Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hilchot Pluralism, Part V: Quorum call

The story so far:
This ongoing series documents and analyzes the pluralistic practices that independent Jewish communities are developing. Since the series has gotten popular, I should emphasize that I should get no credit for the actual innovations described therein; I'm just collecting and blogging them (albeit not just as a disinterested anthropologist, but as a proponent who wants to see Stage 3 pluralism spread).

Like Parts III and IV, Part V (or should that be Part not-V?) will address issues of communal prayer.

***

Certain parts of the prayer service (most notably, barechu, kedushah, kaddish, and Torah reading; see Mishnah Megillah 4:3) require a minyan of 10 members of some set M. In the absence of a minyan, those parts are omitted. This is agreed upon by pretty much all Jews (who are praying in the first place). The disagreement is about the composition of M.

The major split is between two schools of thought:
  • M1) M includes all Jews over age 13
  • M2) M includes all male Jews over age 13
And there are additional border cases with room for disagreement: Who is a Jew? What about 12-year-old girls? And so forth.

This post deals only with approaches to the binary question of "Is there a minyan in this room right now?", separating it from the question of "Now that there is a minyan, who can do stuff?". In communities above a certain size, this binary question rarely has a practical impact, because a minyan is always present (by anyone's definition). However, in communities where people don't show up on time, this question can mean the difference between stalling and proceeding, and in smaller communities, it can determine whether Torah is read at all.

In most Jewish communities, there is no internal disagreement on this question. The community generally agrees on either M1 or M2 above. Sometimes there are questions about the border cases, but this is generally framed as an issue of communal standards rather than an issue of pluralism. The pluralism question arises when people who adhere to M1 and people who adhere to M2 want to pray together in a Stage 3 setting where both of these identities are respected.

Some communities, for a variety of reasons, require the presence of 10 men and 10 women for a minyan. This ensures that a minyan is present by the M2 definition (and, it goes without saying, by the M1 definition, which may or may not be a consideration in these communities), while ensuring that both men and women have indispensable roles. As I said about other practices in Part III, "[t]hese minyanim are meeting a real need for a particular set of people ... but they're not providing a permanent solution that will make it possible for everyone to pray together in Stage-3 harmony. And again, they're not claiming to." This policy is problematic for people who are looking for (many understandings of) an egalitarian community, because roles are still assigned based on gender, even if this is applied symmetrically to both genders. Also, the way this policy is usually implemented, these minyanim wait (if necessary) for 10 men and 10 women before starting the parts of the service that require a minyan. It is assumed that 10 and 10 will eventually show up. But what happens if they never do? (I'm asking because I don't know.) If only 10 men and 7 women show up, will these minyanim really forgo reading Torah (etc.)? If the answer is yes, then this is problematic for people who count by M1 and for people who count by M2, since they all agree that a minyan is present, yet they are skipping something that many would consider an obligation on the community when a minyan is present. If the answer is no, then the policy isn't even truly symmetric. (UPDATE: This isn't just hypothetical; here's one real-life account.) To quote again from Part III, "[t]hat's not to say that these minyanim don't have an important place among all the other types of minyanim. But they are not a Stage-3 solution that includes people who seek to be in a community that is fully egalitarian."

***

There is (at least) one solution at the communal level that can encompass a multiplicity of individual identities: define a minyan communally as "10 consenting adults", i.e. 10 people who count each other as a minyan. Does anyone know the origin of this practice? (You haven't let me down on the history of the trichitza or the two-table system.)

Jews In The Woods's fall 2006 mid-Atlantic gathering devised an ingenious method of implementing this definition: before each point in the service where a minyan is required, call "minyan check". At this point, raise your hand if you believe that a minyan is present in the room that includes you. Count the hands. If the number is greater than or equal to 10, proceed as if there is a minyan. If not, proceed as if there is not a minyan. Thus, the presence or absence of a minyan is determined on the spot by the grassroots, rather than by a contentious policy.

(A variation has been suggested in which you raise your hand if you believe that a minyan is present in the room, whether or not it includes you. I have not yet been able to understand this one. It seems to me that any cases in which this method yields a different result from the other one involve some kind of logical contradiction.)

The minyan check method accords with the principles established in Part II: no one is compelled to violate his/her own core values, and no one is prevented from carrying out his/her own practices.

Let's look at two thought experiments to illustrate this:

1. Bilhah believes a minyan is present, Zilpah believes a minyan is not present, and the count is less than 10. In this case, the parts of the service requiring a minyan are skipped. Bilhah may be unhappy about this, because she believes a minyan is present, but she has no right to count Zilpah or anyone else toward the minyan without their consent. The minyan is formed by voluntary participation, and there aren't 10 people who are willing to constitute themselves as a minyan, so no minyan can be formed. Bilhah misses the opportunity to say certain prayers with a minyan, but she would miss that opportunity anyway if Zilpah et al. weren't there.

2. Bilhah believes a minyan is present, Zilpah believes a minyan is not present, and the count is greater than or equal to 10. In this case, the service proceeds as though there is a minyan. Zilpah may be unhappy about this, because she believes no minyan is present, but she has no right to prevent Bilhah and 9+ others from constituting themselves as a minyan and praying accordingly. If she doesn't want to take part in these parts of the service, she can leave the room or close her ears at those times, and she would still be missing no more than if everyone agreed with her that a minyan was absent.

Bilhah (in case 1) or Zilpah (in case 2) might prefer that the community take a pause and wait until a minyan (of consenting adults) is present by her definition. Sorry, but that's not a right that anyone is entitled to. If you (as a participant or a communal leader) want to be sure that a minyan (by your definition) is present for a certain part of the service, then make sure 10 people whom you count and who count themselves as a minyan show up on time; don't expect everyone to wait.

There are a few practical complications with the minyan check method, but nothing that sinks it entirely. First of all, each of the parts of the service that require a minyan also require a shaliach/shelichat tzibbur -- a prayer leader, but literally "a representative of the community". The sha"tz should be chosen from within the minyan. But in practice, the sha"tz is generally chosen in advance, before the composition of the minyan is known. So it's possible that the minyan check will yield a positive result, but the designated sha"tz doesn't consider him/herself part of this minyan, and therefore can't serve as sha"tz. In this case, the community can appoint a new sha"tz to pinch-hit for these parts. (The original sha"tz isn't missing out on anything, since s/he wouldn't have led those parts anyway, given that composition of people.) Ok, that's easy enough to do on the fly for barechu and kaddish, but what do you do about Torah reading when the people who prepared the parsha don't believe that a minyan is present? That presents a larger practical challenge.

Another possible complication is that, if all logical possibilities are considered, a positive result from the minyan check does not necessarily mean that there is any set of 10 people all of whom count themselves and each other as a minyan (the desired result). However, in practice, the set of minyan-definitions that people actually hold isn't all that complicated. The Venn diagram would be made up almost entirely (if not entirely) of concentric circles. For example, I don't think there is anyone on earth who doesn't count women in a minyan, but counts men who have had Reform conversions. (Yes, as ZT points out, there are people (like lame-duck Sen. George Allen) who are considered Jewish by Orthodox standards and not by Reform/Reconstructionist standards, because they have Jewish mothers but don't have Jewish identities. However, in practice, anyone in this situation with enough of a Jewish identity to be present in this pluralistic Jewish community and to honestly raise his/her hand during the minyan check would be considered Jewish enough by all standards.) If all minyan-definitions are concentric, then there are no weird paradoxes.

