In Defense of the Latecomers

I walked into the Neitz minyan this morning, about 10 minutes before the 5:45am Brochos start time, and the seating Gabbai gave me a thumbs up indicating I was one of the first ten. I was surprised because I’ll often get a good-hearted “tsk tsk you’re late” finger wave if I get there only 10 minutes before the start. It’s one of the things I love about this minyan and it certainly re-calibrates the definition of coming late.

On a past Shabbos, I was involved in a discussion with a friend about coming late. We’ve established two times which have merited lamination on the chazzan’s shtender, 8:37am for the first Kaddish and 8:55am for Borechu. I sometimes find myself in the role of defending the sanctity of those times but my friend had a different take:

“If people don’t want to miss the first Kaddish – they should get here by the 8:30am start time”. – he argued.

“It’s not so easy for people to get here at the start” – I replied.

“If the saying or responding to Kaddish is so important to them, they can get here early” – he retorted.

We went back and forth and I finally put forth this point – “I want to give my teenager the max time to sleep, and I can say brochos at home, but I want to be at the minyan to reply to Kaddish, so that’s why the 8:37 time is sacrosanct to me.”

His silence indicated that he was at least considering this point.

The on-timers vs latecomers also comes up regarding seating:
“If people want their seats, they should come on time”
or “Let’s try to accommodate latecomers by saving their seats – if possible”.

I hear both sides of the argument, but at this point I try to accommodate the latecomers, both for the chesed mileage points earned and because they are the majority.

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5 thoughts on “In Defense of the Latecomers”

  1. Do latecomers generally come at a fixed time, or after a fixed time delay?

    Let’s say the scheduled starting time is 8 AM and the latecomer always shows up at 9 AM.

    If the scheduled starting time is now moved to 9 AM, does he continue showing up at 9 AM, or is it now 10 AM or some other late time?

    1. I think most latecomers will always come late, although you’re example is an extreme case in regards to davening.

      I think the reason is that most people work to the deadline and slip when it’s acceptable. In the case of Shuls, the deadline is the start time (or the kaddish time), and many people will slip past it.

  2. There is at least a minhag to sleep a little later on Shabbat. And since it is Shabbat, why would you be in a rush to finish davening? An important meeting afterwards? You don’t have to go hungry..halachah allows at least a nosh if you need on on Shabbat and Yom Tov because of length of davening. So why insist on a precise start…unless the deadline for saying Shma is that that early in your locale. My shul starts at 9, and during the winter months people insert the full Shma when they say the Morning Blessings at home to meet the deadline. (During DST it comes at 9:45 or later here.)

    But your friend is right. If saying the Kaddish is important to them, they should be there by the time established by your shul. Even if it means getting up early on Shabbat.

    1. There may a minhag to sleep later on Shabbat, but that is certainly not a heter to come late to davening.
      I am often tempted to say to habitual latecomers, “Who told you that you can come late to davening? Was it a parent? A teacher or rebbe? Guess what – that person was wrong.”

      And yes, I do have a bit of a schedule on Shabbat morning. I daven early so I can come home, make kiddish, and then get to a gemara shiur on time. I am very happy that the minyan starts precisely on time, and usually ends about the same time.

      As my dad z”l used to say, “Nail the doors shut 5 minutes after davening starts. If they truly want to daven, they’ll make sure they’re on time.”

  3. The balance of din and chesed is one that we often skew to din. Yet, we all pray and hope that Hashem looks upon us with Chesed and not din since we know, otherwise, we would not be worthy. Since one of our roles in this world is to emulate Hashem, mah he rachum af atah rachum, why not skew toward chesed?

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