By Andie Insoft, President, Temple Emeth
“I asked the man I saw how many Jews in this town
He said to me there used to be a Minyan around
But one of us passed away and we’ve been feeling down
Yet now it seems as though another Jew has been found
Won’t you stay with us for Shabbos Minyan Man”
– Schlock Rock
I have often wondered why we need 10 people for a minyan and why we need to say kaddish with a minyan. Recently, I found the answer.
I was on my way to minyan to say kaddish for my mom. It was a miserable, rainy night, but I thought it was an important thing for me to do. My husband, Rob came with me. I stopped at a rotary to wait for traffic to go by. As I was waiting, heard a horn blaring behind me and then felt a small tap on my bumper. The driver of the other car hollered at me, insisting that I had my car in reverse. I did not put my car in reverse. She continued to be out of control and demanded that I call the police – which I did. As we waited for the police to arrive, the rain grew steadily heavier. The officer was NOT happy to be standing out in the rain just to write our license information. By the time we had all the information we needed and finally left the scene, we arrived at minyan just as it was over. Oh, well. We had good intentions.
Rob and I got home and lit the yahzreit candle for my mom. I started to say kaddish. I know I know the kaddish, but I stumbled, forgot the words and I think I skipped a paragraph. Now what was that all about? Thank heavens Rob and my son helped out.
The next Saturday, at Temple Emeth, I decided to say kaddish again. There’s nothing like a little guilt from your mother from the great beyond. I said kaddish in the morning and then again at minyan in the evening. The words flowed out from me effortlessly. People asked for whom I was saying kaddish, and I got to talk about my mom a bit.
I was amazed that I didn’t have to look at the book. I could close my eyes and just pray. The voices of my fellow daveners joined me, helped me, and held me. And then it dawned on me. Some things are just easier when they are done in public, with a group.
Our sages knew what they were talking about when they gave us all these rules. I often struggle against them, wanting to know why. I have never been one to accept the answer “because it’s the rule.” I have always needed to find out for myself.
I will never again question the importance of minyan – of praying publicly and in community. Even if I am not in the mood to pray, the voices of those around me soar into the air and into my heart. Emeth has always had a proud tradition of maintaining a twice-daily minyan – even during the blizzard of ’78. Let’s not let this tradition die out. For many, minyan is more about being together than about actually praying. Perhaps it is not so important what we say, but rather that we are simply there.
Come some evening or morning. As Rabbi Turetz has said: “We are more a community than a religion.”