Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nine who look like ten, for a minyan

Note: Not halacha lemaaseh. As a followup to a comment on a post about the possibility of requiring 11 for a minyan:

On Berachot 47b:
R. Huna said: Nine and the Ark join together [to be counted as ten]. Said R. Nahman to him: Is the Ark a man? I mean, said R. Huna, that when nine look like ten, they may be joined together. Some say [this means] when they are all close together, others say when they are scattered.
But this is not brought down lehalacha. Is this because in general, the suggestions in this gemara are not lehalacha? Or is it simply because we have this Savoraic dispute of the meaning of "look like ten," and since it is not possible to resolve, we cannot act in either situation? I would guess that it is the latter -- Rav Huna stated it, and then restated it as "look like ten" in response to Rav Nachman's objection, so it seems like Rav Huna and Rav Nachman would agree to this statement. And we don't see anyone disagreeing to the statement. But feel free to present reasons it would not be lehalacha, based on contextual information. For example, see what I say on the bottom about the link to a katan in the Yerushalmi, and thus quite possibly in the Bavli as well.

"Some say," that is אמרי לה, often is merely a matter of girsology, and we can trace the slight changes from one word to its variant. These words "when scattered" and "when close together" are fairly similar, but not overmuch so. We see a similar argument of scattered vs. close together on Berachot 58b when Shmuel defines כִימָה (Pleiades) of Iyov 9:9 as ke-meah, or like 100 stars, whether they are scattered or close together. So this seems like a regular type of dispute, rather than a girsological issue.

It is not just Rav Huna who says this. It is featured in the Yerushalmi as well, in Yerushalmi Berachot 53b, where the context is clearly mezuman. Yedid Nefesh Yerushalmi has it online, so the relevant excerpt with explanation is pictured to the right.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky in his Yerushalmi notes that we have to switch around the text to accord with what appears in one midrash, so that it is מזמנין מה מסוימין. See inside how he treats it. And he notes the difference here between Bavli and Yerushalmi.

It would seem that mesuyamin means all together in one fixed place. Thus, the Yerushalmi gives a straight out definition of "looks like ten" is gathered together, and not when they are scattered. Yerushalmi is generally earlier than Bavli, and if this dispute in Bavli is Savoraic, then I would suggest we should utilize the Yerushalmi to remove our safek.

But regardless of if the safek is resolvable, we see that this suggestion was not particular to Rav Huna and perhaps Rav Nachman, but was rather a non-disputed halacha in the Yerushalmi. This would give more credence to the idea that it should be lehalacha, if only for the (possibly resolvable) issue of what "looks like ten" means.

Note also how they link this issue of "looks like ten" to the issue of the katan amongst them. Since it looks like ten. Which then would perhaps link the two issues, and *if* in the end we hold we cannot use a katan, then perhaps we also could not use nine that look like ten either. However, this is an extension of the original statement, so it is certainly possible that we will say the basic statement but not the extension.

All this could possibly have an effect on a worry that maybe one of the ten in your minyan really is not Jewish. Firstly, according to the Ran, this requirement for 10 for davar shebikdusha is miderabbanan anyway, and the psukim are just an asmachta. So for a Safek deRabbanan, we should not really be worrying. But perhaps we could say that anyway, is certainly looks like there are 10, and all present think there are indeed 10. And so perhaps this should be OK.

Again, this was not intended as pesak or halacha lemaaseh, but just as an exploration of some of the sources.

1 comment:

thanbo said...

Huh. I've been at minyanim twice in my life that used this excuse (well, the version that says 9 plus a minor), once at Scout camp in 1981, and once in Park Slope around 10 years ago, both with the respective LORs.

Both times we were waiting for over an hour and no tenth was showing up.

I knew about that gemara because a story in Wandering Stars, the famous anthology of Jewish science-fiction, references the 9-and-a-Torah option, and I asked one of my teachers at Ramaz where this gemara was so I could look into it myself.


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