A third issue is imperfect information when it comes to some of the less obvious (i.e., non-gender-related) questions of personal status. However, this is not a complication specific to the minyan check system; it can be dealt with (or not dealt with) in exactly the way it would if the community had a single minyan definition.

***

Coming in Part VI: The limits of pluralism. In what circumstances is there no pluralistic solution?

76 comments:

  1. I think I came up with a practical example that would result in 10 hands being raised but the people not agreeing on the makeup of the 10. Assume everyone is over bar/bat mitzvah, has 2 Jewish parents, and was raised Jewish.

    There are 8 Orthodox males who only count men, 2 women who hold by the Roth teshuva that women need to obligate themselves, and 8 women who hold by a more liberal/egalitarian opinion that all women are obligated.

    The 8 men don't raise their hands because there are not 10 men.

    The 2 Roth women count themselves and the 8 men, so they raise their hands.

    The 8 other women count everyone present, so they raise their hands.

    There are now 10 hands raised. However the 2 Roth women will only count themselves with the men, but the minyan includes the other 8 women.

    This same outcome would occur with 8 Orthodox men, 2 egal women, and 8 Jews based on Patralinial decent.

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  2. Yay! Ive been waiting for this post. As usual, well done. The bit about imperfect information is kinda sticky. People often wear there gender identity on their sleeves (though not all the time), so that should not be to difficult, though I do have to say that a commitment to gender fluidity would make playing this game difficult. That is unfortunate if it means we marginalize gender queer folks in the name of pluralism.
    Other pieces of practice and identity we do not wear on our sleeves, like jewish status and such, though I guess there are two ways out of that. Either we assume folks are "fit" if they are participating, or we ask people to pin this info the their sleeves.
    In honor of all of BZ's fun math tricks, I would love to see what is the largest possible number of people we can have in a room together and no have a minyan. Obviously we can have an infinite number of women who only count men, so thats no fun. I guess we need to limit the players to potential minyan members. The aforementioned women will not complete any minyan, even if they feel they need a minyan to say certain things.
    So far I'm at 36. 9 guys who only count men, 9 egal women who require matrilineal decent, 9 patrilineally descended egal women, and 9 "roth" women (see avi's post above). Even though the possible minyanim seem like concentric circles (ie the patrilineal women will count the matrilineal women and the non-egal men, but those members of those groups will not consent to be counted) they are not actually inclusive of each other. Of course, in the minyan count system this would require knowing things about practice and status that are not evident.

    On a related note...
    In thinking about it, it seems to me that Avi's post is wrong, we would not have 10 hands raised, because once the "roth women" see that the men are not raising their hands, the "roth women" know they cannot count them, and put their hands down, leaving 8 hands in the air, and no minyan.
    Sorry I kept saying "roth women", Im not sure how else to refer to them.
    Well, that was some fun with minyan math. Im glad that I dont really care one way or the other about having a minyan present.

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  3. Maybe I don't understand Roth, but I don't see the problem with Avi BenJakob's scenario. If the 8 men left, there'd still be a minyan of 10 women who count themselves, right?

    I don't think Chorus of Apes' resolution of the scenario works, though. If people base their hand-raising decision in part on who else raises their hands, then you open up the can of worms that includes people alternately raising and lowering hands based on what other hands are up, back and forth with no end in sight.

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  4. I realized after I wrote that my initial example wasn't great because it relied a little too much on minute details between different egal teshuvas(The Roth women count themselves but not the other women). So lets use the second example which is clearer. 8 men who only count men, 2 egal women who only count Jews of matralinial descent, and 8 egal Jews(gender doesn't matter) based on patralinial descent.

    Chorus of Apes I think has the solution.

    1) Everyone raises their hands if they think they are part of a minyan consisting of a subset of the people present.

    2) Once hands go up, everyone counts to see if they consider themselves part of a minyan consisting of a subset of the people with their hands raised.

    3) If not, lower your hand.

    4) Goto 2 and repeat until no one continues to lower his/her hand.

    5) Count to see if 10 hands are still raised.

    Desh, this can't go on forever because people are only lowering their hands. As long as people make their decision based on any subset of the people available, hand will never go up later. Either you count 10 people you count and your hand goes up, or you don't have 10 people and your hand stays down. There is no reason to raise your once the total set is decreased.

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  5. Question:
    Are there any "Roth women" (this phrase seems like it should be parallel to "Bond girls", and I have this image of Joel Roth starring in an action movie) in real life, who count themselves and don't count other women, or are there only "Roth men"?

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  6. Oy vey. This is gonna get super-complicated....

    (it'll also be the 5th time I've engaged in this conversation, but who's counting?)

    Some comments on the issues involved...

    - Consent:

    Consent is a big issue. Can you count someone who doesn't consent to be counted?

    This is another split in the definition of minyan, which springs from a fundamental question of "What a minyan actually is" (not "how does one count a minyan"). If a minyan signals that the Prayer service is taking place in Public, then consent shouldn't matter, and all those present to whom the prayer service means something (by tefillah-obligation or what-have-you) get counted because they're around. If a minyan signals that a prayer-dedicated community is being joined and formed for the specific purpose of prayer, then you need consent to count someone.

    - Counting oneself:

    The variation on "minyan check" that you brought up specifies that only people who count themselves in the minyan they see in the room may raise their hands. This seems to be a measure designed such that the 10+ hand-raisers counted at the end of the check all consent to be counted.

    - Multiple-iteration counting:

    There are two ways to go about this. One is to have only one iteration: "Raise your hand if ____" and see if there are 10. The other is "Raise your hand if _____, look around, and decide if you are still raising your hand." The places I see this being relevant are (1)when a raised hand signals consent to be counted -- so then I will refrain from counting anyone with their hand down and reevaluate my own signal accordingly, and (2)when someone doesn't want to be counted by another people -- "I only choose to be counted in egal minyans, so If I see non-egal Jimmy raising his hand and it looks like he's counting me, I'll drop mine"

    My opinion on these topics in the next comment...

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  7. My take......

    CONSENT:

    Saying that "only people who wish to be counted, can be" is *limitting the variety of minyan styles* the members of the community are allowed to use in their heads to determine if they will raise their hand or not.

    I think that since the goal of "minyan checking" is to empower every individual to add their voice to the question - however they define a minyan - it is just as self-defeating to tell Egal Sue she can't count Non-Egal Molly, especially since it doesn't effect the final outcome (since Non-Egal Molly will keep her hand down anyway).

    A solution is to state that "consent to be counted is implied by presence in the prayer-space". Anyone who does not want to be counted in other people's personal head-counts can step outside temporarily.

    Note that since the "minyan check" occurs repeatedly at specific discrete points in the service, no one needs to stick around once they've been counted. At the next "MC", if there is no minyan attested anymore, prayers can continue "beyachid" style.

