Definitions

Minyan

Minyan

[Seph. meen-yahn; Ashk., Eng. min-yuhn]
A minyan (מנין lit. to count, number; pl. minyanim) in Judaism refers to the quorum required for certain religious obligations. The traditional minyan for most cases consists of ten men, which continues to be the position with Orthodox Judaism. However, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism accept women in the minyan. The most common activity requiring a minyan is public prayer. Accordingly, the term minyan in contemporary Judaism has taken on the secondary meaning of referring to a prayer service.

Source

The source for the requirement of minyan is recorded in the Talmud. The word minyan itself comes from the Hebrew root maneh מנה meaning to count or to number. The word is related to the Aramaic word mene, numbered, appearing in the writing on the wall in .

Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 23b) derives the requirement of a minyan of ten for Kiddush Hashem and Devarim she-Bikdusha, "matters of sanctity", by combining three scriptural verses using the rule of gezerah shavah:

The word "midst" in the verse:

"And I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel" ()

also appears in the verse:

"Separate yourselves from the midst of the congregation" ()

The term "congregation" is also used in another verse that describes the ten spies who brought back a negative report of the Land of Israel:

"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?" ()

From this combination, the Talmud concludes that "sanctification" should occur in the "midst" of a "congregation" of ten.

Jerusalem Talmud

The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4:4) offers two sources for the requirement, also using a gezerah shavah:

The word "congregation" in the verse:

"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy" ()

is also used in another verse:

"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?" ()

Since the term "congregation" in the later verse refers to the ten spies, so too in the former verse: "You shall be holy" refers to a "congregation" of ten.

The second source is based on the term "children of Israel" which appears in the following two verses:

"And I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel" ()

" And the children of Israel came to buy among those that came" ()

Just as the "children of Israel" in the later verse refers to the ten sons of Jacob who descended to Egypt to obtain food during the famine, so too the former verse refers to sanctification among the “children of Israel” in the presence of ten.

Rituals requiring a minyan

The following instances which require a minyan are listed in the Mishnah in Megillah (iv. 3):

  • Public worship, which consists of the additional readings of Kaddish, Barechu, Kedusha and the Repetition of the Amidah. The treatise Soferim, written in Babylonia in the seventh century, contains a passage (10:7) often interpreted as asserting that in Land of Israel at that time seven men were allowed to hold public services. Correctly interpreted it refers to the repeating of "Ḳaddish" and "Barechu" at the synagogue for the benefit of late comers, and declares that in Palestine such a repetition is permitted only when seven (according to others, when six) men are present who have not yet heard these responsive readings.
  • The priestly blessing.
  • Reading from the Torah and Prophets with the associated benedictions.
  • Seven benedictions recited at a wedding, or at any meal of the bridegroom and bride within a week from the wedding.
  • Using the formulation "Let us bless our God, from whose wealth we have eaten," in preparing for Grace after meals.
  • Ancient funeral ceremonies, no longer in use, which incorporated arranging the standing and sitting, reciting the benedictions of the mourners and the consolation of the mourners.

Other instances which require the presence of a minyan include:

While the required quorum for most activities requiring a quorum is usually ten, it is not always so. For example, the Passover sacrifice or Korban Pesach (from the days of the Temple in Jerusalem) must be offered before a quorum of 30. (It must be performed in front of kahal adat yisrael, the assembly of the congregation of Israel. Ten are needed for the assembly, ten for the congregation, and ten for Israel.) According to some Talmudic authorities, women counted in the minyan for offering the Korban Pesach (e.g. Rav, Rav Kahana, Pesachim 79b).

Prayer with a minyan

It was the firm belief of the sages that wherever ten Israelites are assembled, either for worship or for the study of the Law, the Divine Presence dwells among them. In rabbinical literature, those who meet for study or prayer in smaller groups, even one who meditates or prays alone, are to be praised. However, the stress is put upon the merits and sacredness of the minyan of ten. The codifiers, such as Maimonides, his annotators, and the author of the Shulkhan Arukh, have unitedly given strength to this sentiment, and have thus, for more than a thousand years, made the daily attendance at public worship, morning and evening, to be conducted in a quorum of ten.

