Must Vayechulu be said in a Minyan or by Two Jews together?



 Dear Rabbi,

I became very confused lately when someone said that “Vayechulu” at the Friday night davening needs to be said like aidut, which means that two people should say it at the exact same time; then someone said that it should not be said with two people but really you need to say it with ten like kedusha; then someone said you can even say it with one – just don’t be mechaven for aidut. Then someone said that that’s why Chassidim stand by “Vayechulu” when saying Kiddush. What’s really supposed to be done?


To the Questioner,

The source for saying “Vayechulu” on Friday night is from the Gemara Shabbat (119b): “Said Rava - and some say [this] in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: Even a yachid (one person alone) who is davening on Erev Shabbat needs to say “Vayechulu”. [This is because of the fact] that Rav Hamnunah said: Anyone who davens on Erev Shabbat and says “Vayechulu”, it is considered according to the Torah as if he becomes a partner with Hashem in Ma’aseh Breishit [the Creation of the World].” The Gemara continues to show how important this practice is: “Said Rav Chisda in the name of Mar Ukva: Anyone who davens on Erev Shabbat and says “Vayechulu”, the two Malachim that escort a person [home from Shul] place their hands on his head and say to him “May your iniquity be removed and your sin atoned for” (Yeshayahu 6:7)”.

What is important to emphasize from this Gemara in regard to your question, is that the first line of this Gemara states explicitly: “Even a yachid (one person alone) who is davening on Erev Shabbat needs to say “Vayechulu”.”

It would seem from the simple understanding of this first line, that “Vayechulu” needs to be said at some point over the course of Friday evening – not necessarily in Shul, and not even with a minyan. This is actually how the Rambam learns, since the Rambam quotes the idea of saying “Veyechulu” on Friday night only in regard to Kiddush: “And it is an accepted minhag in all of Yisrael to read first the paragraph of “Vayechulu”, and afterwards to bless on the wine and afterwards to say Kiddush”(Hilchot Shabbat 29:7).”

It is only from the implication of the second line that is mentioned in the Gemara quoted above, which  talks about the two Malachim who escort a person home, that the idea of having already said the “Vayechulu” in Shul is implied – even though the obligation to say it in Shul was never mentioned explicitly. Since it is stated in the same Gemara in a later Braisa that the escort of the Malachim on Erev Shabbat takes place “from the Shul to one’s house”, it implies that the escort mentioned in the previous Gemara is also one that takes place after leaving the Shul; and if the Malachim place their hands the person’s head who is on the way home and bless him for saying the “Vayechulu”, it implies that he had already done so in the Shul.

Based on this, the Tur (Orach Chaim, Siman 267) writes that one should already include saying the full paragraph of “Vayechulu” within the Shmoneh Esrei of Shabbat Maariv that is said in Shul. This is different to what is found in the Rambam when he describes the seder Hatefillah for the Shmoneh Esrei of Shabbat Maariv (at end of Sefer Ahavah of the Yad Hachazakah), where he writes that only the last line of “Vayechulu” needs to be said in the Shmoneh Esrei davening, and not the whole paragraph.

The Tur then continues to explain (based on Tosfot Pesachim 106a, piece beginning zachraihu), that the reason for the custom of repeating the entire paragraph of “Vayechulu” after the Maariv Shmoneh Esrei, is due to the fact that when Yom Tov comes out on Friday night, “Vayechulu” is not said in the Shmoneh Esrei, and in order that even on Yom Tov we will have the opportunity to say “Vayechulu” on Friday night, it was instituted to be repeated by the entire kehillah after the Shmoneh Esrei every Friday night. He also adds an additional reason as to why we say “Vayechulu” after Shmoneh Esrei on every Friday night – so that even those people who don’t know how to daven (which was common in the time of Chazal) will be able to hear the “Vayechulu” and so it would be considered as if they themselves said it.

To summarize up till now, the opinion of the Rambam is that one may say the paragraph of “Vayechulu” at any point on Friday night (therefore the minhag had become to say it before Kiddush) – without any obligation to say it in Shul at all. The opinion of the Tur is that “Vayechulu” should be said already in Shul, both in the Shmoneh Esrei of Maariv of Shabbat, and also after completing the Shmoneh Esrei – to give the zchut (merit) of having said “Vayechulu” even to the people who could not daven. There is no reason at this point to require saying the “Vayechulu” with two people, or ten people, or even to have to stand when saying it.