    COUNTING ONESELF:

    I believe that a minyan check is truer if people are requested to raise their hands if they see a minyan present, *whether or not they count themselves in it*.

    Picture Non-Egal Molly in a service with a varied group of Jews, which includes 10 men. When it's time for a minyan check, why should she keep her hand down (thereby signalling that she does not see a minyan present) when according to her definition of minyan, the prayer service can continue "tsibbur" style?

    It's important to remember that the purpose of the "minyan check" is NOT to assemble a minyan of people who all count each other -- that's not pluralistic, that's finding the most popular minyan def and imposing it on the community. The purpose of "minyan checking" is to see if there are ENOUGH PEOPLE WHO TESTIFY TO THE PRESENCE OF A MINYAN for the community to assume that there is one: even if (*especially if*) everyone has a different definition.

    Each of the ten+ people with raised hands may be looking around the room and seeing COMPLETELY different minyans, not counting themselves, each other, whatever -- but that's entirely the point! We want to free every community member to count however they believe it's done. We're not looking to find a minyan. We're looking for evidence to assume the presence of one (though we know not what form it's taking...some kind of venn super-position probability cloud, most likely).

    MULTIPLE-ITERATION COUNTING:

    Multiple-Iteration hand counts is annoying and tedious.
    Reason (1) doesn't apply for the reason I gave above.
    Reason (2) is just obnoxious. If I'm participating in a pluralistic experimental community, why would I even want to start interrogating my fellows (supposedly my friends as well) just to sabotage the minyan-check system by choosing to raise my hand based on *politics* instead of *personal values*?

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  8. as for torah readers [layners] who don't accept the minyan:

    this was a potential issue at southern jitw this fall.

    if we did not have a positive minyan count before torah reading, we would have proceded, but without barchu or brachot[blessings] (using any of the alternatives explored often by women's torah readings-- brachot w/out God's name, some kind of kavanot [statements of intention], pretty torah related psukim [verses], etc.)

    as for if there was a minyan count, but a layner didn't hold by that definition. . . I forget what we decided there. probably something that respects the layner's problem with actively participating in a minyan they don't hold by. (assuming of course that the layner/s in question have said objection. some may be willing to layn but not get an aliya [be called up to torah] when their definition of minyan isn't present)

    this would would play out:

    (1)announce in no-pressure/guilt way that kriyat hatorah is being shifted to limmud hatorah b/c of layner/ minyan count issue. see if anyone outside of room chooses to come in and enable different minyan count. this often won't help, and in the spirit of pluralism would have to be careful about the guilt trip thing

    (2)-see if someone can learn that layning really fast. again, often not an option, but some people can do it. kinda sad for original layner, what they can't layn anyways.

    (3)-if none of the above are possible, then accept that aren't enough layners for kriyat hatorah, and shift to other limmud hatorah method of the communities' choice-- reading w/out blessing, partial reading, etc.

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  9. I think the idea of counting ten consenting adults has the same origin as minyan check in general.

    has anyone heard of an earlier occurrence?

    if not: attribution = southern jitw fall06 listserve. my original idea, plus lots of input/arguing/fine-tuning from everyone else on listserve.

    as for the variant-- either emily fishman or alan's concept (or both?), again, lots of discussion/clarification by numerous people from north jitw fall06

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  10. I think we're assuming that individuals' minyan definitions are simple: each person defines a set of people who count in a minyan (which may or may not include him/herself), and the question of whether someone is in that set is an absolute YES or NO, not dependent on any external factors. That is, we're assuming that examples like Alan's ("I only choose to be counted in egal minyans") don't exist - either I believe that I count toward a minyan or I don't, and it doesn't matter who else is in that minyan or who is counting it.

    If this assumption is accurate, then Chorus of Apes's suggestion of multiple-iteration counting (as clarified by Avi) works, and no one has to do any lightning-fast LSAT problems in their head. Just raise your hand if you count 10 people (including yourself), then call "going once, going twice...", and the field keeps narrowing so that you are only considering the people whose hands are raised. Eventually there will be a minyan of 10 people who count each other, or there won't.

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  11. Alan writes:
    The purpose of "minyan checking" is to see if there are ENOUGH PEOPLE WHO TESTIFY TO THE PRESENCE OF A MINYAN for the community to assume that there is one

    If the 10 people raising their hands aren't an actual minyan but just witnesses to the presence of a minyan, then is there any reason (under this variation) that the number has to be 10? Any reason the required number of witnesses couldn't be 2 or 5 or 15?

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  12. It's important to remember that the purpose of the "minyan check" is NOT to assemble a minyan of people who all count each other -- that's not pluralistic, that's finding the most popular minyan def and imposing it on the community.

    How is this not pluralistic? If there is a minyan of people who want to do x, they do it (and other people don't have to participate), and if there isn't, they don't.

    This wouldn't be the only time when some people want to do something and others don't, so the people who want to do it do it and the people who don't don't. For example, Yizkor. There are people who want to participate in Yizkor (either to say it themselves or be present for other people) and people who don't, so it's very common (and uncontroversial) for Yizkor to happen communally while some people leave the room. (That is, any controversy about this is about the fact that people are leaving the room, not that Yizkor is being "imposed" on anyone.)

    Another example:
    Kol Zimrah has not yet had to take a stance about 1 day vs 2 days of yom tov. One time we had services on Friday night 24 Tishrei -- that is, right after "Simchat Torah" (the 2nd day of Shemini Atzeret) for 2-day people, and right after a plain old weekday for 1-day people. This means there are differing opinions about whether the full kabbalat shabbat should be said (since there is a tradition of abridging kabbalat shabbat when yom tov goes right into Shabbat). So we decided to do full kabbalat shabbat (for the benefit of 1-day people, and 2-day people who wanted to do full kabbalat shabbat anyway), and 2-day people who wanted to abridge kabbalat shabbat were invited to show up late.

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  13. Rebeca M writes:
    if we did not have a positive minyan count before torah reading, we would have proceded, but without barchu or brachot[blessings] (using any of the alternatives explored often by women's torah readings-- brachot w/out God's name, some kind of kavanot [statements of intention], pretty torah related psukim [verses], etc.)

    Oh, interesting. I don't think I ever consciously thought about the fact that women's tefilah groups read Torah without what they would consider a minyan. (Do they require any sort of quorum to read Torah? Or are 9 women considered the same as 10 women?) So it's kosher to read Torah without a minyan (just without berachot), then why don't more communities do this (when they fail to get 10 of whoever they're looking for)?

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  14. I think the idea of counting ten consenting adults has the same origin as minyan check in general.

    has anyone heard of an earlier occurrence?


    Yes, but I don't remember when and where. But I have proof that I had heard of it before it hit the JITW list. (I'm not on the sJITW list and wasn't at sJITW.)

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  15. BZ, I think I know of one Roth women, but logically there is no reason why more can’t exist. If it’s possible for a man to believe that only a subset of women can be counted, then why can’t a woman use the same logic and believe that only a subset of women can be counted?

