923 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Parshat Vayera: The Minyan – November 3, 2023

November 3, 2023

Genesis 18:32

וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדֹנָי֙ וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה אַךְ־הַפַּ֔עַם אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָעֲשָׂרָֽה׃

And he said, “Let not my lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found there?” “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.”

The fact is fairly well known that a minyan, ten Jewish adults, is required to say certain prayers during a service. One would expect that the requirement for a minyan comes from the verse above. If ten righteous people are found in the cities of Sodom and Gemorah, the cities will be spared. What a beautiful idea this could have been, connecting our gathering of ten members of our community with the ten righteous individuals sought after by Abraham and God.

This is not, however, where the requirement for a minyan comes from. The Talmud derives the requirement for ten people from words shared from the following three verses: 

  1. Leviticus 22:32 says “I shall be sanctified amongst the people Israel”
  2. Numbers 16:21 says “separate yourselves from amongst this congregation
  3. Numbers 14:27 says “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation” 

This last verse refers to the ten spies that gave a bad report of the land of Israel at the beginning of the Israelites desert wanderings. The logic follows that the “amongst” in Leviticus must also refer to ten people. If This is not clear, let me point out just one thing. Instead of deriving the idea of minyan from ten righteous individuals, both the verses in Numbers refer to groups of people who were destructive, first Korah’s followers, and then the ten spies. What a powerful reminder that the numbers of followers do not make a cause righteous. Rather, it’s the righteousness of the cause that gives a group its sanctity. This is why minyan is derived from these verses, and not the ten righteous individuals sought after in our Torah portion. Yes, numbers matter, but in truth that’s secondary. What matters more is the quality and righteousness of their shared purpose.

Office Hours

B’nai Zion Congregation
923 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37403
(enter parking lot from Oak Street)

Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Friday: 10:00am – 3:00pm

Please call ahead to confirm someone will be in the office when you arrive!


Rabbi Samuel Rotenberg: rabbirotenberg@bzcongregation.com

Autumn Clark, Office Manager: office@bzcongregation.com

Phone: 423.894.8900

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Weekly Services

Wednesday Minyan

Friday Kabbalat Shabbat

Shabbat Morning
9:45 am

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