Why are we required to recite our most significant prayers with a minimum of ten people?
As the weather heats up and we enter the summer months, our “daily” minyan begins to falter a bit. Many of our regulars start taking vacations to get out of the heat, and we are often left without a quorum.
I was thinking about this on Thursday morning as we missed the minyan by two people. There were really two things that captured my focus. First, why do we need a minimum number of people in order to recite certain prayers? Second, how do we increase attendance at our morning minyan?
The first question has a fairly straight forward answer. Our religion puts an emphasis on community, especially when it comes to ritual and liturgy. While we can certainly pray individually in the privacy of our own homes, there is something special about coming together as a group to pray together. This is especially true for people who are reciting the kaddish prayer for a loved one who has recently died. The comfort and support one gains by attending minyan during a difficult time such as mourning the loss of a parent, spouse, child or sibling is indescribable. Standing up and reciting the kaddish surrounded by friends and acquaintances gives a boost to one’s spirit that cannot be found anywhere else.
But reciting the kaddish is not the only reason to have a minyan or to attend a minyan. Starting one’s day in a form of contemplative meditation with a group of friends is a wonderful way to start the day. In addition, we just have a nice group of regulars that benefit not just from the moments engaged in spirituality, but also from the camaraderie of discussions over bagels and coffee after the minyan.
The second question is much more difficult to answer. It is a question that plagues many Conservative synagogues, and membership size is not really a factor. There are shuls with eighteen hundred families, led by at least three clergy, that struggle to make a minyan. There are shuls with a hundred and fifty families that boast both morning and evening minyans. What matters is a sense of commitment by the community to maintaining a daily minyan.
We have tried dozens of marketing tools and gimmicks to reach out to the congregation to help sustain our efforts of a daily minyan. Some have worked for a short period of time, but minyan is an ongoing effort fifty-two weeks a year and those tools and gimmicks soon fade.
Now, I am turning to you, the congregation, for guidance and wisdom. What can we do together to meet our responsibility as a community to maintain a minyan? Who is ready to take on the challenge? I normally would end by asking you to call or email me with your suggestions, but what we really need is for you to simply come to minyan.
Come once a week or once a month and become part of one of our lessor known gems within on our congregation.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT