Sunday, October 05, 2008

The minyan puzzle

I have a love-hate relationship with minyan duty. (Minyan-duty, for the uninitiated, is the requirement that each family in the synagogue community attend a prayer service several times a year in order that there be a "Minyan" - a quorum of 10 Jewish adults - in order that certain prayers can be said. This is particularly important to mourners, who cannot say the Mourner's Kaddish - a special prayer for those in mourning - without a quorum of 10.) Evening minyan has to be the dryest, least-inspiring prayer service that there is. The leaders rush through it, barely announcing pages, barely reciting the prayers, mumbling, stumbling, rarely singing, making it one of the most unpleasant experiences imaginable. On the other hand, I'm happy to "do my duty" to make a minyan for those in mourning, especially since one day I will be in mourning and I will need a minyan to say Kaddish.

But there has to be a better way. Minyan services don't have to be as dry and lifeless as they are now.

This morning, for example, we had Sunday morning minyan duty, and I went since A & J had soccer. It was a longer service than the usual evening minyan, but even with all those opportunities to sing, to pray joyfully, to create meaning, it was as dry and as dull as always. The leaders rushed through, doing everything by rote. There was no explanation, no joyful prayer. Nothing.

I sat looking around at the others in the room. Did they feel the same? Or were they - unbelieveably - enjoying themselves somehow?

The leaders of the service, and those who seemed the most "into" the prayer, were older men who, presumably, are regulars to this service. This is the other piece to the minyan puzzle: it seems to be the territory of men. Judaism has done a pretty good job becoming more egalitarian these days, and women typically are included in most of the major roles in the synagogue. But somehow, minyan still seems to be mainly the purview of men. Maybe this is another reason why it doesn't speak to me.

I was having a little fantasy during the service this morning: what if the women take over minyan every now and then? Infuse some energy, some singing, some "ruach" (life) into the service? Wouldn't that be wonderful?

But then I thought: would women want to come? Would they care?

I don't know. But it's worth a try.

1 comment:

Yael said...

I'm quite happy to leave minyan to the men. Our synagogue (which is Orthodox) is trying to get more women to volunteer to come in the mornings to support other women saying kaddish.
I don't think those who are serious about their minyan obligation would be happy about the singing as it would take longer. Men are obligated to daven with a minyan; we aren't. It seems like a real downside to egalitarian that you have to have minyan duty.
I've experienced women-only services and they are really beautiful and spiritual! I believe men and women have different roles in Judaism and ours doesn't include daily minyan.