Vayera - Why Pray with a Minyan?
1 א
(כ) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יקוק זַעֲקַ֛ת סְדֹ֥ם וַעֲמֹרָ֖ה כִּי־רָ֑בָּה וְחַ֨טָּאתָ֔ם כִּ֥י כָבְדָ֖ה מְאֹֽד׃ (כא) אֵֽרֲדָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה הַכְּצַעֲקָתָ֛הּ הַבָּ֥אָה אֵלַ֖י עָשׂ֣וּ ׀ כָּלָ֑ה וְאִם־לֹ֖א אֵדָֽעָה׃ (כב) וַיִּפְנ֤וּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ סְדֹ֑מָה וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם עוֹדֶ֥נּוּ עֹמֵ֖ד לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (כג) וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַאַ֣ף תִּסְפֶּ֔ה צַדִּ֖יק עִם־רָשָֽׁע׃ (כד) אוּלַ֥י יֵ֛שׁ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים צַדִּיקִ֖ם בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעִ֑יר הַאַ֤ף תִּסְפֶּה֙ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א לַמָּק֔וֹם לְמַ֛עַן חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים הַצַּדִּיקִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבָּֽהּ׃

(20) Then the LORD said, “The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave! (21) I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me; if not, I will take note.” (22) The men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. (23) Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty? (24) What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it?

2 ב
(לב) וַ֠יֹּאמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדושם וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה אַךְ־הַפַּ֔עַם אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָעֲשָׂרָֽה׃ (לג) וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ יקוק כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר כִּלָּ֔ה לְדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְאַבְרָהָ֖ם שָׁ֥ב לִמְקֹמֽוֹ׃ (א) וַ֠יָּבֹאוּ שְׁנֵ֨י הַמַּלְאָכִ֤ים סְדֹ֙מָה֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב וְל֖וֹט יֹשֵׁ֣ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־סְדֹ֑ם וַיַּרְא־לוֹט֙ וַיָּ֣קָם לִקְרָאתָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ אַפַּ֖יִם אָֽרְצָה׃
(32) And he said, “Let not my Lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found there?” And He answered, “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.” (33) When the LORD had finished speaking to Abraham, He departed; and Abraham returned to his place. (1) The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening, as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to greet them and, bowing low with his face to the ground,
3 ג
What is a minyan?
A minyan is comprised of enough Jews, usually ten, who can recite devarim shebik'dushah ("holy prayers") when together. These include:
  • Kaddish
  • Barchu
  • The Repetition of the Amidah
  • The Priestly Blessing
  • The reading of the Torah and the Haftarah
  • The Seven Blessings recited at a wedding and at the post-wedding feasts
  • The introductory prayer to the Grace after Meals which includes G‑d's name ("Zimun BeShem")
  • The Thirteen Attributes recited when taking out the Torah on holidays
4 ד

Why pray with a minyan?

5 ה

אמר רבי אמי אין תפלתו של אדם נשמעת אלא אם כן משים נפשו בכפו שנאמר (איכה ג, מא) נשא לבבנו אל כפים [איני והא] אוקים שמואל אמורא עליה ודרש (תהלים עח, לו) ויפתוהו בפיהם ובלשונם יכזבו לו ולבם לא נכון עמו ולא נאמנו בבריתו ואף על פי כן (תהלים עח, לח) והוא רחום יכפר עון וגו' לא קשיא כאן ביחיד כאן בציבור

Rabbi Ami said: A man's prayer is not heard unless he puts his soul in his hand, as it is said: "Let us lift up our heart with our hands" (Eikha 3:4). Is that so? But surely Shmuel appointed an interpreter for himself and he expounded: "But they flattered Him with their mouth, and with their tongue they lied to Him, and their heart was not steadfast with Him, and they were not faithful to His covenant" (Tehillim 78:36-37). But even so, "He is merciful, He forgives sins, etc." (ibid. v. 38). There is no difficulty, Here [it refers] to an individual. Here [it refers] to a community.

6 ו

תניא אבא בנימין אומר אין תפלה של אדם נשמעת אלא בבית הכנסת שנאמר (מלכים א ח, כח) לשמוע אל הרנה ואל התפלה במקום רנה שם תהא תפילה.

It was taught in a Braita that Abba Binyamin said: One's prayer is only heard in a synagogue, as it is said (Kings I 8:28) "to listen to the song and the prayer", In a place of song, there prayer should be.