    Alan, I am going to start by saying that I believe that “a minyan signals that a prayer-dedicated community is being joined and formed for the specific purpose of prayer,” so according to you we do need consent to count someone.

    I agree with you that politics should be left out of the decision. People should only acknowledge whether there are 10 people available that they count in a minyan. After all, if 10 egal men go to a scheduled minyan they won’t wait for a woman to arrive to pray, they will see 10 people and say they have a minyan.

    I don’t see how "consent to be counted is implied by presence in the prayer-space" is a viable option. Stepping outside seems much ruder to me than keeping your hand down, and by this rule a non-egal woman would have to step outside for every MC. If she considers there to be a minyan present she should be able to respond to Barchu, say Kedusha, etc… even if she does not count herself in that minyan.

    Finally you said that “It's important to remember that the purpose of the "minyan check" is NOT to assemble a minyan of people who all count each other.” But that is the point. A community is forming for the purpose of prayer. If 10 people can’t agree on forming a community then they can’t be counted as one community.

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  16. Does anyone know the origin of this practice?

    Not the origin. But I was told in 2002 that CJC, the conservative minyan at Penn Hillel, technically defines a minyan as "ten people who think there are ten people" or something along those lines. But in the time between when I was told this and now, I don't think that policy was ever actually applied to determine if there was a minyan. It may have been applied at some earlier time, though, or it may have just been a long-standing bylaw that was never invoked.

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  17. BZ, I believe women's t'filla groups use la'asok b'divrei torah for the blessing. They don't necessarily wait for 10 women either.

    Another example, on USY on Wheels they don't take a sefer torah with them, but they daven together as a minyan. They read out of a tikun and say a different bracha(I forget which one).

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  18. Desh, was the policy never applied or did a situation never come up?

    But even that policy could create the situation of 10 people thinking there is a minyan but not agreeing on the makeup of that minyan. There are still non-egal Conservative shuls out there. So my initial example could have occured at the CJC.

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  19. That is, we're assuming that examples like Alan's ("I only choose to be counted in egal minyans") don't exist - either I believe that I count toward a minyan or I don't, and it doesn't matter who else is in that minyan or who is counting it.

    I beleive we should be assuming that. Or rather, that we insist that nobody adulterate their own counts by worrying about who else is counting whom. That way, everyone is free to raise or lower their hand as they wish, without the threat of "retaliation" by others. (since the ultimate purpose of this is to validate as many points of view as possible)

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  20. If the 10 people raising their hands aren't an actual minyan but just witnesses to the presence of a minyan, then is there any reason (under this variation) that the number has to be 10? Any reason the required number of witnesses couldn't be 2 or 5 or 15?

    Technically, nope.
    But since 10 is the general quorum for a minyan (of most definitions), it seems reasonable to keep it - both for "tradition"'s sake and because it works well in practicality.

    It's about trying to find a minimum consensus: If you set the bar too low, you end up with a "minyan" declared by maybe 3 people out of 30 -- that's not very close to consensus. and if you set it too high, you could end up with 15 people thinking there's a minyan out of 20 and yet no "tsibbur" prayers are said.

    I think it's important to mention that these "blocs" of minyan-seers don't necesarily see the same minyan in the room at all -- if we wanted them to, then there would be no reason to do a "minyan check". Instead, we would just find out which minyan-definition has the greatest number of adherents in the room and assign that definition to the community (that's majority rule, not an attempt at a pluralistic consensus)

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  21. First of all, not all anthropologists are disinterested!

    Now onto the actual substance-

    Alan said most of what I could say, though I'll just reiterate that Minyan Check doesn't determine an actual minyan, just that there are at least 10 people who believe there to be one.

    I think that having everyone who believes there to be a minyan regardless of whether they count themselves in it raise their hands is problematic for people who follow the Roth teshuva. If I'm only counting women who obligate and count themselves, and another woman raises her hand but doesnt count herself, then I might be incorrectly counting her, and there might not actually be a minyan in my definition. Which I guess wouldn't matter unless I was being a shlicha tzibur...

    As for leining- we could theoretically have someone with a very broad definition of minyan learn the entire parsha, and have them be a back-up leiner...though that would be really annoying for the person to learn... In theory there could be a discussion with the leiners on their definition of minyan ahead of time, but that wouldn't be so pluralistic to say someone could only volunteer to lein if they believed in an egal minyan or something...

    And I don't think we actually had an answer about the leining thing ahead of time. I think we were mostly discussing the shaliach tzibur.

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  22. It's important to remember that the purpose of the "minyan check" is NOT to assemble a minyan of people who all count each other -- that's not pluralistic, that's finding the most popular minyan def and imposing it on the community.

    How is this not pluralistic? If there is a minyan of people who want to do x, they do it (and other people don't have to participate), and if there isn't, they don't.


    As an *ideal* it's not pluralistic. There's no difference between "10 folks who count each other" and any generic egal minyan.

    By not insisting that everyone with their hand raised count themselves and each other, we allow for a greater variety of personal minyanim to yield the 10 Hands Up.

    As far as I can figure, the set of 10 Hands Up by "mutual counting" is always a subset of 10 Hands Up by my version.

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  23. Alan, I am going to start by saying that I believe that “a minyan signals that a prayer-dedicated community is being joined and formed for the specific purpose of prayer,” so according to you we do need consent to count someone.

    Right. So your personal definition of minyan include a consent parameter.

    My point is that we shouldn't be un-validating the minyan-definitions of people that don't take consent into account.

    It's sorta like your minyan-def takes gender into account. and that's cool. But we shouldn't insist *everyone* do so. We want to validate the Egal folks as well.

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  24. I don’t see how "consent to be counted is implied by presence in the prayer-space" is a viable option. Stepping outside seems much ruder to me than keeping your hand down, and by this rule a non-egal woman would have to step outside for every MC. If she considers there to be a minyan present she should be able to respond to Barchu, say Kedusha, etc… even if she does not count herself in that minyan.

    Though I can't imagine why someone would try to prohibit other people from counting them, I don't think stepping outside is rude. See BZ's reference to Yizkor.

    (Also - I mean stepping outside for the Minyan Check, not for the barechu or amidah or whatever that follows it)

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  25. Finally you said that “It's important to remember that the purpose of the "minyan check" is NOT to assemble a minyan of people who all count each other.” But that is the point. A community is forming for the purpose of prayer. If 10 people can’t agree on forming a community then they can’t be counted as one community.

    The community is bigger than the counters or the hand-raisers or the people counted: the community is the whole collection of Jews gathered to pray there!

    It's not that the hand-raisers are making the decision of whether to continue with Kaddish or skip Barechu, etc -- it's that every single person bares witness (through their hand) either Up or Down.

    The whole group generates the acknowledgement or denial of whether a minyan is present or no. It's not really about the particular people with their hands raised at all.

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  26. Desh, was the policy never applied or did a situation never come up?

    It never came up. In every instance I saw of 9/10/11 people attempting to create a minyan, everyone knew that everyone there was willing to count themselves and everyone else there. Or, once or twice, everyone new that one person either wasn't Jewish or didn't count herself and other women, so we all just waited for 11.

