Thursday, February 23, 2006

Question & Answer With Rabbi Dovid Sears - Minyan

A Simple Jew asks:

The requirement of a Minyan for Tefilah is derived from the story of the Spies. Why is something so fundamental to our relationship with G-d, such as Minyan and davening, derived from an incident of such failure?

Rabbi Dovid Sears responds:

It is indeed an anomaly. Usually we do not derive halachos from evil or wrong actions. I am sure the meforshim discuss this, however I don't have time to look. Please forgive me.

A speculation: the Meraglim / Spies were not truly reshaim, and their "eidah" had a certain kedushah, despite their erroneous conclusion. In fact, the Midrash Tanchuma states that they were tzaddikim before they set out on their mission and only lost that status when they failed their "test."

The Arizal explains that the Meraglim did not want to enter the Holy Land precisely because of their devotion to Hashem. Kabbalistically, their neshamos were from the "World of Thought," and Eretz Yisrael represents the "World of Speech" -- a lower madreigah. They could not understand how Hashem could really want them to set aside their lofty meditations in order to serve Him through the things of this mundane world, such as agriculture and the burdens of building a nation, etc. Therefore, their minyan was not truly an unholy assembly, but only a misguided one. They did not yet grasp the revolutionary idea of the Torah that the things of this world exist in order to be sanctified -- to serve as what Chabad calls a "dirah be-tachtonim," a dwelling place for HaKadosh Borukh Hu within the limitations of 'olam-shanah-nefesh / space-time-soul.

Thus, we derive the requirement of ten men for a minyan from the incident of the Meraglim not only because of the hekish of "tokh-tokh" (the way Chazal link the two subjects), but because there really is an intrinsic connection. Maybe we can also say that tefilah is more connnected to the "World of Thought" than the "World of Speech" (even though we use speech in davenning) -- because it reaches to the 'Olam ha-Atzilus, the "World of Thought." In the Siddur ha-ARI, this corresponds to the Shemoneh Esreh. This is why we must daven the Shemoneh Esreh in an inaudible whisper (a condition regarding which the Zohar is extremely strict -- see Be'er Heitiv ("le-hashmiya' "), on Orach Chaim 101:2, and even more strongly the Sha'arei Teshuvah ["le-aznav"], same place).

When we pray, we use the holy quality of the Meraglim, which is that of thought and silent deveykus; when we perform mitzvos and help people and improve the world, we rectify their fault.


At February 23, 2006 at 1:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that quote about silence. It is wonderful.

At February 23, 2006 at 1:23:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you, Rabbi Karsh. I just saw it last night.

At February 23, 2006 at 2:26:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Actually, there's an inaccuracy in your question, which, upon correction, perhaps makes it even stronger:
The limud is "toch-toch" from KORACH and his 'congregation' = EIDA - and then "eida-eida" from the Meraglim, who were ten.
Indeed, one of the early Torahs of the Modzitzer Rebbe, Shlita, may he be well soon, relates to this question. It appears in a Kuntras [booklet] which came out in Nisan of 5749 [1989; he became Rebbe in 1984].

MY TRANSLATION: "One must wonder why we learn about holiness from the evil groups of the spies and Korach's cohorts. A simple explanation is that good & evil always need to be in balance - in order for free will to be meaningful [zeh leumas zeh]. But one can say that actually, the whole point of Kedusha is to 'separate from the eida' - to separate from the mass or herd mentality." [continued...]

At February 23, 2006 at 2:37:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...

[continuation of the Modzitzer Rebbe Shlita's Torah]:

"One can say, however on a deeper level, that in the case of the Meraglim, Hashem [as it were] desired to punish the entire Jewish People. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, protested: 'the nations who hear this about You will say that G-d was unable to bring this nation to the Land that He swore to them.' Essentially, Moshe was saying that G-d's plan [as it were] was a Chilul Hashem. To correct his, a Kiddush Hashem was necessary. So just as the Chilul Hashem was with 10 people [the spies], Kiddush Hashem also has to be with ten. Hence the requirement for ANY matter of Kedusha to be with a minyan of ten."

At February 23, 2006 at 3:26:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Moshe Finestein ZL ruled that non observant people can be counted in the making of the ten required for a minyan. He offered as proof the fact that the very source for the number ten, is derived from people considered to be evil.

At February 24, 2006 at 5:09:00 AM EST, Blogger Dreams from a Parallel Life said...

Interesting post. Can anyone here think of another instance where only a 'Mizumum' (3) is required besides Berchat Mamazon ?

At February 25, 2006 at 9:36:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hallel at the seder

At February 26, 2006 at 1:12:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yitz: your comment was the "talk" of the Modzitzer Shtibel last Shabbos. At least, from Yehudah Nathan's corner. He doesn't miss a thing!

At February 27, 2006 at 1:29:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Thanks R. Dovid, for the warm words, and I'm so pleased to hear that you find your way into the Modzitz shtibel in Flatbush! :))

BTW, I was privileged to be in Ramat Beit Shemesh this past Shabbos, where I heard a wonderful concert-shiur from R. Avraham Greenbaum & Yosef Karduner.

Now, ASJ, don't you want to come to Eretz Yisrael already?

At February 27, 2006 at 4:16:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

At least, from Yehudah Nathan's corner. He doesn't miss a thing!

Reb Dovid, I actually alerted Yehuda about this discussion via e-mail on Friday morning, Israel time, so he was able to check it out before Shabbos!

At February 27, 2006 at 6:33:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: That sounds like a great concert. G-d willing, I will be going to see Simply Tsfat perform tonight :)

At February 27, 2006 at 12:39:00 PM EST, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

In a similar vein:
1)A chavrusah once pointed out that the sefer, Shem Mishmuel is based on a chiyuv cares. (If someone writes only 2 letter of the name Shmuel on Shabbos he is chayev for Kesiva.)
2) I've recently seen a Sephardi siddur called "Ish Mazliach." Ish Mazliach though is a phrase in Tehillim referring to an evil person. One should not be jealous of the evil man who's successful; he'll get his.

At February 27, 2006 at 12:56:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Soccer Dad: Very interesting.

At February 28, 2006 at 10:44:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another halacha (minhag, really) that derives from a rasha is blowing 100 blasts on the shofar on Rosh Hashana. Comes from the medrash that Sisera's mother cried 100 times on learning her son was killed in the battle with Barak and Devora.

At March 1, 2006 at 1:09:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Good , thougthtful question. I love the Rav Dovid Moshe Friedman quote. Where is it from? And in your view - how does one intrepret the Torah through silence?

At March 1, 2006 at 6:42:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I saw it in a book that included it. As for answering your question, I am not entirely sure. I just thought it was something thought provoking.

At March 1, 2006 at 3:11:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


In Kedushas Levi, somewhere in Bereishis, if I remember correctly, the Berditchover Rov states that le-'asid la-vo we will also read the white space around the black letters of the Torah. Maybe this is "interpreting the Torah through silence."

From another angle: Rabbi Yaakov Klein of Tzefat told me that he once met an Israeli baal teshuvah who owned a piza store in Great Neck or somewhere else on Long Island. In the course of conversation, he heard that Rabbi Klein was associated with the Breslov Kehillah led by Rav Elazar Kenig. He said excitedly, "This Rav convinced me to become a shomer Torah u-Mitzvot!" "How?" Rabbi Klein asked. "He sat with me for forty-five minutes and we just gazed at each other in silence. When I left, I immediately became religious."

Maybe that's another way of interpreting (or teaching) the Torah through silence!


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