It was Shabbat morning, and there were only nine men at Synagogue Bais Simcha in Sunshine, Florida, a little town west of Miami.

Every time the front door opened, nine pairs of eyes were pulled to it like a fasting man after Yom Kippur was drawn to a bagel and lox. Without ten men, the Torah could not be taken out and seven aliyahs given. Without ten men, the Amida, the eighteen universal prayers, with a nineteenth thrown in for extra measure, could not be said out loud. Without ten men, Michael Fein, the richest Jew in town and president of the synagogue, could not say kaddish, the mourner's prayer, for his dear departed mother.

Michael Fein wondered, with only nine men, would G‑d listen to their prayers?Time was running out. It was now 11:00 AM, and if a tenth man did not arrive soon, the prayer service would be cut short. Michael Fein wondered, with only nine men, would G‑d listen to their prayers? Yes, of course, He would listen. But wouldn't the Holy One, Blessed be He, listen much harder if there were ten men? Michael considered another urgent matter - how would my mother feel about me not saying kaddish for her? Even from the grave she could make guilt flow within him like an artisan well gushing water.

When little five year old Dovid Senterfeld opened the front doors, eighteen eyes went to him, then nine mouths pursed their lips, and then nine heads shook back and forth. A boy had to be thirteen to count in a minyan. Dovid ran through the sanctuary, to the back room, where his friends were breaking toys and biting their playmates.

At 11:15 AM, just as Rabbi Levi was about to end the prayer service and dismiss the congregation, the front doors opened once more ... and a stranger walked in. He was a heavy-set man, thirtyish, dressed in jeans and a stained, white shirt. He had a short, trimmed beard and was wearing a yarmulke outside synagogue, which meant he was obviously Jewish. The tenth man had arrived, even though no one had a clue as to who he was.

"Bring out the Torah!" Rabbi Levi shouted. The Rabbi was fortyish, thin, dressed in an all black suit with a clean starched white shirt. He had a long, full beard that had never been cut.

While the men inside the synagogue scurried about with their preparations to read the Torah on this holy Shabbat morning, the stranger turned around, the front door still open, and walked out.

Nine men looked at one another in horror. Eighteen eyes looked beseechingly at the Rabbi, each eye asking in Silent Eye Language, "Now what?"

The doors opened once again, and the stranger walked back in pulling a child's stroller behind him, with one bent wheel that squeaked. Sitting in the stroller was a two year old girl. The stranger unbuckled her seat belt, and lifted her out of the stroller. She immediately ran over to see what the Rabbi was doing.

She had long, brown curly hair, large brown eyes, a cute little nose bent slightly upward, and soft red lips that curled slightly downward. She wore a soiled pink dress, only one white sock, and scuffed patent leather shoes. Her disheveled condition was noticed only by Rebecca Levi, the rabbi's wife, not by the men.

She was one of the most beautiful children that anyone had ever seen walking, or running as the case may be, into Bais Simcha, cuter than any doll. Her father was blessed, each man thought, as they stared down at this striking little bundle of energy, and then looked over at her father.

While Rabbi Levi was frantically searching for the week's Torah portion inside the parchment scroll that was more than a hundred feet long, the little girl stood beside him and pulled on his trousers. The Rabbi looked down, dismayed, but when he saw the little girl's angelic face, he melted like a stick of butter in a hot frying pan of matzah brye.

"Well what do we have here?!" the Rabbi said. "And what is your name?"

"Minn… dddd… eee."

Rabbi Levi looked over at her father, who now approached the bima.

"Her name is Mindy," the stranger explained.

"Mindelah! Mindelah! What a beautiful name for a beautiful girl!" the Rabbi said, smiling down at her.

Mindy smiled up at him.

Mindy took this opportunity to lay down on the floor, next to her father, and screamRabbi Levi found the correct place on the Torah scroll to begin reading, and then looked around the congregation, and asked, "Do we have a Cohaine here?"

Michael Fein strode up to the bima. He was not a Cohen, a member of the elite priestly class of Jews, but a Levite. The Cohen was customarily accorded the great honor of the first aliyah, but since there were not any Cohens in Sunshine, the first aliyah always went to a Levite, and that was Michael Fein.

"I'm a Cohen," the stranger offered.

Michael Fein stopped dead in his tracks like a possum cornered by a bobcat, and scowled. How could this be, he thought. I always get the first aliyah.

"What is your Hebrew name?" Rabbi Levi asked the stranger.

"Moshe ben Aaron HaCohen," the stranger answered.

Mindy took this opportunity to lay down on the floor, next to her father, and scream, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!" at the top of her little lungs, which were not so little, judging by the wall of sound that emanated from her cute little lips.

Her father ignored her and began reciting the prayer before the reading of the Torah. "Baruchoo et Hashem hamivorach."

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!" Mindy screeched, kicking her legs and scuffing her little patent leather shoes even more.

It was customary for the congregation to answer, "Baruch Hashem hamivorach l'olam vaed." However, no one answered. Everyone was mesmerized by Mindy laying on the floor, executing a screaming temper tantrum.

Rabbi Levi, alone, answered Moshe ben Aaron HaCohen's blessing. "Baruch Hashem hamivorach l'olam vaed," he said and then sighed deeply. He looked over to where his wife was, but she was gone now, abandoning him in favor of preparing a Shabbos meal for fifteen.

Moshe ben Aarom HaCohen continued with the rest of the blessing for the reading of the Torah, and then Rabbi Levi read the Torah portion in Hebrew. The only one who listened to him was Mindy's father. The other eight men were holding their ears, in various stages of aural torment.