* * *

However, when the Rosh quotes the initial Gemara in Shabbat (in explanation of Pesachim 106a) he adds a word that does not appear in our text of the Gemara or the Rif: “Anyone who says Vayechulu on Erev Shabbat, it is as if he is saying aidut (testimony) about the Creator that He created His world in six days and rested on the seventh.”[1] The Mordechai (Pesachim 106a) takes this yet a step further and writes: “The reason that we have a custom to say it [“Vayechulu”] standing and out loud, is because it is aidut (a testimony) that Hashem rested on Shabbat; and aidut is said standing, as is written in the Torah: “and the two men shall stand” (Devorim 19:17)”.  The Tur when quoting the Mordechai then adds the following halachah that applies to the testimony of aidim (witnesses) in a Bet Din: “This [pasuk] is talking about aidim - who need to say testimony together and standing. Therefore, it is necessary [in regard to “Vayechulu”] to stand, and to say it together.”
Notice the difference between the wording of the Rosh and the Mordechai. The Rosh is adding a form of Agada-Drush to the original requirement of the Gemara: since we know from the Gemara that saying “Vayechulu” is very important within the context of our relationship to Hashem [we become, k’v’yachol (as if), “a partner” with Hashem in Ma’aseh Breishit], the Rosh adds an Agadic type of understanding why the saying of “Vayechulu” should be so important to Hashem – because is it as if one is now proclaiming testimony to the eyes of the world regarding Hashem being The Creator. It is clear from the wording of the Rosh that he did not mean to view this as actual testimony that is given in Bet Din; there is also no indication from the words of the Rosh that he would disagree with what the Gemara (in our text) initially stated - that even a yachid (person davening alone) should say it.

The wording of the Mordechai, in contrast, states explicitly that “it is aidut”; and in way of explaining the custom to stand, implies that “Vayechulu” should require standing - similar to the halachot of aidut. This is a clear “jump” in how to view the recitation of “Vayechulu”. The Mordechai now views it as a form of giving actual testimony, similar to the testimony that is given in Bet Din. This differs greatly from the view of any of the other Rishonim who commented about the obligation to say “Vayechulu”, who wrote previous to him. Since the Tur follows the reasoning of the Mordechai, from this point onward in the poskim, it was left to each individual posek to determine how many of the actual halachot of aidut would apply in regard to the recitation of “Vayechulu”.

A summary of many of the halachot of aidut which the poskim have applied in regard to the recitation of “Vayichulu” is as follows:

The Tur: to stand; to say out loud; and to say together (with the additional witness) at the same time.

The Taz: to stand; the testimony is such a type that requires a minyan of ten to say it together; and that a person saying it alone cannot intend to say it as aidut (testimony in Bet Din).

The Magen Avraham: to stand; to say the words together like [two] witnesses in Bet Din.

The Mateh Moshe: to stand when saying it alone by Kiddush.

The Pri Megadim: it should be said with a minyan [like the words of the Taz] in a form similar to other parts of davening that are recited in unison in a minyan.

The Mishna Brura: to stand; it is better to recite it with a tzibur (minyan) - but at least should be recited by two together.

The Chazon Ish: to say it specifically with a minyan [like the words of the Taz].

I hope that you can now locate where each of the opinions that you heard were sourced.

SUMMARY: The initial source in the Gemara Shabbat requires only to say the paragraph “Vayechulu” at any point on Friday night. The Shulchan Aruch (268: 1, 7) paskens that we should say the entire paragraph of “Vayechulu” already in the Shmoneh Esrei of Shabbat Maariv, and that we should also say it a second time in Shul out loud and while standing after the Shmoneh Esrei. It is also minhag Yisrael to say “Vayechulu” again before Kiddush – thus giving all the listeners to Kiddush the merit as if they had also said “Vayechulu” on Friday night. All this brings the number of times that a man customarily says “Vayechulu” on an average Friday night to three times – which according to the Mekubalim has an important significance[2].

As far as to what extent to relate to the second time of saying the “Vayechulu” [the one said after Shmoneh Esrei] as it being similar to actual testimony that is said in Bet Din, one should follow in practice the psak of his personal Rav, and the line of psak from the Great Poskim that he generally follows – whether that be the Mishna Brurah, the Chazon Ish, or the Pri Megadim. Since it has become clear that the source for relating to “Vayechulu” as “aidut” (actual testimony) only began from the time of the Rishonim, the requirement to follow the laws of aidut in this case is not from the Torah, nor even M’d’Rabbanan, rather from the Achronim. You therefore need to follow in practice the Posek of the generation that your personal Rav follows on this issue. In a case of B’dieved and Sha’at Hadechak, when you can in no way fulfill the requirements of aidut, you may say even the second “Vayechulu” as a yachid (and according to the Taz have in mind that it not be recited for the purpose of aidut), and you will at least be fulfilling the original dina d’Gemara that “Vayichulu” can be said even by a yachid.

With blessings,
Rav Nachum
[1] In that same source the Rosh adds, that the minhag to say “Vayechulu” at the time of Kiddush - even though all the men said it already in Shul - is to exempt the women and children, so that it be considered that they too  have the merit of saying the paragraph of “Vayechulu” as well, by listening to it said before Kiddush.  
[2] Sha’ar Hakavanot (Seder Kabbalat Shabbat), Siddur HaShela.