There is a disagreement between the medieval commentators on whether prayer with a minyan is preferable or obligatory. Rashi is of the view that an individual is obligated to pray with a minyan, while Nahmanides holds that only if ten adult males are present are they obliged to recite their prayer together, but an individual is not required to actively seek out a minyan.

Rashi and the Tosafot on Talmud Bavli Pesachim 46a are both of the opinion that one is required to travel the distance of 4 mil to pray with a minyan.

Eligibility

There is much discussion in rabbinic literature on the matter of who is eligible to be counted in a minyan. Some discussions revolve around whether or not a minyan should consist of individuals who are obligated in performance of that particular precept. Some authorities deduce who may constitute a minyan by drawing on the verses which are brought as the basis for minyan and their implication. For example, the basis for inclusion of men only is deduced from the verse “I will be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel”: Because the words “children of Israel” are in the masculine form, Bnei Yisrael, (lit. sons of Israel) it is understood to exclude the “daughters of Israel”. Other classical sources base their rulings on discussions brought in the Talmud. Contemporary rabbinical authorities deal with a plethora of questions relating to qualification for minyan.

Minors

Before a boy turns thirteen, he is considered a minor in Jewish law and is not obligated in the performance of religious precepts. However, if a child is over six years of age and has adequate comprehension of the significance of the precepts, his status may change. His inclusion in minyan is thus subject of Talmudic dispute. Based on the Talmudic passage in Berachot, Rabbeinu Tam states that a minor can act as the tenth person and according to the Baal Ha-Maor, up to four minors would be permitted. Rosh explains that those who permit the inclusion of a minor maintain that it is the Divine Presence which actually constitutes the tenth member, thereby validating the minyan. (This may explain why some of these authorities require that the minor represent this fact by holding a chumash.) However the majority of poskim follow the conclusion of the Ri who holds that a minor can never be counted in a minyan under any circumstances. This is the stance taken by the Shulchan Aruch, who, although acknowledging some authorities do permit the inclusion of an astute six year old, writes that consensus rejects this view and only males over the age of thirteen may constitute a minyan. It should be noted, however, that in extraneous circumstances there are those who are lenient and permit a minor over six years old holding a chumash or Sefer Torah to complete a minyan. However this practice is not to be encouraged.

Women

Although the issue of whether women are permitted to make up a minyan have been noted in early works, the matter has only come to the fore in past few decades, a reaction to an enhanced awareness of the role of women in modern society and to the understandable clamor for their inclusion in all areas of religious life.

The Talmud itself does not directly address the question of whether women may count as part of a minyan for devarim shebkdusha. Since the Talmud uses the same gezerah shavah for Kiddush Hashem as it uses for devarim shebkdusha, one may expect the laws for those two cases to be the same. Many authorities are of the opinion that women are included in the minyan for Kiddush Hashem and Hillul Hashem. However, traditional codifiers generally do not include women in the minyan for devarim shebkdusha.

The Talmud (Arakhin 3a) relates that women are required to recite zimmun of three participants, and Berakhot 45 says that women may recite the zimmun. However, the majority of scholars are of the opinion that ten women may not recite the additional form of zimun be-Shem, which is obligatory when ten men are present. The few authorities who do permit ten women to use the zimmun be-Shem formulation explain that the necessity for ten in this case is unique and cannot be compared to other instances requiring minyan. Only Rabbeinu Simcha among these authorities mentions the possibility of one woman joining with nine men to form a minyan for prayer. This isolated opinion is rejected by the codifiers. There are a number of cases, including reading of the megillah, where a limited number of authorities count women towards the minyan. However, in these cases the reason why women are counted is not because they constitute a “congregation”, but rather because a public audience is required. However, it is not clear where the distinction between "congregation" and "public audience" comes from--the Talmud actually derives the "congregation" for prayer from the same exact source as it derives the public audience for kiddush Hashem and hillul Hashem.

A possible reason as to why it is men who are obligated to form a congregation in order to convene the Divine Presence and women not, is that women are individually considered sufficiently holy and do not require the combination of a group and special prayers to achieve added holiness deficient in men. Due to the righteousness of the women in the wilderness, they did not suffer the same deadly fate as their male counterparts, and despite the spies’ negative report about the holyland, wished to enter it. Others point to the sociological reality that women were traditionally expected to care for the house and children. The Jewish tradition simply did not require women to leave their social role to engage in public prayer.