When Moshe ben Aaron's aliyah was finished, he sat down. Mindy stood up, wiped away her tears, and went over to her father. He hoisted her up on his lap, reached into his pocket, and took out a box of Good and Plenty candy. He handed his daughter a white candy, she put it in her mouth, and then spit it out. It was amazing to those watching that such a little person could spit a candy twice as far as she was tall. The moist sloppy candy hit eighty-two year old Shlomo Feinberg in the back of his bald head. He wiped off the goo, and continued praying.

"NOTHER!" she shouted at her father, as Michael Fein approached the bima for the second aliyah.

Mindy's father gave her a pink candy. Mindy took it, looked at it, scowled, then threw it back at him.


Mindy only liked the white Good and Plenty's, even though the pink ones are known to taste exactly like the white ones.

There were no more candies in the box, and that ruined Mindy's morning. She cried and twisted her body like a snake until her father put her down, whereupon she ran to the front door.

Rabbi Levi winced while reading the second Torah portion, because Mindy opened the front door, and then slammed it shut. She slammed it again. And again. And again.

After the fourth slam, Michael Fein had enough.

"What's the matter with you? Can't you control your child!" he yelled at the Moshe Ben Aaron Hacohaine. "She's making everyone mushuginah!"

The congregation was down to nine men againMoshe ben Aaron HaCohen blushed a bright red. Then he stood up, quietly, without uttering a word of rebuttal to Michael Fein. He walked to the front door, scooped Mindy into his arms, placed her back in the stroller, with one bent wheel that squeaked, buckled her little seat belt, opened the door, and left.

The congregation was down to nine men again.

"What do we do now?" Michael Fein asked the Rabbi.

Rabbi Levi shrugged. "We will finish the Torah reading since we already started, but unfortunately, without a. minyan you will not be able to recite the mourner's prayer of Kaddish."

"Rabbi, I still haven't said kaddish for my mother! Rabbi Fein objected. "That woman worked two jobs, sixteen hours a day, to put me through law school. I have to say kaddish for her!"

"Well, Michael, if it's that important to you, then I suggest you go apologize to your tenth man. Maybe he will come back."

Michael Fein was a proud man. He ruled, with a strong and outstretched hand, similar to the G‑d of Moses in Exodus, the largest law firm within a hundred miles, populated by fifty of the highest-powered attorneys around, served by a hundred of the most-overworked legal assistants within a hundred miles, also. He did not have to apologize to any man, any judge, or any city councilman, either. He never apologized.

"Rabbi, I think it would be better if you apologized," Michael suggested. Even his suggestions sounded like orders.

"But I didn't yell at him, Michael, and call his child meshugana."

"I didn't call her meshugana. I said she was making everyone else meshugana."

"Still, I think you should be the one to explain the difference, Michael, not me. He didn't look like he would accept an apology from me, that should really come from you."

Michael Fein reconsidered his position. If someone didn't apologize to Moshe ben Aaron HaCohen, and soon, he would not be able to say kaddish for his mother on her yartzeit, the anniversary of the day of her passing. When it came to his sainted mother, Michael Fine would do anything – even apologize to some meshugana father with his beautiful spoiled little meshugana daughter, who were driving everyone else meshugana.

They finished the Torah reading and then Michael Fein took off his tallit, his prayer shawl, walked briskly to the front door, then exited Bais Simcha.

Five minutes went by … then ten minutes … then twenty minutes. The other eight members of the congregation became impatient, stood up, ready to leave.

"Please stay a little longer, as a favor to Michael," the Rabbi pleaded.

"What for? He never comes to my yahrtzites! What, is my mother chopped liver? To me she's just as important as his mother?" Avy Fingerboard objected.

"Avy, please stay … as a special favor to me," Rabbi Levi said, looking into all sixteen pairs of eyes as he said it.

The sixteen pairs of eyes looked back at the Rabbi, up to the ceiling, down to the floor, at each other. Eight souls remained seated.

It was startling to see a clown expression replace the perpetual look of superiority on his faceAt exactly noon, when the Shabbat morning service should have ended, if a minyan managed to show up, Michael Fein returned. He was standing in the front doorway, holding Mindy on his shoulders, and Moshe Ben Aaron HaCohen was standing beside him, rolling the empty stroller with one bent squeaky wheel.

Michael Fein was talking baby talk to Mindy. It was startling to see a clown expression replace the perpetual look of superiority on his face.

"Wooo wooo! Wooo wooo!" Michael said. "The Baby Train is leaving the station." He jumped up and down as he said it.

Mindy burst out laughing, which made Michael laugh. Then he wooo wooo'd some more. This woo wooing of the Baby Train was repeated until it was no longer funny to Mindy, and thus Michael. Michael handed Mindy back over to her father, walked over to the bima, put on his tallit, stared at the Torah, and then Rabbi Levi.

"Nu?" Michael Fein asked Rabbi Levi. "We have ten men, don't we? Let's r say kaddish for my Mother. She's waiting."

Rabbi Levi's mouth hung open like a big salmon on a grappling hook in the Feldstein's Fish Market. When he regained his composure, he began reading the holy words once again.

It was then that Rabbi Levi decided that some very wise men from centuries past knew what they were doing when they instituted the minyan rules. It made every man in a minyan, regardless of who he was, what he looked like, and how much or little status he had, a welcome friend.

And when you were one man short, it made every tenth man, your best friend ... regardless of how meshugana he was, his child was, or how meshugana they made everyone else feel.