Minyan Tehillah Quorum Policy
I. Creation of the Quorum Committee
From its inception, Minyan Tehillah has struggled with the tension that exists in creating a prayer space that belongs to both women and men within a community that is committed to traditional halacha (Jewish law). However, Minyan Tehillah's mission “to create a spiritually uplifting tefillah (prayer service) grounded in a commitment to halacha, and to maximize the participation of both women and men” is clear evidence that the community strongly values both.
Specifically, according to halacha, traditionally a minyan is composed of 10 men. Tehillah was founded with the minhag (custom) to wait for 10 men and 10 women (hereafter “quorum”) to arrive before performing parts of the liturgy requiring a minyan to be present. However, there are times when a quorum does not arrive in a timely fashion, creating a prolonged period of waiting. Under these circumstances, this minhag may conflict with the halachic requirement to finish part of the liturgy by a certain time (sof zman tefillah; SZT).
Last year, the ritual committee developed a policy that attempted to reconcile these conflicting values and presented it at the spring 2009 Town Hall meeting. The policy was not approved, and it was clear that additional work was necessary on this topic in order to produce a sustainable policy regarding quorum and SZT . Therefore, the board convened a quorum committee (QC), tasked with creating a policy to address the difficult balance between abiding by Tehillah’s quorum minhag and remaining committed to traditional halacha. The QC was open to all community members who wished to participate.
Committee participants (in alphabetical order):
1. Identifying Values
Committee members established that their task was to balance the intent of the founding principles of the Minyan with the current needs of the community. The QC members recognized the impossibility of developing a solution that would be perfect for every individual who attends Tehillah. However, they saw their collective diversity in ideology and practice as representative of the diversity that exists in the greater community, and therefore a strength that would aid in the development of a balanced resolution. They were
Page 1 of 4
committed to confronting and struggling with their differences to create consensus in the form of a policy that would best serve the community.
Three overarching values (detailed below) became the guiding principles that framed the work of the committee:
EQUALITY (valuing the participation of men and women as equal partners in tefillah)
Minyan Tehillah was founded by individuals committed to creating a prayer space belonging to both men and women. Men and women have different but complementary roles in davening (prayer) at Tehillah. Without the participation of members of both genders, davening is incomplete.
DIVERSITY (respecting Tehillah's diverse community)
Minyan Tehillah is a place where people from a range of backgrounds find a comfortable davening space, which any policy enacted should acknowledge.
OBSERVANCE (observing halacha within a traditional framework)
Minyan Tehillah was founded as a community committed to the observance of traditional halacha. While sometimes not fully aligning with mainstream institutions of Orthodoxy, the Minyan is committed to keeping its practice aligned with the mainstream of halachic Judaism.
2. Studying Halacha/Halachic Conclusions
Rabbi David Roth was asked by the board to act as the halachic advisor to the process. After the committee deliberated and identified the guiding principles and the specific halachic questions that arose from the combination of values and the issue at hand, Rabbi David Roth came up with a set of halachic determinations on the questions brought by the committee.
The QC explored in detail the halachot (laws) of minyan and sof zman tefillah:
Although Tehillah has explicitly never sought to redefine the traditional definition of “minyan,” the QC considered whether Tehillah (in accordance with the principle of equality) might be able to redefine minyan to mean 10 men and 10 women. However, based on the principle of observance, the QC reaffirmed the traditional definition of minyan as ten men. The QC therefore decided on the term "quorum" to refer to the ideal prayer community of at least 10 men and 10 women.
SOF ZMAN TEFILLAH (SZT)
SZT is the halachic time by which some part of the morning recitation of the Amidah must be completed. (There are various opinions as to how much of the Amidah must be finished by SZT.) Rabbi David Roth brought forward relevant halachic texts for the committee to study. He also contacted several rabbis who advise other partnership minyanim, to learn how they addressed this conflict. Based on the QC’s discussion of these texts, other partnership minyanim practices, and the principle of observance, the QC decided that there was, indeed, an imperative to abide by SZT.
3. Creating a New Policy
Each of the three guiding principles (equality, diversity, and observance) are satisfied in the ideal scenario wherein a quorum is present early enough such that there are no concerns with running up against SZT. Unfortunately, the ideal is not always possible. In working to create a guiding policy for such un-ideal scenarios in which a quorum is lacking, the QC struggled internally to create a solution that respected each of these principles to the greatest extent possible. While the recommended policy (Section III, below) is not perfect, it allows the community to move forward and honor the community’s values when we are unable to meet our ideal.
Page 2 of 4
III. Policy Recommendations
2. The halachic mandate of praying the Shacharit Amidah (including the repetition of the Amidah)
before SZT requires that we continue.
Friday and Yom Tov Evenings
Minyan Tehillah's mission is to create a spiritually uplifting tefillah (prayer service) grounded in a commitment to halachah (Jewish law) and to maximize the participation of both women and men. We are a vibrant, friendly community of families, couples, singles, students, professionals and more, and we welcome people of all backgrounds, observances, ages, and orientations.