Minyan

Minyan
Halakhic texts relating to this article
Leviticus 22:32
Mishnah:Megillah 4:3
Babylonian Talmud:Megillah 23b; Sanhedrin 74b
Jerusalem Talmud:Megillah 4:4
Mishneh Torah:Hilchot Tefillah 8:1
Shulchan Aruch:Orach Chayim 55

In Judaism, a minyan (Hebrew: מניין \ מִנְיָן minyán [minˈjan], lit. (noun) count, number; pl. מניינים \ מִנְיָנִים minyaním [minjaˈnim]) is the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. In more traditional streams of Judaism, only men may constitute a minyan; in more modern (non-Orthodox) streams women are also counted.[1][2]

The most common activity requiring a minyan is public prayer. Accordingly, the term minyan in contemporary Judaism has taken on the secondary meaning of referring to a prayer service.

Minyan Ma'ariv prayer in a Jaffa Tel Aviv flea-market shop

Sources

The source for the requirement of minyan is recorded in the Talmud. The word minyan itself comes from the Hebrew root maneh מנה meaning to count or to number. The word is related to the Aramaic word mene, numbered, appearing in Daniel 5:25.

Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 23b) derives the requirement of a minyan of ten shomer Shabbat for Kiddush Hashem[3] and Devarim she-Bikdusha, "matters of sanctity", by combining three scriptural verses using the rule of gezerah shavah:

The word "midst" in the verse:

"And I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel" (Leviticus 22:32)

also appears in the verse:

"Separate yourselves from the midst of the congregation" (Numbers 16:21)

The term "congregation" is also used in another verse that describes the ten spies who brought back a negative report of the Land of Israel:

"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?" (Numbers 14:27)

From this combination, the Talmud concludes that "sanctification" should occur in the "midst" of a "congregation" of ten.

Jerusalem Talmud

The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4:4) offers two sources for the requirement, also using a gezerah shavah:

The word "congregation" in the verse:

"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy" (Leviticus 19:2)

is also used in another verse:

"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?" (Numbers 14:27)

Since the term "congregation" in the later verse refers to the ten spies, so too in the former verse: "You shall be holy" refers to a "congregation" of ten.

The second source is based on the term "children of Israel" which appears in the following two verses:

"And I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel" (Leviticus 22:32)
" And the children of Israel came to buy among those that came" (Genesis 42:5)

Just as the "children of Israel" in the later verse refers to the ten sons of Jacob who descended to Egypt to obtain food during the famine, so too the former verse refers to sanctification among the “children of Israel” in the presence of ten.