Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…