should not serve as Sheliach Tzibbur either.(6)

It is not uncommon to find several mourners, called chiyuvim, who wish to lead the same services in the same shul. In addition to them, a person observing a yahrzeit may also be present and he, too, is obligated to serve as Sheliach Tzibbur. In order to avoid disputes between the various parties claiming the right to lead the congregation - particularly since filial devotion is a very emotional matter - the poskim set detailed, precise rules as to who takes precedence. Basically, there are two factors which determine priority, the first of which depends upon the specific chiyuv period being observed(7) by each of the chiyuvim:

  1. SHELOSHIM - the first thirty days(8) after the burial of a parent [as long as the burial took place before sundown, that day is day number one].
  2. YEAR - the eleven months immediately following the burial day of a parent.
  3. YOM HAFSAKAH - the day on which the eleven-month period of being a chiyuv ends.
  4. YAHRZEIT - the anniversary of the parent's day of death. The other factor which determines priority is the "residency" - or membership - status of the chiyuv in that particular shul:
  5. MEMBER - A member is one who pays membership dues, is employed by the congregation, or is a regular mispallel(9) in this particular shul but is assessed by the shul administration as being unable to pay membership dues.(10) An unmarried son of a member also has the status of a member.
  6. GUEST - any non-resident of the city in question.
  7. NON-MEMBER - any local resident who is not a member of this particular shul.


    It is a mitzvah for a congregation to allow any chiyuv, even a guest or a non-member, to serve as Sheliach Tzibbur.(11) Any member chiyuv has priority over any non-member chiyuv. One may become a member even after his chiyuv begins.(12) A chiyuv who has priority according to Halachah should not readily relinquish his right to be the Sheliach Tzibbur, for the right is not really his to surrender; rather, it belongs to the soul of his parent. If, however, the other mourner will be greatly distressed if he is denied the opportunity to be the Sheliach Tzibbur, he may give up his right(13). The rav should be consulted.

    A chiyuv who does not have priority according to Halachah but intimidates or forces the other mourners to give up their rights to him, is described as "gaining nothing for the soul of his parent, nor does he detract from any merit that was due to the other mourner".(14) When there are several mourners of equal status, they should divide the Sheliach Tzibbur's duties among them in a fair and equitable manner.(15) Since Shacharis may be divided into two parts, there can be up to four chiyuvim dividing the three daily prayers services.(16) It is improper to divide a large minyan into two in order to enable a second mourner to have a minyan for which he can serve as Sheliach Tzibbur.(17) A mourner who davens regularly in one shul, but whose opportunities to serve as Sheliach Tzibbur will be curtailed because of the other chiyuvim in that shul, is neither required nor advised to switch shuls during his eleven months of mourning. On a Yahrzeit of a parent, however, one should see to it that he does serve as Sheliach Tzibbur, even if it means davening elsewhere.(18)

    A grandson should serve as Sheliach Tzibbur if his grandparent died without leaving a son. If there are other mourners at the same shul, a grandson shares his slot with them but not on equal footing as would a son. The particulars regarding the grandson's rights are left to the rav's discretion.(19)

    It is appropriate that a son serve as Sheliach Tzibbur after the passing of an adoptive parent. The standard rules of priority, however, do not apply and he does not take precedence over other mourners.(20) During the twelfth month of the mourning period, the mourner is no longer required to serve as Sheliach Tzibbur, but may do so if he wishes.(21) While some poskim recommend that he do so, he has no priority over any other mourner.(22)

    One who is in mourning for both his father and his mother does not have more priority than one who is mourning for one parent.(23)

    The following rules of priority apply to chiyuvim of comparable membership status (i.e., member vs. member, non-member vs. non member, guest vs. guest):(24)

    • A sheloshim has priority over a Yahrzeit(25) and all other chiyuvim.(26)
    • A yahrzeit has priority over a Year and a Yom hafsakah.
    • A Yom hafsakah has priority over a Year.

    The following rules of priority apply between a member and a guest:

    • A Yahrzeit member has priority over a Yahrzeit guest or a Sheloshim guest.
    • A Sheloshim member has priority over a Yahrzeit guest.(27)
    • A Sheloshim or Yahrzeit guest and a Year member are equal chiyuvim.(28)
    • A Yom hafsakah guest has priority over a Year member.


    1 O.C. 53:20; Rama Y.D. 376:4.

    2 On Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Ha-Moed and Purim, a mourner does not serve as Sheliach Tzibbur. On Tishah B'av and Erev Yom Kippur a mourner serves as Sheliach Tzibbur. There are various customs concerning Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah and Erev Pesach.

    3 The "eleven months" period is always calculated from the day of burial, even if several days elapsed between death and burial; Beiur Halachah 132:1 as explained by Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:61-19.

    4 Chayei Adam 67:6. The poskim debate whether a parent may excuse his child from according him this honor and whether the child is obligated to listen to his parent; see Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 344:1; Chelkas Yaakov 2:93; Shearim Metzuyanim B'halachah 26:1.

    5 Mishnah Berurah 53:60.

    6 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 18, note 28).

    7 Actually, the most "important" period is the first seven days of mourning, called Shivah. Our discussion, however, does not cover the rules of Shivah, since most often the davening takes place in the house of mourning, not in shul. In the atypical case where a mourner during Shivah must daven in shul [where he is a member], he has priority over all other chiyuvim.

    8 While Yom Tov mitigates some of the restrictions of Sheloshim, it does not lessen the Sheloshim obligation of serving as Sheliach Tzibbur; Gesher ha-Chayim 30:10-2.

    9 "Regular mispallel" is defined as one who davens in this shul on Shabbos and Yom Tov on a regular basis; Teshuvos Binyan Dovid, 12, quoted in Tefilah K'hilchasah 24, note 194.

    10 Beiur Halachah 132:1.

    11 Mishnah Berurah 53:60.

    12 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Tefillah K'hilchasah 24, note 194).

    13 Eimek Berachah (Aveilus) pg. 143. See also Halichos Shelomo 18, note 51.

    14 Chasam Sofer Y.D. 345, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 376:7.

    15 One who has a choice of being a Sheliach Tzibbur for Minchah or for Maariv, should choose Maariv over Minchah; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 26:1.

    16 Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:61-5. Several brothers, even though they are davening for the same parent, have separate rights as individual mourners; Rama Y.D. 376:4.

    17 Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:61-4. See also Tefilah K'hilchasah 24:54 quoting Rav Shelomo HaKohen of Vilna.

    18 Harav Y. Kamenetsky (Emes Lya'akov Y.D. 376:4, note 224); Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 18:24).

    19 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 18:15).

    20 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Nishmas Avrahahm, vol. 5, pg. 141).

    21 Mateh Efrayim, Kaddish, 4:2.

    22 Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:61-17. See also Shevet ha-Levi 2:161.

    23 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 26:16. See also Emes Lya'akov Y.D. 376:4, note 224.

    24 Unless noted otherwise, the rules of priority are based on the decisions of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 26 and Beiur Halachah 132:1. See also Yesodei Semachos, 9:7 and 12:11.

    25 During Shacharis, the Sheloshim leads until Ashrei U'va Letziyon, and the Yahrzeit takes over from there.

    26 Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:60; 4:61-20.

    27 During Shacharis, the Sheloshim leads until Ashrei U'va Letziyon, and the Yahrzeit takes over from there.

    28 "Equal chiyuvim" means that neither has priority. During Shacharis, one should daven until Ashrei U'va Letziyon, and the other continues from there. Minchah and Maariv should be divided between them.

    Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

    Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

    The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

    The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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