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Thought for the Day: Not Counting Men for a Minyan

There was a biology book published in the 80s that scrupulously removed all sexist comments and references.  One result was sentences that included such nonsense as, "when a person becomes pregnant."  You may notice that I have no such compunction.

I am pretty sure that this august group of readers will not be shocked to learn that in order to be allowed to say d'varim sh'b'k'dusha, a group comprised of a minimum of 10 Jewish men who have reached the age of majority (g'dolim) is needed; commonly known as a minyan.  Moreover, we are all well versed in the issur (which has all but taken on the status of yaharog v'lo ya'avor) of not counting people.  Unfortunately, however, there is some confusion as to how that to avoid that issur.

One common scheme is to put the work "not" before the number.  That is: not one, not two, not three, etc.  That doesn't work.  Counting, as far as I can tell, means to assign a known value to an object or person.  Were I to point to yenem and note that he is "not 6"; I've just counted him as surely as saying simply "6".  Even more (as I heard from R' Fuerst, shlita), assigning words from a pasuk that contains 10 words is just at bad.  "You're hoshi'a, you're es, you're amecha, v'chulu" (using the Latin "et cetera" seemed just plain wrong in that context).  Counting is counting.

So what can you do?  You could count hats, yarmulkas, ties, etc.  You could even count noses, or hands (dividing by 2), or fingers (dividing by 10), toes (dividing by 11; don't ask, I have some odd cousins).  "Hang on!", you cry, and "Foul!"  If counting people is forbidden, it can't be any better to count noses, hats, fingers, and so on.  Yes it can; and it is.  One only need take the specific care of things that depends on supernatural forces, such as Ayin Ra, that is spelled out.  The issur is specifically to count people, not their hats and not even their noses.

Sorry for the dryness of today's TftD.  I was trying to work in the joke about why Polish/Chelm minyanim have 15 members because of the repeated words in the song based on the pasuk of "hoshiya es amecha...", but it's really hard to write songs in email.  Besides, I have a terrible voice; even in writing.


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