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TCS Question - Why do we need a minyan?

Over the summer months one of the challenges we often face is getting a minyan for Shabbat services. While we can start the service without ten Jewish adults, there are a number of prayers which cannot be recited until we hit that magical number ten. Without the Barechu (the call to prayer), the Kedushah (a part of the Amidah), the Kaddish (the mourners prayer) and the reading of Torah, while it would still be a Jewish service, without these features it would feel like something was missing (as it would be).

Unsurprisingly the origin of the minyan comes from the Torah, although not in any specific verse or instruction. Instead the Rabbis of the Talmud took a number of Torah verses together and through them developed the obligation of needing a minyan of ten adults for certain prayers to be recited.

The first verse which is referenced is Vayikra (Leviticus) 22:32 in which God instructs the Israelites: ‘I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel.’ It is therefore the parts of the service in which God is sanctified that are excluded without a minyan present. But for Talmudic Rabbis the next question is then how to define how many Children of Israel are needed for God to be sanctified?

To answer this question we get a type of rabbinic two-step. The Rabbis take a word in the first verse, link it to another verse with the same word, and then take a different word from this second verse and link to it to that same word in a third verse. (Are you still following?) They then use that process to link the first and third verses.

Below you will see the word linking verses 1 and 2 (the midst) underlined, and the word
linking verses 2 and 3 (congregation) underlined.

Verse 1: Leviticus 22:32 - וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
‘I shall be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel.’

Verse 2: Numbers 16:21 - הִבָּדְלוּ מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַזֹּאת

‘Separate yourselves from the midst of the congregation.’

Verse 3: Numbers 14:27 - עַד־מָתַי לָעֵדָה הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה מַלִּינִים עָלָי

‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation?’

In context, Numbers 14:27 refers to the ten spies, who brought back a negative report about the Land of Israel. Therefore the Rabbis concluded a congregation is ten and as such ten people are required for the sanctification of God and as a result a minyan is made up of ten adults (traditionally it used to be ten adult males, but today women are also counted as part of the minyan).

Technically this answers the question, but I would suggest that this does not fully answer the question. The need for a minyan also acknowledges the need for a community when praying. When we pray we articulate our relationship with God, but we also consider our relationship with the world and people that surround us. And when we are praying at times of joy, we can share our delight with the community; but arguably more significantly at times of sadness, we can take comfort, solace and support from the community around us. And I think this is the real reason that we need a minyan.

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