The conservative movement advanced on this issue in 1973 when the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of its Rabbinical Assembly voted to permit synagogues to count women as part of a minyan if so desired and approved by the local rabbi. However, it was only in 2002 that the CJLS adopted a responsum that offered the halakhic reasoning for their decision. The responsum, authored by Rabbi David Fine, indicated that the conservative rabbinate found itself bound by a halakhic principle that only those obligated to perform a commandment can constitute a minyan to fulfil that commandment. Because of this principle, the CJLS found it could not simply declare that women were eligible without also requiring them to accept upon themselves the same obligations of prayer as a man. The committee considered simply declaring all women obligated to pray three times a day, but found that such a declaration would turn its traditionalist female members into transgressors. It considered requiring women to take on an individual personal vow to pray thrice daily, but found this impractical to implement in congregations. Its solution, an approach which creates a de facto egalitarianism, was to declare that conservative women had collectively obligated themselves to pray three times a day and thus women could count in the minyan on the basis of that collective obligation, while also allowing individual traditionalist congregations or members, who choose to retain traditional gender roles, to exempt themselves from that obligation. Currently, the majority of conservative congregations include women aged over thirteen in the minyan, although a traditionalist minority continues to desist.

Transgressors

The question of whether a sinner can be counted for a minyan has become much more pertinent in recent generations, where a general malaise in religious observance among the majority of Jewry has occurred. The Shulchan Aruch states that though a person may be a notorious and habitual sinner and has even committed a capital offense, unless a person has been placed under a religious ban due to his sinful behaviour, he is counted among the ten. The source provided for this sentiment is from the incident with Achan who, despite having been put to death for his transgression, was still referred to as a Jew. However, the Pri Megadim explains that this is only true if he sins for self satisfaction, but if a person sins to spite God or has openly severed his connection with his people by professing a hostile creed or by publicly desecrating the Shabbat, such a person is prohibited from constituting a minyan. Nevertheless, many contemporary authorities have been driven to adopt a lenient view in the face of widespread public non-observance of the Shabbat, on the presumption that it does not indicate a deliberate denial of faith, but is rather a result of ignorance and succumbing to the pressure of social and economic conditions.

Proselytes

Even though Tosafot deduce from the Tamud in Sukkah 38b that wherever the verse states “children of Israel” it comes to exclude a proselyte unless there is specific clause for inclusion, here with regard to minyan the sources state that there is no reasoning to exclude a full-fledged proselyte. Since he is permitted to act as a prayer leader, obviously he can count towards a minyan.

Those who are unable to respond

As long as a person is of sufficient intelligence, he can be included in the minyan, even if he is unable to respond to the to the prayers which make the presence of ten a necessity. According to some sources, this is because as long as ten are gathered the Divine Presence descends and it is feasible to pronounce a Dvar she'bekedusha. This includes someone who is in the middle of his prayers but is precluded from responding to the hazzan’s incantations and someone who is dumb but can hear the prayers. (Someone who is deaf but has the ability and knows when to respond can also be included.) There is however a dispute regarding someone who is asleep or intoxicated. Such a person has sufficient intelligence, but at present can neither hear or respond. Ideally he should be woken to the extent that he is dozing, but in extraneous circumstances where it impossible to arouse him, it is permitted to include the maximum of one sleeping person in the minyan. In the case of a drunkard, the accepted view is that even if he has not reached the “drunkenness of Lot”, he still cannot be included. It should be noted that a minimum of six of those gathered in the minyan have a duty to listen attentively and respond appropriately to the additional prayers and that at least nine are required to respond for the repetition of the Amidah.

Arrangement

It is not just the status of the individual which dictates eligibly; the physical arrangement of the minyan is also a factor. Maimonides delineates the confines which are placed on the arrangement of the people making up a minyan. Ideally all the members of the minyan should be gathered in one room. However, if they are within hearing distance of one another, it is permitted for the ten to be distributed in two adjoining rooms. Later authorities limit the extent of this opinion and rule that even if there is an opening between the two rooms, the two groups are still considered separate entities. Only in extraneous circumstances is it permitted, as long as some of the men in each room can see each other.

