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Minyan of 3


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 13, 5775
I just had a quick question its obvious that Halacha dictates that 10 men make a minyan from your answer but in other area’s of Jewish law the number is usually 3 people as in the case of a Jewish Court or otherwise. It would seem that 3 people should suffice represent the jewish people in matters of sanctification as well. Is the number 10 an halachic fence around the number 3 or are these just completely seperate issues? Side question of interest: are Torahs, on a bedived basis, ever accepted as part of the (10) in a minyan (something I once heard in passing without any sources or follow up)?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The number 10 for a minyan is learnt out from verses in the Torah (see the previous answer), and is not a fence around the number 3. There is a basic difference between the need for 3 and the places we need a minyan. The minyan is needed for the sanctification of Hashem (and sometimes for the publicizing of His miracles in the world). On the other hand, the places where three are needed are learnt out from different sources, and have to do with the way judgment (for example) is carried out – with there being an odd number so as to reach a majority decision. In regards the question of using a Sefer Torah as the "tenth man" in a minyan – yes this does have a vague hint of a source. Firstly, the Talmud (Brachot 47b) when discussing forming a minyan for saying zimun before grace after meals (with Hashem's name in it), says "Said Rav Huna, "Nine and the Aron [Kodesh] join up [to be counted as ten]". The Talmud immediately rejects this and says "Is the Aron a person!". This then may be the (rejected) source for the idea that the Sefer Torah counts for a minyan. However, we do find some reference in halacha to some form of using a sefer Torah for a minyan. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Haim 55,4) talks about including a boy less than bar-mitzvah age as the tenth for a minyan, and writes that this is forbidden. The Rema adds that there are those that in a time of need do rely on using a child, as long as he is holding a Chumash in his hands. The overwhelming consensus of Rabinic opinion is not to rely on this opinion even in times of need (see Mishna Brurah there). The source for the idea that a minor holding a chumash or Sefer Torah might be counted for a minyan is discussed by the Rosh (Berachot 7, 20) where he discusses at length the opinions that allow one child to be counted towards a minyan, and he writes "The only source for this [counting a child who is holding a chumash] is Pirkei d'R. Eliezer, regarding Ibur Shanah [declaring a leap year]. There, it mentions a Sefer Torah. It says that R. Eliezer requires ten for Ibur Shanah, and if we lack one, we bring a Sefer Torah. It does not say that the minor holds it. Even if there is such a source regarding Tefilah, this is only for a Sefer Torah or Chumash, i.e. one Sefer of the Torah written on parchment. Chazal did not have [printed] Chumashim like we do. The Yerushalmi says "a minor and a Sefer Torah, we include them for 10." This means a minor or a Sefer Torah, just like nine men and the Aron. The Halachah does not follow the Yerushalmi. Some texts of the Yerushalmi say "a minor and a Sefer Torah, we include Oto (him, or it)." This is like the custom (that the minor holds the Sefer). Or, perhaps it means that a minor may be counted among the seven required Aliyos." From here we see that in fact there is a situation where a Sefer Torah makes up a minyan (for declaring a leap year) according to one opinion, and perhaps even for a minyan for prayer, according to the Yerusalemi Talmud. However, the halacha is not like this source, and we do not use a Sefer Torah (nor a child) as a "tenth man" for a minyan. {In extreme situations a community should consult there Rabbi as to the advisability of relying on the minor opinions that allow counting a child who is holding a Sefer Torah for a minyan}. I hope this is of some help to you – Blessings.
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