views updated


MINYAN (Heb. מִנְיָן; "number"), designation for the quorum of ten male adults, aged 13 years or over, necessary for public synagogue service and certain other religious ceremonies. The Talmud (Ber. 21b; Meg. 23b) derives this number from the term edah ("community"), which in the Scriptures is applied to the ten spies (Num. 14:27). Thus ten men constitute a congregation. The Talmud (Ket. 7b) also mentions Ruth 4:2 and Psalm 68:27. Some relate the rule to Abraham's plea to God to save Sodom if at least ten righteous men were found there (Gen. 18:32). On the basis of Psalm 82:1: "God standeth in the congregation of God," the Talmud explains that if ten men pray together, the Divine Presence is with them (Ber. 6a). This quorum of ten adult males is necessary for the following sections of the public synagogue service: The repetition of the Amidah with Kedushah, the pentateuchal and haftarah reading, priestly benedictions (Meg. 4:3), and the Kaddish. Some also require a minyan for the recital of the Barekhu invocation; others permit this to be said even if only six or seven males are present (Sof. 10:6). The accepted custom in emergency cases is nine adults and a boy holding a Bible (based on pdre, 8; see Tos. Ber. 48a and Sh. Ar., oh, 55:4). A quorum of ten is also necessary in the rites of comforting the mourners (ma'amad u-moshav; Meg. 4:3; Meg. 23b). The recital of the seven nuptial blessings at wedding ceremonies and the special invocation preceding grace there ("Let us bless our God of whose bounty we have eaten") also require a minyan (ibid.).

Ten male adults constitute a quorum in any place, and there is no need for a synagogue building or an officiating rabbi to hold divine services. In talmudic times, a community was regarded as "a city" if there were at least "ten idle men" (not occupied by work or other duties) who could come to each synagogue service to make up the minyan (Meg. 1:3). R. Johanan said, "when God comes to a synagogue and does not find a minyan there, He is angry, as it is written (Isa. 50:2). 'Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? When I called, was there none to answer?'" (Ber. 6b). In traditional congregations, especially in Eastern Europe, when it was difficult to hold daily services with a minyan, it was customary to pay a few old or idle men to be present twice a day at the services. These people were called "minyan men."

In Reform, Reconstructionist, and most Conservative practice at the beginning of the 21st century, women were counted in the minimum quorum of 10 persons required to constitute a public prayer service, since they had full religious equality with men.


Eisenstein, Dinim, 239ff.; Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 493ff.; je, 8 (1907), 603; jl, 4 (1930), 203ff. add. bibliography: R. Biale, Women and Jewish Law (1984), 21–24; S. Freehof, Reform Jewish Practice, 1 (1948), 49–52; D. Golinkin. The Status of Women in Jewish Law: Responsa (2001).