See also

Further reading

  • Adler, Rachel. "Innovation and authority : a feminist reading of the "women’s minyan" responsum" In Gender Issues in Jewish Law (2001) 3-32
  • Broyde, Michael J.; Wolowelsky, Joel B. "Further on women as prayer leaders and their role in communal prayer; an exchange." Judaism. 42,4 (1993) 387-395.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Splitting the worshipers into two minyanim for the sake of two mourners." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Yoreh Deah vol. 4, ch. 61:4.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Including one who dwells in the Land of Israel for a minyan on second day yom-tov." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 4, ch. 106, pg. 196-199.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Including a person who is praying a different prayer." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 4, ch. 20, pg. 31.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Including a minor in extraneous circumstances." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 2, ch. 18, pg. 188-189.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Forming a minyan of minors for the purpose of religious instruction." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 2 ch. 98, pg. 290.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Is it sufficient for the minyan to contain a majority of those who have not already prayed?" (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 1, ch. 28-30, pg. 72-76.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Including one who profanes the Sabbath." (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 1, ch. 23, pg. 66-67 & Orach Chayim vol. 1, ch. 19, pg. 189.
  • Feinstein, Moses. "Is praying with a minyan obligatory or just preferential?" (Heb.) Iggrot Moshe, Noble Press Book Corp. Brooklyn, New York (1982); Orach Chayim vol. 1, ch. 31, pg. 77; Orach Chayim vol. 2, ch. 27, pg. 200-202; Orach Chayim vol. 3, ch. 7, pg. 305 & Orach Chayim vol. 4, ch. 2, pg. 27.
  • Hauptman, Judith. "Some thoughts on the nature of halakhic adjudication; women and "minyan"." in Judaism 42,4 (1993) 396-413.
  • Oppenheimer, Steven. "The breakaway minyan" in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 46 (2003) 41-59
  • Safrai, Chana. "The "minyan" : gender and democracy" (Heb.) in Men and Women; Gender, Judaism and Democracy. Ed.: Rachel Elior. Jerusalem: Van Leer Jerusalem Institute; Urim Publications, 2004
  • Schachter, Zvi. (Essay on women’s minyan) "Bet Yitzhak" 17 (1985).
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Is it better to include someone who profanes the Sabbath or dissolve the minyan?" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 469.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Counting the Omer with a minyan" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 310.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including a person whos hearing is assisted with a hearing aid" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 101.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including someone who lives with a non-Jewish lady" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 113.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including someone who has not yet finished the silent prayer" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 104.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including worshipers who are praying outside the synagogue" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 163.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Sanctifying the new moon with a minyan" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 1, ch. 205.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Reciting Birkat ha-Gomel in the presence of ten people" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 2, ch. 143.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Going on holiday to place where there is no minyan" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 2, ch. 63.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Leaving an exact minyan during prayer" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 2, ch. 62.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including an Israeli for the Reading of the Law on second day yom-tov of the diaspora" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 2, ch. 89.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Including a despondent person with the worry that he may not respond" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 2, ch. 61.
  • Sternbuch, Moishe. "Annulment of vows on New Year’s eve with a minyan" (Heb.) Teshuvos VeHanhagos, Frank Publishing, Jerusalem (1997); vol. 3, ch. 161.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "In an unenclosed area, how close together must people be to be considered part of the minyan?" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 2, ch. 44.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Can one person make up two separate minyanim simultaneously?" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 2, ch. 45.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Including a person who desecrates the Sabbath." (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 3, ch. 26:4; vol. 6, ch. 9.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Including a person who married out" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 3, ch. 65.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Can people in a corridor be included in a minyan?" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 4, ch. 9.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Regarding a small congregation who need to hire out people to make up the minyan" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 9, ch. 1, pg. 17-18.
  • Weiss, Yitzchok Yaakov. "Can women make up their own minyan" (Heb.) Minchat Yitzchak, Minchat Yitzchak Publishing, Jerusalem (1991); vol. 9, ch. 11a, pg. 17.
  • Wolowelsky, Joel B.. "Women's Participation in Sheva Berakhot" in Modern Judaism, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May, 1992)
  • Zuckerman, Phil. "Gender Regulation as a Source of Religious Schism" in Sociology of Religion, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Winter, 1997), pp. 353-373

Footnotes

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