    But even that policy could create the situation of 10 people thinking there is a minyan but not agreeing on the makeup of that minyan. There are still non-egal Conservative shuls out there. So my initial example could have occured at the CJC.

    I'm not convinced that that's a bad thing. I rather like the idea of Alan's "venn super-position probability cloud".

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  27. As far as I can figure, the set of 10 Hands Up by "mutual counting" is always a subset of 10 Hands Up by my version.

    Agreed, its an issue of how you define a minyan. Similarly, a minyan of only men is a subset of an egal minyan. But that doesn't make either definition better than the other.

    That being said, its up to the community to decide how wide a net they are willing to have. Personally I would not be a shaliach tzibbur unless there were 9 people I counted in a minyan answering me, and I don't think I could be in a community that counted me for a minyan even when I did not concider there to be a minyan.

    Does that make me not pluralistic enough, maybe. But its now your definition of a minyan that is excluding me. I once had a teacher who said his version of free speech would be you can say whatever you want until your speech prevents someone else from having the same freedom.

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  28. I'm not convinced that that's a bad thing. I rather like the idea of Alan's "venn super-position probability cloud".

    I'm not sure if you could find a Conservative Rabbi that would accept that as a valid minyan.

    I think the main problem is you view pluralism as halakha itself. I view pluralism as acceptance of everyone elses view of halakha.

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  29. Avi,

    I may not have made myself clear. What I meant by the "subsets" is that by allowing people to count others regardless of consent, we increase the number of minyan-affirming outcomes of the "minyan check".

    There is no situation where letting more people follow their own definitions of minyan restricts someone with a more restrictive definition from having the minyan they see acknowledged.

    There's also no excluding of consent-counters: the system is designed so that they can count consenters, just like the non-consent-counters can count whomever they belief should be counted.

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  30. I'm not sure if you could find a Conservative Rabbi that would accept that as a valid minyan.

    I think the main problem is you view pluralism as halakha itself. I view pluralism as acceptance of everyone elses view of halakha.


    This conversation is not about inventing a new definition of minyan - it's about how to determine whether to say things like Barechu, Kaddish, etc., when the praying community is made up of people with different definitions of how to count a minyan.

    I'm not sure about the distinction you make regarding pluralism and halacha at the end. The reason any of this is being discussed is to figure out ways for multi-denominational, variegated, groups of Jews to interact in a healthy, maximally-inclusive pluralistic way. So we are relating everything back to pluralism, but that's because them's the set parameters for this thought-experiment.

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  31. Personally I would not be a shaliach tzibbur unless there were 9 people I counted in a minyan answering me

    This question came up in the original discussion. *IF* it were to occur that the Sheliach Tsibbur was not among the people raising a hand to signal that they saw a minyan present, they would switch with someone else who did and everything would proceed cool and respectful for everyone.

    and I don't think I could be in a community that counted me for a minyan even when I did not concider there to be a minyan.

    The community's not counting anything. Each member of the community makes their own count. What you mean is that you're not willing to pray along with someone whose definition of minyan is consent-blind, in a group where all definitions of minyan are honored.

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  32. BZ-- my three guesses as to why minyanim don't use the no-brachot option:

    (1). Halachic issues I'm unaware of. (anyone know of any?)

    (2) Hasn't occurred to them yet. though with centuries of responsa around, I'd think it's been discussed somewhere. (again, anyone know anything?)

    (3) Weirdness. Limmud hatorah that looks like kriyat hatorah is in this strange "spirit of the law vs. letter of the law" grey zone.

    It's techically ok, I mean we like learning torah, the more the better, right?... but isn't there a reason for the minyan and barchu requirements, like it being a special, public event?

    None of the women's torah readings that I've been to/ organized have had a minimum # of women required. It's possible, but unlikely, as most women involved are highly aware of not being a minyan. And walking on eggshells already.

    Avi Benjakob-- no standard way of doing these women's torah reading things. I've encountered 3 approaches, and there may be more:
    (1) the la'asok b'divrei torah bracha only. no barchu. no bracha after, just misheberach. considered controversial.
    (2) brachot w/out God's name. I know of a shul that tried it, but decided it felt fake. switched to...
    (3) pretty torah themed psukim/ quotes from siddur. I've seen this one most often, but I don't know how representative my experience is.

    Getting my first "real" aliya (among other things) killed my interest in that scene, but some interesting new stuff has definitely come out of it.

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  33. I'm sympathetic to avi in regards to the being counted thing.

    There is a difference between respecting someone else's definition of a minyan, and getting counted in it, which means implicitly enabling something you disagree with.

    It's uncomfortable for some (my self included) to be counted in a minyan that I don't accept.

    BZ-- care to interpret this one in terms of comfort/identity/ stages of pluralism? I'm fine with my position not being stage 3, as that isn't always my goal. But I'm curious, and not up to puzzling this one at the moment.

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  34. This question came up in the original discussion. *IF* it were to occur that the Sheliach Tsibbur was not among the people raising a hand to signal that they saw a minyan present, they would switch with someone else who did and everything would proceed cool and respectful for everyone.

    I was referring to a situation where the shaliach tzibbur did raise his/her hand, 10 hands were raised, but the shaliach tzibbur did not count all of those people in his/her minyan. To use my orginal example, if a Roth woman was the shaliach tzibbur there would only be one other person who raised her hand that the shaliach tzibbur concidered part of her minyan. Or a worse case, the shaliach tzibbur was one of the non-Roth egal women. Now there are not even 9 other people that accept the shaliach tzibbur even though 10 people raised their hands.

    What you mean is that you're not willing to pray along with someone whose definition of minyan is consent-blind

    What I mean is that I am not willing to have my presence used for a minyan when I don't consent. If they can come up with a minyan without including me, thats fine, but I don't want to be included in a minyan that I don't concider myself to be a part of.

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  35. Knitter of shiny things writes:
    Alan said most of what I could say, though I'll just reiterate that Minyan Check doesn't determine an actual minyan, just that there are at least 10 people who believe there to be one.

    I think we're talking about two fairly distinct concepts which happen to share a similar procedure.

    Let's give them names, for clarity.

    Minyan Check A: Raise your hand if you see a minyan that includes you.
    Minyan Check B: Raise your hand if you see a minyan.

    MCA is a way of counting an actual minyan; MCB is a way of testifying that a minyan exists.

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  36. I think it's important to mention that these "blocs" of minyan-seers don't necesarily see the same minyan in the room at all -- if we wanted them to, then there would be no reason to do a "minyan check". Instead, we would just find out which minyan-definition has the greatest number of adherents in the room and assign that definition to the community (that's majority rule, not an attempt at a pluralistic consensus)

    MCA doesn't necessarily lead to "majority rule".

    Case 1: 9 egal people and 3 non-egal people (and there aren't 10 men). A minyan is not recognized, even though a majority thinks there is a minyan.

    Case 2: 10 egal people (not all men), and 50 non-egal women. A minyan is recognized, even though a majority thinks there isn't a minyan.

