Question: When davening by himself at home on Friday night, must a husband say VaYechulu (after Sh’moneh Esrei in Maariv) together with his wife?
Short Answer: While Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, based on the Mishnah B’rurah, ruled that he should, my rebbe, Rav Mordechai Willig shlita ruled that it is unnecessary.
I. Giving Testimony
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 268:7), based on the Rosh, writes that we repeat VaYechulu after Sh’moneh Esrei every Friday night because of Yom Tov that falls out on Shabbos where we don’t say VaYechulu in Sh’moneh Esrei and because we want to be motzi those people who do not know how to say VaYechulu. The Shulchan Aruch adds that VaYechulu after Sh’moneh Esrei should be recited loudly and while standing.
The Magen Avraham (10) cites the Tur that we stand for VaYechulu because we are giving testimony that Hashem created the world, and testimony must be recited while standing. Similarly, the Magen Avraham explains the Tur that VaYechulu should be recited together with others, as testimony is ideally recited in this manner.
The Taz (5) likewise requires VaYechulu to be recited together with an “eidah” – a minyan of men. If one davens by himself, VaYechulu is not recited.
The Mishnah B’rurah (18) follows these opinions and rules that VaYechulu should ideally be recited together with a minyan, or at the very least, together with another person. When davening by oneself, the Mishnah B’rurah cites the above Taz who rules that VaYechulu should NOT be recited, but also cites the Elya Rabbah who rules that it may be recited, but can be recited sitting down, as the only reason you still say it when davening by yourself is because we want to ensure that it is recited when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos.
Thus, the Mishnah B’rurah is pretty clear that VaYechulu is ideally recited standing together with another person, but if there is no one else with you, you may recite it, but it is not the classic testimonial VaYechulu that is recited in shul.
II. The Anti-Testimony View
The Chazon Ish (Orach Chayim 38:10) disagrees with the Mishnah B’rurah and the entire comparison to testimony. Because the Rosh, the source of the Tur, explains the reason for VaYechulu based on Yom Tov that falls out on Shabbos, there really is no connection to “testimony.” The only reason why it should ideally be said publicly with a minyan is that we want to publicize that Hashem created the world, but it certainly is not classic “testimony.” Accordingly, if you are davening by yourself, you should specifically seek to say it yourself, as seeking to say it together with a different person would appear as if you are seeking to “prove” and “testify” about Creation.
Indeed, the Piskei T’shuvos (268:10) cites the Divrei Y’tziv who writes that he never saw the previous generation and its leaders go seek a second individual to recite VaYechulu together.
Practically, despite his questions on the Mishnah B’rurah, the Chazon Ish also sought out another person to say VaYechulu together with him, as did his brother-in-law, the Steipler. See Piskei T’shuvos (ibid).
Thus, that leaves us with the following question: Must a husband, davening at home during COVID-19, ask his wife to join him in VaYechulu?
III. Women and VaYechulu
The Kaf HaChayim (36) cites the sefer Beis M’nuchah who rules that a woman never recites VaYechulu after Sh’moneh Esrei on Friday night. The Kaf HaChayim disagrees, as the Pesach D’vir ruled that women should recite VaYechulu, as it is not “really” testimony. See also Riv’vos Ephraim (Hosafos to Vol. 8) who also discusses this machlokes.
The Yalkut Yosef agrees with the Pesach D’vir, as it is not really “testimony,” as it is done at night. Moreover, if it was real testimony, then the fact that women or children say it along with the tzibur in shul is problematic, as you are combining kosher witnesses with pasul witnesses.
Notably, the SS”K (47:32:156) brings a proof to the Beis M’nuchah, that women are exempt from VaYechulu, from the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, in reference to Kiddush, who rules that VaYechulu was instituted in Kiddush in order to be motzi sons (and not women) who did not hear this testimony in shul.
IV. Combining with Men
The Halichos Shlomo (T’filah 14, n. 21) writes that women may combine (and should combine) with men to fulfill this special idea of having two people recite VaYechulu together. He explains that women, even though they cannot testify themselves, are obligated to publicize the fact that Hashem created the world. Accordingly, a husband should ask his wife to say VaYechulu together with him when davening at home by himself. This is the opinion of the Yalkut Yosef (Shabbos 1:2, p. 508) and Rav Binyahu Dadon (cited in MiRei’ach Nichoach, 5752, p. 516), as well.
My rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Willig shlita, told a group of rabbanim on a conference call organized by the National Council of Young Israel at the end of April that he feels that it is similar to a “s’feik s’feika” – a double doubt – and therefore he personally does not say it together with his wife. In other words, since the Chazon Ish felt that it was unnecessary in general to say VaYechulu together with a second person, and since there is a second doubt whether women themselves even need to say VaYechulu (like the Beis M’nuchah), therefore there is no need to recite VaYechulu with your wife. However, he noted that there is nothing wrong in doing so, but it is halachically unnecessary.
Next Week’s Topic: If someone has an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, and is hospitalized, Rachmana litzlan, may/should he bring his t’filin to the hospital if the t’filin will have to be burned afterwards because of the disease?