A Partnership Minyan in Riverdale, NY
This minyan has its origin in the partnership minyan, Kehilat Shira Hadasha, in Jerusalem. After visiting and experiencing the meaningful davening and community there, a group of committed people returned to Riverdale determined to try to create a like-minded community here. Minyan Shachar, then also known as Shira Chadasha Riverdale, begin meeting monthly in 2002. By 2006, a strong core group had formed, and Minyan Shachar took up residence in a large space available in the Riverdale Temple, a local Reform synagogue. After a decade in residence there, Minyan Shachar began looking for a new home. In the spring of 2016, Minyan Shachar was welcomed into a downstairs space at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.
Minyan Shachar is led by an active and involved board, comprised of 13 members. All organizational decisions are decided by consensus. Halachic questions are brought to our halachic advisory board comprised of two men and two women who are experts in halacha.
Mechitza, Davening and Torah Reading
Minyan Shachar has a mechitza separating men and women during tefillah. The mechitzah is removed for divrei torah. Women are invited to lead psukei d’zimra as well hotza’at and hachnasat sefer torah. Men are invited to lead shacharit and musaf. Kriat Hatorah and the Haftarah are offered to both men and women, as are aliyot l’torah. Children are invited to lead the completion of the tefillah.
Time and Place
Minyan Shachar begins promptly at 9:00am, and concludes at approximately 11:30am, followed by a d’var Torah. The community then enjoys a dairy Kiddush together. We meet in the lower level beit midrash of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, at the corner of 237th Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway service road.
The current board includes:
- Seth Aronson
- Ronnie Becher
- Debbie Braverman
- Mathew Cohen
- Ruth Fagen
- Rebecca Kobrin
- Ariela Rosenberg Brafman
- Bat Sheva Marcus
- David Max
- Sally Mendelsohn
- Yonit Nordenberg
- Michael Kress
- Gary Finkler
- Mia Diamond Padwa
- Deborah Yasinsky
Dvar Torah – Parashat Shelach / Oshrat Shoham
When the Talmud refers to a significant and meaningful community (bavli megilah 23 b ) “כל דבר שבקדושה לא יהא פחות מעשרה”
The source to this primary halacha given by the Talmud is the Meraglim – the spies
על כך כותבת הגמרא (בבלי מגילה כג’ ע”ב):
מנא הני מילי (שצריך עשרה לדבר שבקדושה) ? אמר רבי חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן:
Where do we learn tha from ? said r’ Hiya .. any davar shebikdusha should not be in less than 10
דאמר קרא (ויקרא כב’): “ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל” – כל דבר שבקדושה לא יהא פחות מעשרה.
מאי משמע? – דתני רבי חייא: אתיא ‘תוך’ – ‘תוך’, כתיב הכא “ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל”, וכתיב התם (במדבר ט”ז): “הבדלו מתוך העדה“, ואתיא ‘עדה’, ‘עדה’, דכתיב התם (במדבר יד’): “עד מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת”, מה להלן עשרה – אף כאן עשרה.
“And r’ Hiye learned from “Toch” “Toch’ (parallel terms) it is written there “venikdashti be Toch H’aeddah” and it is said” separate yourself from (me’ toch) HaEddah” (I Korach) and “Until when to this Bad Eddah” (the spies) what here it is ten so there should be ten”
The ultimate community, where kedusha dwells , what becomes eventually as an obligatory Minyan is learned from the meraglim. This is surprising. When the Talmud looks for a source which describes the ultimate group of people that will inspire all future communities, worshiping god and becoming a meaningful group of people, and further more – a community that could be holy as a group – the frame of Kedusha – is learned from Eddat Hameraglim, and not all twelve of them but especially the 10 spies that caused with their words, their analysis and leadership the horrific reaction of Bnei Israel and the delay of entering the land of Israel for 40 years. Very surprising and one might say disturbing. The term used for a community in the Torah is Eddah , and it’s power is learned from the parallel term concerning another “community” which is Eddat Korach . Again, surprising ,since that Eddah was also a negative rebellious group of people -a community, that was doomed forever buried alive in the earth. And still these are the sources for creating a meaningful holy community.
How come these “communities” these Eddot are chosen to be the model or source for a minyan, a Jewish community? And why ? why such historically traumatic examples are set as models to a community?
What does the Talmud try to teach us with the choice of these examples? Were they chosen delibrately or just because of the technical similarity of terms?
The Tanchuma in a completely different place , refers the term Eddah and ten people.
“וירדו אחי יוסף עשרה”, ולמה עשרה? שיש בהן כוח לדחות הפורעניות, שכן כשבא הקב”ה להחריב את סדום והיה אברהם אבינו מבקש עליהן רחמים מן השמים התחיל מספר מן חמישים עד עשרה, שנאמר: “אולי ימצאון שם עשרה” (בראשית יח’, לב’). כי עשרה היא עדה, שנאמר (במדבר יד): “עד מתי לעדה”… וכתיב (תהילים פב): “אלהים נצב בעדת אל”, לכך נאמר “וירדו אחי יוסף עשרה” שכן בסדום אמר עד עשרה.
Again the midrash refers to the significant number of 10 as creating a meaningful group of people that has the power to change, or at least according to the midrash postpone the pora’nut . The midrash again uses a negative example – that of the 10 bothers of Joseph , that as a reference group.