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  37. Minyan Check A: Raise your hand if you see a minyan that includes you.
    Minyan Check B: Raise your hand if you see a minyan.

    MCA is a way of counting an actual minyan; MCB is a way of testifying that a minyan exists.


    Not necesarily. The people who are raising their hands for MCA may not be counting each other.

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  38. In MCB, are there any limits on who is qualified to serve as a witness?

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  39. BZ,

    about your 4:52 comment:

    I wasn't referring to "MCA" when I described that. I was referring to the idea that everyone with their hands raised must count everyone else with their hands raised.

    What ends up happening is whoever's common definition of minyan get 10 people or more, that's the definition that is applied to the community as a whole.

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  40. There's no difference between "10 folks who count each other" and any generic egal minyan.

    That's only true if the 10 folks there happen to count minyanim the egal way. With a different population, you could claim that there's no difference between MCA and any generic NON-egal minyan. That's what's great about the system - it automatically adjusts to who is present.

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  41. In MCB, are there any limits on who is qualified to serve as a witness?

    I don't believe so. The assumption is that if they're participating in the kind of community where the Minyan Check is happening, then they have an assumed right to witness. Let me know potential problems with that.

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  42. That's only true if the 10 folks there happen to count minyanim the egal way. With a different population, you could claim that there's no difference between MCA and any generic NON-egal minyan. That's what's great about the system - it automatically adjusts to who is present.

    While I agree that you're describing what could happen accurately , I think the process reflects something else:

    it's adjusting to whomever creates the largest bloc of supporters, when I don't think we should be creating blocs, we should be empowered individuals. It's like the difference between winner-take-all electoral college votes and a more equitable system.....say, IRV for example.

    About the egal/non-egal, I admit that it can be used to make a non-Egal minyan. But that non-Egal minyan would be exactly the same as if only men happen to show up to an Egal shul one morning: it doesn't reflect openness to multiple definitions, it reflects a temporarily non-diverse group of participants.

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  43. Alan writes:
    Right. So your personal definition of minyan include a consent parameter.

    My point is that we shouldn't be un-validating the minyan-definitions of people that don't take consent into account.

    It's sorta like your minyan-def takes gender into account. and that's cool. But we shouldn't insist *everyone* do so. We want to validate the Egal folks as well.


    I think this analogy doesn't work. Gender egalitarianism is a principle held by some people and not others, and a pluralistic solution can accommodate both views. Consent is a meta-principle that has to be agreed on before pluralism discussions can even begin. Views that involve invading others' consent do not need to be "validated".

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  44. Not necesarily. The people who are raising their hands for MCA may not be counting each other.

    Ok, amendment:

    MCA1: Raise your hand if you see a minyan that includes you, full stop.
    MCA2: Raise your hand if you see a minyan that includes you among the people whose hands are raised, and continue recursively.

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  45. I wasn't referring to "MCA" when I described that. I was referring to the idea that everyone with their hands raised must count everyone else with their hands raised.

    Ok, so you're referring to "MCA2". Even so, my counterexamples still show that this doesn't necessarily result in majority rule.

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  46. About the egal/non-egal, I admit that it can be used to make a non-Egal minyan. But that non-Egal minyan would be exactly the same as if only men happen to show up to an Egal shul one morning: it doesn't reflect openness to multiple definitions, it reflects a temporarily non-diverse group of participants.

    It reflects openness to any definition that people bring with them. The only structural bias is that it favors recognizing a minyan over not recognizing a minyan, so it might appear to favor more expansive minyan definitions.

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  47. I think this analogy doesn't work. Gender egalitarianism is a principle held by some people and not others, and a pluralistic solution can accommodate both views. Consent is a meta-principle that has to be agreed on before pluralism discussions can even begin. Views that involve invading others' consent do not need to be "validated".

    I disagree, because we're talking about counting a minyan here - we're not talking about any obligations put upon the people counted, or any invasion of their spaces or prerogatives to do as they choose, or any violence.

    The question of "how do people count minyans" is what we're dealing with, which comes down (like I mentioned before) to the question of "what does it mean that there is a minyan?".

    I find that people from Conservative backgrounds tend to answer that question more like Avi BenJakob did. Their understanding of what a "minyan" *means* has ramifications for who can be counted. This understand may come from the tolerance of Egal & non-Egal women in the same movement, the small size of many college Conservative minyanim, the view that being counted is an sign of respect, etc. - situations where it can be common to check with everyone present as to whether they are counting themselves/desire to be (not) counted.

    On the other hand, I've encountered the other understanding of what "minyan" means among many in the Orthodox community. Every time someone goes Jew-hunting for "a body" to "sit in" on the service so that Barechu and Kaddish can be said, whether or not that 10th Jew is actually praying, is reinforces the idea that what counts a person in a minyan is *physical presence* and *obligation* --- no kavana required. The concept of counting a minyan is connected to the concept of dying al kiddush hashem - and there's no consent by the witnesses (to the martyrdom) to be counted required there! This approach to "what is a minyan" is a totally different animal than the one above.

    I beleive this is the essence of what we're trying to work with...not just "do we count women or just men?", but conceiving a framework that accomodates different understandings of what "gender" is, what "jewish" is, and ultimately what "minyan" is.

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  48. Re: "majority" rule: We talk about "majority rule" even in contexts where 60% don't enter a voting booth.

    The question is, is *everyone's* input determinant, or just the input of the largest organized group?

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  49. When the Orthodox grab bodies they are limited to 3 non-daveners, and those 3 people agreed to be there and respond to the appropriate places. I doubt you would find an orthodox jew that would agree to be the 10th person for an egal minyan.

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  50. Also, something to keep in mind is that every participant is there obstensibly to pray together with everyone else, and that each person's minyan-count to determine whether or not they Raise a Hand is entirely inside that person's head. I.e., the idea is to protect everyone's autonomy by not even asking people to identify what kind of count they are using.

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  51. When the Orthodox grab bodies they are limited to 3 non-daveners, and those 3 people agreed to be there and respond to the appropriate places. I doubt you would find an orthodox jew that would agree to be the 10th person for an egal minyan.

    Come to Maryland, I'll introduce you to two. (at least two) (also: i know plenty of egal jews who won't be counted with a non-egal minyan. but we're not talking about your neighborhood shul or any kind of permanent jewish prayer-space. we're talking about a special circumstance where it's different kinds of people coming together. it's very different from being a stranger/guest in the shul of a community you don't identify with)

    Also, the number of non-davenners isn't clear in Orthodox halacha. It can depend on the portion of the service, which service is being said, etc.

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  52. Consent issue aside, I'd like to chime in with my pet term from discussions I had at jitw:

    Meta-minyan.

    What we're looking for when we ask for ten hands is a meta-minyan.

    What do I mean by that?

    So, a long time ago, in a country far far away, there lived some dudes (and ladies, but this wasn't about them yet) who decided that 10 constituted a representitive sample of the community. So when 10 people (men) gathered, that meant that the communal-type prayers could be added.

    Fast forward to sJitw fall 06. (I wasn't there, but other people were.) A few weeks ago in a state not so far away, they were redefining who gets to decide if there is a minyan.

