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Minyan

From Academic Kids

This article is about the term in Judaism. For other meanings, see Minyan (disambiguation).

Minyan (Hebrew: plural minyanim) is traditionally a quorum of ten or more adult (over the age of Bar Mitzvah) male Jews for the purpose of communal prayer; a minyan is often held within a synagogue, but may be (and often is) held elsewhere.

A single minyan may be one of several simultaneous prayer services within a synagogue. One synagogue (or any building) can have two or more minyanim meeting at the same time; for example, one Ashkenazi minyan and one Sephardi minyan, or one Orthodox minyan and one Conservative minyan, though the latter would typically only happen in a community center or other communally owned building.

Women are counted as part of the minyan in most non-Orthodox synagogues and prayer gatherings.

Contents

Laws

According to halakha (Jewish law), a minyan is required for many parts of the communal prayer service, including Barechu, Kaddish, repetition of the Amidah, the priestly blessing, and the Torah and Haftarah readings. Women are not required to pray with a minyan, and thus Judaism has traditionally counted only men in the minyan for formal prayer.

Rabbinic Judaism teaches that all men and women are obligated to pray to God each day, but the formal requirements for prayer are different for the sexes. Classical rabbinic authorities are in agreement that men are required to pray from a set liturgy three times a day; however, they were of varied opinions as to precisely what the requirements were for women. In the last 300 years many traditional rabbis have followed a trend in which women are seen as being required to follow many (though not all) of the same requirements as men.

The 19th century poseq Yechiel Michel Epstein, author of the Arukh HaShulkhan, notes: "Even though the rabbis set prayer at fixed times in fixed language, it was not their intention to issue a leniency and exempt women from this ritual act". One of the most important codes of law in Ashkenazi Orthodox Judaism (outside of Hasidic Judaism) is the Mishnah Berurah by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan. He holds that the Men of the Great Assembly obligated women to say Shacharit (morning) and Minchah (afternoon) prayer services each day, "just like men". He further states that although women are technically exempt from reciting the Shema Yisrael, they should nevertheless say it anyway. In Conservative Judaism, most rabbis hold this view as well. However, many Jews still rely on the ruling of the (Ashkenazi) Rabbi Avraham Gombiner in his Magen Avraham commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh (section Orach Chayim 106:2), and more recently the (Sephardi) Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabiah Omer vol. 6, 17), that women are only required to pray once a day, in any form they choose, so long as the prayer contains praise of (brakhot), requests to (bakashot), and thanks of (hodot) God.[1] (http://www.nishmat.net/article.php?id=2&heading=0)

While women are not required to pray with a minyan, it is commonly believed that Jewish law requires that men pray in a minyan, but this not exactly correct. None of the Mishnah, Talmud or later codes of Jewish law hold this as requirement. Rather, it is described as a preferred activity, but not as mandatory. The Shulkhan Arukh (section Orach Chayim 90:9) says "A person should make every effort to attend services in a synagogue with a quorum; if circumstances prevent him from doing so, he should pray, wherever he is, at the same time that the synagogue service takes place". According to the author (Rabbi Yosef Karo), no Jew has an obligation to public prayer. That said, communal prayer, which requires a minyan, is historically viewed as an almost-obligation—while not a requirement, it is regarded as anti-social to not join in communal prayer.

Men have no halakhic obligation to pray in a minyan. It is, nevertheless, strongly encouraged. According to Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Tefillah 8.1):

The prayer of the community is always heard; and even if there were sinners among them [i.e., the minyan]], the Holy One, blessed be He, never rejects the prayer of the multitude. Hence a person must join himself with the community, and should not pray by himself so long as he is able to pray with the community. And a person should always go to the synagogue morning and evening, for his prayer is only heard at all times in the synagogue. And whoever has a synagogue in his city and does not pray there with the community is called a bad neighbor.

Origin

A common misconception is that the requirement of ten to constitute a quorum comes from the fact that Abraham stopped decreasing his requests for God to spare Amora (Gomorrah) and Sedom (Sodom) at ten "righteous" individuals (Genesis 18). In fact, the requirement comes from the sin of the spies (Numbers 14:27), in which the ten spies who bring a negative report of the land of Israel are referred to as an eidah or congregation (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 23b), though the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4,4) relates it to the ten brothers of Joseph who went down to Egypt to get food during a famine. The quorum of ten men is also referred to in the Book of Ruth 4:2.

The number 10 for a minyan may not always have been consistent throughout history either. It is related in the Babylonian Talmud, in Masechet Gittin, that in Palestine, sometimes as few as 6 (i.e., one more than half of 10) men were counted as sufficient to say communal prayers.

Although this amounts to nothing more than hearsay (as no evidence of such a practice is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud), in modern times some Reconstructionist congregations have taken to requiring only 6 Jews (of either gender) to constitute a minyan, while others go so far as to count a siddur or machzor placed upon a chair as a "person" for a minyan. (This practice is an extension of the rare practice in some congregations of counting a pre-Bar Mitzvah boy holding a sefer Torah as an "adult". See Customs below.)

Customs

Some congregations (based on the Shulkhan Arukh section Orach Chayim 55) will include a boy touching a Torah scroll or holding a printed Tanakh as the tenth person if a minyan can be formed in no other way.

Changes in non-Orthodox forms of Judaism

In the mid 20th century some congregations in Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism began counting women as part of the minyan. Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis do not see themselves as bound by halakha, and the movements are committed to the equality of the sexes, rejecting historical practices that draw distinctions on the basis of gender; thus they disregard the traditional prohibition of counting women as part of a minyan. Conservative rabbis do see halakha as binding, and did not generally accept this practice until several responsa were offered by rabbis that attempted to justify this practice as in accord with halakha. These responsa were accepted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly (though Orthodox Jews do not accept their validity). Since that time the practice of accepting women as part of the minyan has spread to all of Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, and most Conservative Jewish synagogues.he:מניין nn:Minjn

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