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What is a Minyan?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The word Minyan (pronounced MIN-yin) actually means "count" or "number." In the context of Jewish observance it refers to the particular number 10.

Due to the profound sanctity naturally associated with certain prayers and rituals, it is required that they only be recited/performed in the presence of a "congregation". Such prayers include the Kaddish, barchu, kedusha, Torah reading etc.,

But how many people constitutes a "congregation"?

The smallest group of people to be called a congregation in the Torah were the spies1, concerning whom G-d told Moses:2 "Separate yourselves from amongst this evil congregation."

Since that congregation consisted of ten3 Jewish adult4 men, we infer that a "congregation" must consist of at least ten Jewish adult men.5

Footnotes

  • 1. Moses sent spies to scout the land of Israel. See Numbers 13.
  • 2. Numbers 16:21
  • 3. There were a total of twelve spies but Joshua and Caleb were righteous, and were not included in the "evil congregation".
  • 4. In Jewish law a boy becomes an adult at 13.
  • 5. See Talmud Megillah 23b

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Minyan
A quorum consisting of ten adult male Jews. A minyan is necessary to recite the kaddish or to publicly read from the Torah scroll.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.