    I think that the meta-minyan symbolizes that 10 people believe that a minyan is present (ie- that a representitve sample of the community believes that a representitve sample of the community is present).

    Therefore I come to the humble conclusion that, if one is to distinguish the purposes of a minyan and a metaminyan, one who raises their hand to count in a metaminyan does NOT have to believe that they are part of the minyan they are counting.

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  53. «assentive fist-waggle» (yes i still call it that) in the direction of alan.

    nothing really i have to add to the discussion... except that sJITW =» midatlanticJITW (maJITW), and nJITW =» newenglandJITW (neJITW)

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  54. This "ten consenting adults" idea is fascinating. I like the way it neatly sidesteps a lot of the traditional binaries, and I like the way it arises in a kind of grassroots, on-the-fly, depends-on-who's-there way.

    I belong to a smalltown shul where we sometimes don't have a minyan (and we are thoroughly egal, which is to say, we count ten Jewish adults as a minyan regardless of gender, and I've also seen it happen that we count nine adults and one almost-bnai-mitzvah-age kid, considering the Torah scroll to elevate the kid to the age of majority temporarily) so this is a question I'm pretty invested in. :-)

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  55. 2 things.
    1) I'm glad folks are into the knitty gritty, but I still want to see the largest number of folks we can think of who do not constitute a minyan.
    2) I just want to point out how much the discussion below reads like gemara. Its less elliptical, but its a similar back and forth. Yay us, pomocyber gemara!

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  56. "When the Orthodox grab bodies they are limited to 3 non-daveners, and those 3 people agreed to be there and respond to the appropriate places."

    I'm pretty sure this is incorrect. For both ortho and conservo, as well as various forms of non-aligned traditional jews, as long as more than half, i.e. 6 are davening, its fine if up to 4 aren't.


    "I doubt you would find an orthodox jew that would agree to be the 10th person for an egal minyan."

    I am thh gabbayit of an egal minyan and have actively been approached by several orthodox men and one orthodox woman all willing to be a warm body in the room if we needed a tenth. One even stood with his back to us, facing the wall because a woman was leading, and he didn't consider it a kol isha problem if he couldn't see her.

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  57. One even stood with his back to us, facing the wall because a woman was leading, and he didn't consider it a kol isha problem if he couldn't see her.

    That was quite nice of him to volunteer to help you guys out, but I'm not sure if making a minyan is worth dealing with that.

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  58. sarah-- tell me offline who the kol isha guy is. I'm intensely curious.

    desh-- I think if it were a total stranger who did that, it would be rude and condescending. in a college community, when people know each other, it can be less so.

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  59. I think if it were a total stranger who did that, it would be rude and condescending. in a college community, when people know each other, it can be less so.

    Yeah, given that everyone involved presumably knew each other, I don't think it was rude on his part to volunteer. But as a regular member of the egal minyan in question, I would've advocated that we daven without making a minyan rather than with someone who feels so far removed from being able to participate that he needs to turn his back.

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  60. Maybe the guy should have closed his eyes instead, to obviate his kol isha issue.

    A turned back is a pretty raw image, even in a friendly situation like the one you describe.

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  61. I never before realized that turning your back obviates kol isha. This explains (and maybe softens) an experience I had a few years ago when traveling with a mixed group of rabbis from all streams. We were in Russia, and it was the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, so I was asked, at a mixed service, to say the E-l Maleh for the victims of the Shoah. I'm told that when I began to chant, several Orthodox rabbis turned their backs. Many non-orthos took this as an insult, but now I realize that they were doing what they needed to do. They didn't walk out or raise any other objection, so I consider this fairly neutral.

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  62. Alan writes:
    I find that people from Conservative backgrounds tend to answer that question more like Avi BenJakob did. [...] On the other hand, I've encountered the other understanding of what "minyan" means among many in the Orthodox community.

    Interesting. I'm from neither a Conservative nor an Orthodox background, but I'm with the "Conservative" position on this one.

    But if I were assigning these positions to movements, I probably would have come up with the opposite -- I would have expected more Orthodox people to require consent, since there are lots of Orthodox Jews (about half of them, in fact) who don't consider themselves to count in a minyan even though others might count them. In contrast, I would expect non-Orthodox Jews to be less concerned about this, since there are far fewer (adult) people who don't think they count in a minyan.

    Ok, Chorus of Apes, now you know the discussion has REALLY turned into Gemara, when we've gone beyond discussing content and moved on to "Rava says: Rabbi Yehuda says X and Rabbi Meir says Y. Abaye says: Ipcha mistabra! Rabbi Yehuda says Y and Rabbi Meir says X, d'tanya [insert baraita where R. Yehuda's position is consistent with Y and R. Meir's position is consistent with X, though it's not the same situation]"

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  63. A prooftext for requiring consent in a minyan (aka painting the target after shooting the arrow):

    The requirement of 10 people in a minyan is derived from the story of the spies, since they were referred to as an "edah". Just as there were 10 spies who talked trash, 10 are required for a minyan. Just as these 10 spies voluntarily talked trash (rather than making a different choice like Joshua and Caleb), one must voluntarily consent to be counted in a minyan.

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  64. It's times like this, BZ, that I wish I had been a better Gemara student so I'd have a clever way to phrase this... :)

    The reason that the positions tend to line up denominationally not according to your hava amina is because in general Orthodox Jews don't have to worry about questions of whether they count themselves or not. They're in shul to pray, and the men get numbered and the women get friendly greetings (or something). It's all very regular, routine, and expected. If you're an Orthodox man, standing in shul *means* you're either number 1, 2, 3, etc. up to 10+.

    Now what plays directly along with what you would have assumed is that Orthodox (or Orthodox-raised) folks who spend time davenning in minyans belonging to other styles of Judaism (in my experience) *do* think more about the question of consent and inclusion - probably because they're suddenly placed in a position where what they knew about counting is contradicted. The men would have to decide if they can be relied upon to help ennable a service they disagree with, and the women have to decide that *plus* how they feel about being counted at all.

    But despite these issues people still tend to approach the very question of what "having a minyan" means from very different places.

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  65. Great topic. Two contributions from personal experience.

    1) I'm sure it's not the earliest instance, but a 1994 shiva minyan in our living room in Berkeley involved multiple consultations over who counted themselves in what kind of minyan. We didn't raise hands, but ultimately determined that (exactly) 10 people in the room counted themselves in a non-egal minyan and (exactly) 10 people counted themselves in an egal minyan.

    Yes, the Venn diagram had some overlap, but also people from both circles who were *not* in the overlap. And no, there was no mechitza, because it was a living room not a shul (separate discussion).

    2) Consent is never an issue within one's *own* community. Non-egal folks only require presence and gender, and don't think about consent -- until they're in an egal space, and about to be counted as part of a minyan with fewer than 10 men.

    Similarly, egal folks only require presence (not gender), and don't think about consent. But at least some (including me), if they're about to be counted as the 10th man for a non-egal minyan, suddenly have to confront the consent issue. If there exactly 10 men but more than 10 people of both genders in the room, and some folks are checking to see if they can constitute a non-egal minyan, I will not give my consent. If the non-egal folks are not sensitive to consent issues, I will leave the davenning space. From my perspective, I'm not depriving them of a minyan, since they still have 10 people -- they're the ones making that choice by being non-egal.