This is quite striking, again a traumatic event set as the example for an Eddah.. The only “positive” group of 10 people in the non existent Minyan of righteous people in Sedom.
I want to try and answer the questions by analyzing the 2 primary stories used as a source to define Eddah, Minyan , a community. Trying to reveal why did the midrash connect those two stories.
Looking at both the story of the Meraglim and the brothers of Joseph reveals much in common, far beyond the technical 10 people involved.
First of all this two stories frame the Galut of Egypt – the first- selling Joseph and thus starting the process of descending to Egypt, and the latter- ends or supposed to end the galut of Egypt with re entering the land of Israel.
At the end it started and ended with a group of ten people, their acts and dids.
But looking closely at the text shows some other parallels.
Both stories start with a Shlihut, a mission. Our Parsha starts with the famous שלח לך which so many midrashim were written on’ but looking at the story of Joseph it starts also with a mission – given to Joseph using the words לך ואשלחך very strange words used instead of just לך go.
In both stories the שליח is asked to see and bring back his impressions
The meraglim עלו זה … וראיתם את הארץ מה היא ואת העם היושב עליה …וישיבו אותם דבר..
Joseph “לך ראה את שלום אחיך ואת שלום הצאן והשיבני דבר”
In both stories 10 people are involved in a negative reaction to the mission. Although in the Joseph story the brothers were not given the mission, rather Joseph did, but since they were the target of the mission (and I won’t get deeper to the purpose of sending Joseph to his brothers far away from their father ‘s eye to let them cope together) we include them in the mission.
In both stories there are two people who standout trying to stop or to minor the terrible consequence of the mob plot. This act takes a lot of courage and strength, to stand against your peers, to walk away from the mob dynamics and to try to “save the station” ‘by yourself.
In both stories there is a mislead – in Joseph’s story the brothers lie as a group to their father Jacob and his reaction is crying tearing his clothes and before that’ when Reuven find out that Joseph was out of the cistern “ויקרע את בגדיו”
“ויקרע יעקב שמלותיו” “ויבך אותו אביו”
And in our parsha the spies give a description of what the giant people of Canaan think of them ונהי
בעיננו כחגבים וכך היינו בעיניהם – without any basis -and as most parshanim see this was not just a negative description but rather a false one, which causes such demoralization and who tears their clothes – Yehsua and Caleb just like Reuben. And there is a big cry when the mission ends ותשא כל
העדה ויתנו את קולם ויבכו העם בלילה ההוא
The pattern of 10 people, a mission, negative group dynamic, a lie, two people standing out against their peers – but unsuccessful and the tearing of clothes are parallel and a cry
This could not be by chance, and probably the midrash which did not point out these similarities – meant to make us look better into the stories.
Both stories deal with the relationship between a group of people , and what happens when the group is acting in a negative way which leads to disaster and great suffering,
The basic teaching of the Torah is that one must be aware of the inherent danger and negative potential that exists in any given group of people . creating a holy congregation , Eddah take a lot of effort and must always beware and alert to the negative forces that a group can create.
But further more by looking at the people who stand out and fight against their own group, when it chooses a negative way, showing responsibility and leadership Reuben, Yehuda, Caleb and Yehoshua.
Reuben recognizes first what happens to the group in Egypt as a consequence of their abuse of Joseph
הלא אמרתי אליכם לאמור אל תחטאו בילד ולא שמעתם וגם דמו הנה נדרש”
And Judah who takes responsibility at the spot and years later when standing dramatically before Joseph as ruler of Egypt כי איך אעלה אל אבי והנער איננו איתי . A tikun , mending what should have been done then and taking responsibility.
Caleb his decedent, stands all the way against and opposite his peers trying to change the course of events in Canaan and twice when he and Yehosua speak out to Bnei Israel.
Paralleling these two stories beginning the exile of Egypt and ending it tragically, deepens our understanding the dynamics of a group of people but even more the significance of standing out in the group when it is wrong, with all the hardships and courage it takes, and even if one is not successful in the first or at second attempt and one must persist in leadership , mend, learn and take responsibility.
Persistence and courage and Tikun make a minyan an Eddah worthy of accepting Kedusha. Only when the brothers go to Egypt (as many midrashim say) – to look for Joseph they are 10 who can change the pora’nut.
And only Caleb and Yehushua who stand out against their group are worthy of belonging to the Eddah that will enter Eretz Israel at the very end of the galut of Egypt.
I don’t want to lengthen my DT but I think that partnership minyanim like this Minyan Shachar in many ways play the role of Juda, Reuben, Yehoshua and Caleb. It takes a lot of courage and persistence to stand out and against the majority of orthodoxy and practice the way it is done here. It takes courage strength and leadership to fight for the ideals and values this minyan stands for. It may take time – I hope not 40 years – until we will all feel less lonely and less threatened -but I feel blessed and honored belonging to the community of Reuvns and Joshuas and Calebs and Judas standing striving to create a minyan an Edah a community worthy of kabalat kedusha of being a true holy group of people.
Yonatan and Michal Ben Dov and kids and Effie and I and our kids want to thank you all for being our preferred minyan, Eddah this year. We looked forward for the Sabbath when Minyan Shachar met and will definitely miss all of you.