THE SPIRITUAL AND COMMUNAL IMPORTANCE OF THE DAILY MINYAN
The daily minyan, morning and evening, is one of the most important services (pun intended) a synagogue can provide its community. The synagogue is, by definition fact, a faith-based community organization. Certainly, one of the ways of expressing that faith is by daily prayer. Jewish law and tradition call for formal prayer three time a day. Our sages, over the years, have taught us that these prayers are best recited in community, that is, with a minyan, a quorum of ten Jewish adults.
For me, the regular recitation of prayers provides a spiritual and moral compass. It reinforces my sense of where I stand in the universe, to whom I am indebted and my responsibilities to God, myself to my family and community and, ultimately, to all humanity. Praying with a minyan, among other benefits, gives me sense that I am not alone.
Of course, there are parts of the regular prayer service that require a Minyan. One of the most socially significant is the opportunity for mourners and people observing a yahrzeit to say Kaddish in memory of their departed loved ones. The Kaddish requires a minyan because more that being a prayer for the dead, it is testimony (and testimony requires a community to hear it) of faith in God’s presence and greatness and, in the case of the mourner’s Kaddish, that this faith survives the passing of a loved one and perhaps even that that person influenced us on the path toward that faith. It is also believed to smooth the deceased’s path to eternal reward. To be present so that a mourner can recite this Kaddish is a tremendous community service and responsibility.
But the minyan and communal prayer are not only what more that one person have referred to as the “death club”. As I said before, the is reinforcement in knowing that we are not alone, in grief or prayerfulness, or joyous thanksgiving. The sense of belonging and the spiritual sharing with like-minded neighbors are a source of security, encouragement and strength.
Frankly, the minyan serves a social purpose, too. In the time before and after the prayer service I have had an opportunity the chat with fellow minyanaires. I have seen friendships form from the interactions. I have even seen at least one romance blossom in the minyan space. These interactions are part of the formation of a sense of companionship and bonding which is essential to sustaining and nurturing a cohesive community. Over the years, I have also seen a number of people who came to our minyan as mourners and, at the end of the mourning period continued coming on a regularly or semi-regularly, either because they found meaning in prayer or because they were grateful for the minyan when they needed it and wanted to “pay it forward”.
In sum, the minyan provides a prayer community, a place for Kaddish, a social function and a communal responsibility. The daily minyan is, thus, an essential element in the life-blood of a congregational community.