7 ז

אמר ר' יוחנן בשעה שהקב"ה בא בבית הכנסת ולא מצא בה עשרה מיד הוא כועס שנא' (ישעיהו נ, ב) מדוע באתי ואין איש קראתי ואין עונה. א"ר חלבו אמר רב הונא כל הקובע מקום לתפלתו אלהי אברהם בעזרו

Said Rabbi Yochanan: The time that Hashem comes to the synagogue and does not find a minyan immediately, he becomes angry. As it is said (Isaiah 50:2) Why, when I came, was there no one?" When I called, there was no one to take an answer..."
Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: All who sets a fixed place for Prayer, the G-d of Avraham will help him.

8 ח

(א) תפלת הציבור נשמעת תמיד ואפילו היו בהן חוטאים אין הקב"ה מואס בתפלתן של רבים לפיכך צריך אדם לשתף עצמו עם הציבור ולא יתפלל ביחיד כל זמן שיכול להתפלל עם הציבור

ולעולם ישכים אדם ויעריב לבית הכנסת שאין תפלתו נשמעת בכל עת אלא בבית הכנסת

​ וכל מי שיש לו בית הכנסת בעירו ואינו מתפלל בו עם הציבור נקרא שכן רע.

The prayer of a community is always heard, and even if there are sinners [amongst them], Hashem does not reject the prayers of the many. Therefore, it is necessary for a person to join with a congregation and not to pray alone whenever he is able to pray with a community.

One should always spend the early morning and evening [hours] in the synagogue, for prayer will not be heard at all times except [when recited] in the synagogue.

Anyone who has a synagogue in his city and does not pray [together] with the congregation is called a bad neighbour.

9 ט

Most people who come to our daily minyan are not coming for the above reasons; why do they come?

10 י

אַף הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, חֲמִשָּׁה דְבָרִים שֶׁל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִשְׁפַּט דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִשְׁפַּט אִיּוֹב, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִשְׁפַּט הַמִּצְרִיִּים, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִשְׁפַּט גּוֹג וּמָגוֹג לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ. מִשְׁפַּט רְשָׁעִים בְּגֵיהִנֹּם, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה סו), וְהָיָה מִדֵּי חֹדֶשׁ בְּחָדְשׁוֹ.

He [R. Akiva] was also wont to mention five things as being of twelve months duration: the judgment of the generation of the flood — twelve months. The judgment of the Egyptians — twelve months. The judgment of Job — twelve months. The judgment of Gog and Magog in time to come — twelve months. The judgment of the wicked in Gehinnom — twelve months, viz. (Isaiah 6:23): "And it shall be, from the month [of his death] until its month" [one year later in Gehinnom, that he will come (from Gehinnom) to bow down before the L rd.]

