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Why Are Ten Men Needed for a Minyan?

Why Are Ten Men Needed for a Minyan?

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Photo: MathKnight
Photo: MathKnight

The biblical source for the requirement of ten men to complete a minyan (lit., “count” or “number”) is Numbers 14:27. Moses sent spies to scout the land of Canaan. Ten of them returned and issued a report concluding that it was not a conquerable land. G‑d was extremely disappointed with their lack of faith in His abilities. He turns to Moses and Aaron, telling them: "How long will this evil ‘assembly’ provoke [the Jewish nation] to complain against Me?” From here it is deduced that an “assembly” is comprised of ten men.

Now, in Leviticus 22:32 G‑d says, “I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel.” Employing a method of biblical exegesis known as gezerah shavah, wherein two verses with identical terminology are compared to each other,1 this verse is matched up to another verse (Numbers 16:21): “Separate yourselves from amidst this assembly.” The gezerah shavah teaches us that an “assembly” must be present when G‑d is being sanctified. Examples of such sanctification are the recitation of kaddish, kedushah and barchu, or the public reading of the Torah.

Upon pondering this concept for a moment, one comes to realize a great truth: the power of each individual Jew. There can be a group of nine of the greatest Jews, men who complete all of the commandments and understand the depths of the Torah’s secrets, yet they do not have the ability to complete a minyan on their own. However, add to the group the simplest Jew, someone who perhaps cannot properly read his prayer nor does he relay understand what he is saying, yet when he walks into the room he has now transformed to entire group and made them complete—a minyan. It is because of him that they are now able to recite those parts of the prayer that can be read only with a minyan. Never underestimate the potential of the individual Jew.

I would also suggest that you read a wonderful article entitled Women in the Synagogue.

All the best,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan,
Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.

The ability to compare verses simply based on identical terminology is restricted to those verses concerning which there is an oral tradition, passed down from Moses who was thus told atop Mount Sinai, that a gezerah shavah is to be applied in this instance.

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan of Brooklyn, NY, is a responder for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi feature.
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Ellis Reuben London, England January 16, 2017

What about when God wanted to destroy the world and Noah asked if there was 50 good people would the world be saved, the answer was yes, when Noah could not find 50 good men ,Noah asked what about 40 then 30 then twenty and lastly 10, when Noah could not find 10 then we had the floods that destroyed the world . Surely from this story we learn the minimum amount we need an account of ten men to conduct prayer in a congregation. Reply

John Palm Beach Gardens, Florida July 18, 2016

When Abraham bargained with G-d to save Sodom and Gomoorah, G-d agreed if Abraham could find just ten men. Is this is the same spirit as the idea of the minyan? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org November 16, 2015

In certain situations a boy over the age of 9 can be counted as the 10th for the minyan. It is not a regular practice, but in the event that a minyan is needed, there is halachic precedent. It is usually up to the rabbi's discretion. Reply

Anonymous Ridge November 1, 2015

Is there ever a situation in which a boy of eleven years old can be counted? I recall being in shul on a Shabbos last winter and we didn't have a minyan. We waited for a very long time, then the Rabbi said or did something and then the boy was accepted into the minyan. How is this possible? Reply

Chabad.org Staff via mychabad.org December 9, 2013

To Rami Numbers is Bamidbar and Leviticus is Vayikra. Reply

Rami Curacao December 8, 2013

I am not familiar with the secular terminology mentioned above:
what is Numbers in Ivrit?
what is Leviticus in Ivrit? Reply

Isaih Zininga Zimbabwe November 25, 2013

Interesting. Does ten have any other significance to Jews in particular? Reply

Marty Denver June 20, 2013

Mediation only needs one Prayers are instead of sacrifice. G-d didn’t need animal sacrifice; He commanded them because we have a desire to give to G-d for our own benefit but we struggled with the How? Amos 5:23 tells us the futility of sacrifice and prayer. Judaism is a verb and the bottom line is action. Time spent praying is opportunity lost for doing, for volunteering and helping others. Doing these things we connect to G-d. Yet, the Torah tells us that Isaac meditated Gen 24:63 How should we meditate? The Torah tells us Deut 30:14 Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” There is no formula, a set method. Go into your heart and mind as our Patriarchs did so each time it is new and alive. We can only have kavanah, proper intention, for a few brief moments. G-d wants us to search our heart so we can connect to Him. Each must explore how it can be reached. Can you continue to feel anything when you repeat it 3x a day your whole life? Reply

Jack Strong San Jose, CA June 18, 2013

Can women be counted? Where does it say that there must be 10 men? Why can't a woman be part of the 10 people assembly? Reply

jay schiffres fairfax, va December 30, 2011

Excellent Thank you for your commentary especially the 10th person making all whole. It makes sense to me. My dad passed in August and I have been saying Kaddish and it is so true so true that it makes no difference who the 10th is. Reply

Daich NY, NY January 8, 2009

Minyan Are there any physical disabilities that would disqualify a man over 13 from being part of a minyan e.g. deafness, blindness, muteness, etc.

Thanks, Reply

Anonymous February 27, 2008

minyan 10 is the first number of people where the permutations (10x9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1) is greater than 600,000 (the number of adult males present at the revelation at Sinai). In fact, the resultant number is also greater than the common approximation of the total people at Sinai. Reply

Daniel Posner Tzfat, Israel July 29, 2007

The Tenth Man I have been told, being the tenth man the one to make the minyan was a special honor. Hearing this helped me become full of myself, I would try to arrive in time to play superhero “Minyan Man” the tenth one. During Shiva for my father Chaim ben Tzvi ZT”L. The last morning we did not have a minyan. Someone ran out in the street, looking for anyone to fill that space. There he was, a man of maybe 14, my friend stopped him and asked “did you pray yet?” He answered "no" and we now had the tenth man. After davening my wife went to thank him for being that special person, the tenth man, the one that made it all possible. As she spoke to him he stopped her and said “please stop! Why do you single me out? Everyone in the room was the tenth man, I am nothing special” Such a deep Torah, from such a young man.
That changed my way of thinking in such a deep way that I now rush to be the to be the first to the Shul so I can be one of the ten superheroes, The Minyan Men. Reply

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