A Little Learning from the Shabbat Afternoon Talmud Shiur*: The Mitzvah of Making Minyan

Contributed by Dina Yoshimi

In our recent study of Berachos (Perek Shevi’i, 47b), we encountered some teachings on the value of making minyan. We learned the following: “And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: A person should always awake early to go to the synagogue, so that he should merit to be counted among the first ten, for even if one hundred people come after him, he receives the reward of all of them (i.e., a reward equal to that of all of the one hundred who come later).” We also encountered the source for the often mentioned “rule” that the Torah can count as one person to make a minyan, a conversation between Rav Huna and Rav Nachman:

Rav Huna: Nine men and the ark containing the Torah scrolls combine to complete a minyan.
Rav Nachman: But is the ark a person?

You’ll have to delve deeper to learn how the matter is resolved.

Finally, in a nod to the ongoing relevance of our afternoon Talmud shiur to our weekly explorations of Torah at Sof, we note this teaching on forming a minyan, a teaching which speaks directly to Avi’s recent drash on Parashat Mishpatim where he looked at the broad spectrum of Torah laws regarding slavery:

“There once occurred an incident involving Rabbi Eliezer, who entered a synagogue and did not find ten men…and he freed his [Canaanite] slave and completed the minyan of ten with him…But how could he do this? Why, Rav Yehudah said: Anyone who emancipates his Canaanite slave transgresses a positive commandment, for it is stated [in Leviticus 25:46], ‘You shall work them forever.’ The Gemara answers: Freeing a slave for the sake of fulfilling a mitzvah is different. The Gemara objects: This is a mitzvah brought about through a transgression (mitzvah haba’ah ba’aveyrah)!…The Gemara answers: A communal mitzvah (mitzvah d’rabim), such as the recitation of Kedushah by a minyan, is different. Although the fulfillment of a personal mitzvah would not justify emancipating one’s slave, the fulfillment of a communal mitzvah does justify this.”

*All translations and expanded commentary taken from The Schottenstein Edition of Tractate Berachos

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