11 יא

Machzor Vitry

A tale of Rabbi Akiva: he was walking in a cemetery by the side of the road and encounter in there a naked man, black as coal, carrying a large burden of wood on his head. He seemed to be alive and was running under the load like a horse. Rabbi Akiva ordered him to stop. “How come you are doing such hard work? If you are a servant and your master is doing this to you then I'll redeem you from him. If you're poor then I'll give you money.” “Please, sir,” that man replied, “do not prevent me, because my superiors who will be angry.” “Who are you? Rabbi Akiva asked, “and what have you done?” The man said, “the man whom you're addressing is a dead man. Every day they send me out to chop wood and they use it to burn me up.” Rabbi Akiva said to him: “My son, what was your work in the world from which you came?” “I was a tax collector and a leader of the people, I showed favor to the rich and killed the poor, and more, I transgressed many serious trangressions.” He said to him: “Have you heard nothing from your superiors about how you may relieve your condition?” “Please, sir, do not detain me, for you will irritate my tormentors. For such a man as I, there can be no relief. Though I did hear them said something – but no, it is impossible. They said that if this poor man had a son, and his son were to stand before the congregation and recite the prayer ‘Bless the Lord who is to be blessed’ and the congregation were to answer ‘amen’, and his son were also to say the kaddish and they answer ‘May God's great name be blessed’, they would release him from his punishment. But this man does not know if he had a son. He left his wife pregnant and he did not know whether the child was a boy, and even if she gave birth to a boy, who would teach the boy Torah? For this man does not have a friend in the world.” Immediately Rabbi Akiva took upon himself the task of discovering whether this man had fathered a son, so that he might teach the son Torah, and install him at the head of the congregation to lead prayers. “What is your name?” he asked. “Akiva,” the man answered. “And what is the name of your wife?” Shoshniva.” “And the name of your town?” “Lodkyia.” Rabbi Akiva was deeply troubled by all this and went to make his inquiries. When he came to that town, he asked about the man he had met, and the townspeople replied: “May his bones be ground to dust!” He asked about the man's wife, and he was told: “May her memory be erased around the world!” He asked about the man's son and he was told: “He is an arel – even they did not bother to circumcise him!” Rabbi Akiva promptly took him, circumcised him and sat him down [to teach him]. But the boy refused to receive Torah. Rabbi Akiva fasted for 40 days. Then a heavenly voice was heard to say: “For these you mortify yourself?” “But Lord of the universe,” Rabbi Akiva replied, “it is for You that I am preparing him!” Suddenly the Holy One Blessed Be opened the boy's heart. Rabbi Akiva thaught him Torah and the reading of the Shema, the 18 blessings, and the benediction after meals. He presented the boy to the congregation and the boy recited the prayer ‘Bless the Lord who to be blessed’ and they answered ‘May the great name be blessed’. And he said the kaddish, and they answered "May God'st great name be blessed'. And after that he taught him mishnah and Talmud, laws and aggadot, until he got very wise, and he is Rabi Nachum HaPakuli, - and how many sages came from him!) At that very minute the man was released from his punishment. The man immediately came to Rabbi Akiva in a dream, and said: “May it be the will of the Lord that your soul find delight in the Garden of Eden, for you would have saved me from the sentence of Gehenna. When you made my son enter the house of gathering/synagogue, and he said the kaddish, my terrible sentence was ripped up. And when you made him enter the house of study, all my judgments were cancelled. And when he became wise and was called 'my teacher' my seat was put in Gan Eden with the righteous and pious ones, and they crowned me with many crowns. And all this was through your merit”. Rabbi Akiva opened his discourse with: “Your name, oh Lord, endures forever, and the memory of You through the generations!” (Ps. 135:13) For this reason it became customary in the evening prayers on the night after Shabbat are led by a man who does not have a father or a mother, so that he say can say Kaddish and say “Bless the Lord who is to be blessed.”

12 יב

הגה: וכשהבן מתפלל ומקדש ברבים פודה אביו ואמו מן הגיהנם

And when the son prays and sanctifies in public, he redeems his father and mother from Gehenom.

13 יג

Leon Wieseltier, Kaddish, p115

We say the [Kedushah D'Sidrah] at the departure of the Sabbath because the sinners of Israel are returning to Gehenna at that hour …and even if a man has been sentenced to the judgment of hell, hell is cooled for him if he was careful about the kedushah service during his lifetime. Therefore we say the kedushah as the Sabbath departs to save our own souls from Gehenna, and to provide some atonement for the sinners of Israel who are in hell, who will have at least a respite until the completion of this prayer.

(13th Century Pietists, based on Rabbi Akiva in the Talmud)

(This is also one explanation as to why we add extra prayers at the end of Shabbat - to extend it and give the dead more time in their respite)

14 יד

שאחד נעדר בלי בן וצוה לפני פטירתו שילמדו עשרה כל יום תוך י"ב חודש בביתו בשכרם ואחר הלימוד תאמר הבת קדיש ולא מיחו בידה חכמי הקהילה והפרנסים.

Someone passed away with no sons, and willed before passing that each day for twelve months, ten shall be paid to study in his house, and after the studies the daughter will recite Kaddish. The sages of the community and the aldermen did not protest.

15 טו

אמר רב יהודה מת שאין לו מנחמין הולכין י' בני אדם ויושבין במקומו ההוא דשכיב בשבבותיה דרב יהודה לא היו לו מנחמין כל יומא הוה דבר רב יהודה בי עשרה ויתבי בדוכתיה לאחר שבעה ימים איתחזי ליה בחילמיה דרב יהודה ואמר ליה תנוח דעתך שהנחת את דעתי

Rav Yehuda said: In the case of a deceased person who has no comforters, i.e., one who has nobody to mourn for them, ten people should go and sit in their place and accept condolences. The Gemara relates the story of a certain person who died in Rav Yehuda’s neighborhood

and who did not have any comforters, i.e., mourners; every day of the seven day mourning period, Rav Yehuda would take ten people and they would sit in their place, in the house of the deceased. After seven days had passed the deceased appeared to Rav Yehuda in his dream and said to him: Put your mind to rest, for you

have put my mind to rest.

16 טז

Are there other ways saying Kaddish benefits the dead besides sparing them from torment in Gehinnom?

17 יז

Why require mourners to say a prayer they can only say with a minyan?

18 יח

What benefits does saying kaddish bring a mourner?

19 יט

What does having two daily minyanim say about a community?

20 כ

How can we strengthen our minyan?