    I would *much* prefer the hand-raising minyan check approach to bolting the room. But even that only works with the additional hand-lowering round. And even *that* only works if I happen to know that some of the men with their hands up are non-egal, and if I can count quickly enough to see that they believe I'm their tenth, and put my hand down in time. Not sure that's always practical -- suggestions?

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  66. Hey Shalomdc,

    In previous discussions of this issue, we called you "Hypothetical Yonatan". I didn't realize you were real. You had friends, though: "Hypothetical Yossi", who refuses to let anyone count him in their *non-egal* mental minyan, and "Hypothetical Ruchel", who refuses to let anyone count her in their head minyan if it doesn't include Jews by Patrilineal descent.

    The complication of "Yonatan" "Yossi" and "Ruchel" is averted by the setting that this kind of meta-minyan count would take place in: a setting that is temporary, where most of the people are friends or friendly, and where the prayer service is part of a shabbos where Jews of different types *want* to pray and eat together and learn from each other.

    It's hard to believe that a participant in that kind of setting would go through the trouble of interrogating her/his friends, just in order to sabotage the process. (Remember the question is always about "Do *you* see a minyan according to your definition", not about "What do you think about other people's definitions")

    Being a guest in someone else's shul, or an impromptu shiva minyan, are different situations I believe in which it may/can/would be reasonable to opt out of being counted in a minyan one disagrees with.

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  67. Alan, what's the difference between Yonatan and Yossi in this version?

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  68. Woops typo! Thanks BZ.

    I meant:

    Yonatan doesn't want other people to count him in their mental minyanim, if they use a _non-egal_ definition.

    Yossi doesn't want other people to count him in their mental minyanim, if they use an _egal_ definition.

    Rochel doesn't want other people to count her in their mental minyanim, if they use a _matrilineal-only_ definition.

    As for how they all relate to the "Minyan Checking" endeavor, they're all exactly the same.

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  69. ShalomDC-

    It seems to me that your practice of refusing to be counted in a minyan that is being counted on non-egal criteria is a response to Stage-0 (non-pluralistic) and Stage-1 settings, but is not necessary in the Stage-3 environment that we're trying to hammer out.

    In Stage 1, all decisions are made on the basis of whose practice is more restrictive (e.g. counting only men, rather than counting men and women). If you can't claim a prohibition or obligation to support your position, your voice isn't part of the discussion. Therefore, people who would otherwise be shut out of the discussion come up with restrictions for themselves, just so that they can have a seat at the table. I know because I've been in those communities, and I've done similar things, and I acknowledge that I had no other recourse.

    In Stage 3, everyone's identity is respected. Under the minyan check system (any of the variations), everyone in the community has an equal opportunity to participate in determining whether there is a minyan, and no one is silenced. Therefore, these protest-based personal restrictions are unnecessary. You're not in a non-egal community; you're in a community where the minyan could be counted in an egal way or a non-egal way, depending on who is doing the counting.

    ShalomDC writes:
    And even *that* only works if I happen to know that some of the men with their hands up are non-egal, and if I can count quickly enough to see that they believe I'm their tenth, and put my hand down in time.

    "Non-egal" (describing a person, not a community) is a state of mind. While I think it's appropriate to protest community policies, and even individual actions, I don't think it's appropriate to protest what's in someone's head.

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  70. I disagree with your apparent assumption that to count Ploni in a minyan where Ploni does not think there's a minyan is a violation of Ploni's identity. I follow R' Roth's shita (approach/practice), and count men and self-obligated women. I daven in a minyan that counts all women, and I'm frequently one of ten adult Jews (of mixed genders) present. They count me and thus say bar'chu (etc.), even though I don't think a minyan is present. Nothing here violates my identity (I would use different language -- nothing here entails my violating an obligation that I understand to be incumbent on me). I do not _respond_ to the bar'chu (etc.) because _that_ would entail my doing something that I consider impermissible -- reciting liturgical elements including God's name that are to be recited only with a minyan, when (under the principles that I understand to be correct) there _isn't_ a minyan. But the fact that my passive presence is relied on by the others does not mean that _I'm_ committing (what I understand to be a) violation.

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  71. tarfon... just to play devil's (or halacha's) advocate
    kol israel arevim ze b'ze? You dont answer barechu, so you are not committing a transgression, but your presence and silence is allowing others to commit transgressions (at least as you define them). This is where halacha and pluralism actually cannot line up. See jonathan Sack, "One People?" for an interesting analysis of the limits of pluralism (I'll give you a hint, this is one of them).
    What has happened to enable halachic folks to be a part of pluralistic communities is that they largely ignore "kol israel arevim ze b'ze", because they dont feel they can impose, which I think is actually a good thing. It is not, however, halachic to do that.

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  72. CoA-

    You're right on as to why it's problematic for many halachic people to be counted in a minyan they don't accept.

    As for non-halachic-ness of ignoring "kol yisrael areivim zeh b'ze", I think the precise halachic issue is that of rebuke (hocheach tocheach...) Which doesn't apply in a situation where it is unlikely to be listened to, even more so when it would be counter productive.

    so it's not exactly a pluralistic point of view, but it does allow halachic folks to participate in pluralistic settings. And as we all seem to be in favor of more respect, and more learning from each other, that is a very good thing.

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  73. To respond to Chorus of Apes: First, does "kol areivim zeh bazeh" require me to act (kum aseh) so as to prevent someone else from committing this sort of violation (assuming it is a violation -- see my second question)? Putting aside the obligation of hocheah tochiah (rebuke), of which I think Rebecca has disposed, must I walk out if they're going to count me in a way that I consider improper? Second, assuming "kol areivim" _would_ require me to walk out to prevent them from committing a violation, _is_ this really a "violation"? As a Conservative Jew, I consider the counting of all women a valid halachic practice, even though it's _not_ the one that I consider correct. If so, should I consider their counting a "halachic violation"? (Admittedly, this issue may play differently for a normative Orthodox Jew, who may not consider counting of all women within the spectrum of legitimate halachic practices.)

    Finally, you should be careful about the term "halachic folks" -- Conservative Jews (or at least serious and knowledgeable ones) consider ourselves halachic, but I think most Orthodox authorities would not.

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  74. tarfon-- please notice that both CoA and I are ALREADY using "halachic" simply as halachic-- conserv/ ortho/ nondenom/ whatever.

    There was nothing in either of those posts that was orthocentric in that regard. so watch those assumptions, perhaps?

    When there are hard and fast rules for some people, it changes the pluralism dynamics (hence this whole series). The actual details may vary, but the basic idea is the same.

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  75. My only comment on this is that, as usual, bloggers in the amazing new indie minyan world believe they have invented all this. There is a minyan in rochester NY that has used this minyan counting method for a number of years. And they don't claim to have invented it.

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  76. Cool! Anonymous, tell us more about this minyan.

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