150 Ways to Count Your Minyans
“What’s taking so long?” Stanley was getting nervous. He was becoming more and more convinced that there wasn’t going to be a minyan on that cold Monday morning at Bangor’s lone Orthodox shul.
Without a minyan, the Jewish prayer quorum, Stanley couldn’t say Kaddish, a praise of God, whose recitation somehow aids in elevating the dearly departed soul closer to the Supernal Light of Existence, assimilating the individual essence of the deceased with the Eternal Infinite.
Stanley didn’t know much about that. But, he promised his mother that he would say Kaddish for her on the anniversary of her passing. That anniversary was today, and the clock was ticking. Soon, it might be too late. There were only eight men in the synagogue, while a ninth went to go find the tenth man. He had been gone for over forty-five minutes.
Finally, that ninth man, Sammy, burst through the synagogue doors. The rabbi raised his eyes from his book. “Nu?”
“I got someone!” exclaimed Sammy trying to catch his breath. “I brought Motti.”
Stanley didn’t hide his disgust. “We can’t count Motti!”
“What’s wrong with Motti?” asked the Rabbi.
“Motti’s dead.” complained Stanley.
Sammy raised his hands to ward off the protest. “Actually, Motti’s not technically, dead. He’s a zombie.”
“Dead people don’t count for a minyan. Even the Reform don’t count dead people. Do they?” asked Danny.
“They’ll count anybody,” offered Steve.
“Or anything,” added Stanley.
“He’s a zombie. He’s not dead, dead – he’s undead,” protested Sammy.
“What’s the difference?” Danny asked.
“Rabbi, can zombies attend Shul?”
The Rabbi closed the book, pursed his lips, and considered the question. “Of course zombies can attend shul. That’s not the question. The question is if they count towards a minyan. And, it seems to me that on the surface, we can not count a zombie for a minyan, as it is well known that even an Onen …” The Rabbi looked at Danny, and decided he needed to translate. “One who has recently lost a close relative and must therefore endeavor towards the deceased’s burial. An Onen doesn’t count towards a minyan, even if someone else is making the funeral arrangements. Therefore, and even all the more so, a dead person shouldn’t count.”
At the sound of heavy foot shuffling approaching, all eyes turned to the door.
“Don’t let him in here!” screamed Manny.
“Why not?” asked Danny.
“I’m a cohen-priest,” shouted Manny. “I can’t even go to a cemetery. He’s Tumath Met!”
“But,” offered Danny, “It’s not the same as a cemetery coming to you.”
“He’s dead!” shouted Manny. I can’t be in the same room with a dead person!”
“But he’s undead,” protested Sammy.
“Well,” considered the Rabbi. “There might be a loophole.” He shrugged. “But better safe than sorry. Tell Motti to stand by the window.”
Danny went to open the door.
“From the outside,” clarified the Rabbi.
Moshe used the interruption to offer a challenge. “In mathematical logic class, being a relative of something is not a reflexive property. One cannot be a relative of one’s self. Therefore the undead cannot be considered an Onen to himself, right?”
The Rabbi shook his head. “While this is true in math, the same logic doesn’t apply to Jewish law. Take the case of witnesses, where it is ruled that a person can’t testify against himself because he is considered a close relative of himself. Therefore even though it doesn’t state it directly that a dead person is also an Onen unto himself, we should be able to infer it, no?”
Everyone answered with a blank state.
“Talk about zombies,” murmured the Rabbi. “I get more reactions during my Friday night sermons.”
The Rabbi pounded the table, waking everyone up (except Motti). “We’ll need to examine this question thoroughly. Someone put the coffee on and, Moshe, start bringing the books: We’ll need Tractate Yoma and Shabbat, and bring me a copy of Maasehbuch, too. This requires further study.”
Within minutes everyone was seated around the conference table, shouting questions, citing sources and trying to delve into the depth of the question.
“What about Ezekiel’s Valley of the Dry Bones?” asked Stanley.
“Yes, there’s that,” considered the Rabbi. “But look at Motti. He’s decomposing, Ezekiel’s bones were recomposing, and besides, it was only a vision.”
“We have stories of mystics raising the dead to solve a crime, or answering a question.” offered Manny.
“It’s not the same,” countered Moshe. “To count for a minyan, one has to be obligated to pray in a minyan. None of those stories have the guy praying.”
“What about the Golem from Prague, asked Sammy. “I heard that the Maharal counted him in a minyan. He wasn’t alive.”
“No,” corrected the Rabbi. “There’s no confirmation that the Golem ever counted for the minyan. You think they had a problem getting a minyan in Prague in those days? Besides, the Golem was never dead.”
“But he was never alive, either,” suggested Danny. “At least not in the normal sense.”
“It’s not the same,” said Stanley. “Motti is a zombie, not a golem.”
“But what kind of a zombie is he?” asked Danny. Aren’t there different kinds? Like the flesh and brain eaters.”
“Eww.” Manny looked like he was going to vomit.
The rabbi turned to Motti, who was standing outside the open window. “Motti, are you a flesh eater?”
“Nope,” answered Motti slowly forming each word. “I’m strictly vegetarian. It’s not easy finding a kosher butcher in Bangor, you know.”
“So what kind of a zombie are you?” asked Danny.
“Don’t know. The living dead kind, I guess,” offered Motti.
“Rabbi,” began Moshe. “It might crux on whether the Living in the term ‘Living Dead’ is an adjective, or if the phrase is a compound noun. If it’s an adjective, then the term living merely refers to the type of dead we are dealing with, and is used in the sense of animated, or a dead who’s describer is living. This is not the case if we are using the term as a part of a compound noun, which would give equal weight to the person being both living and dead, creating an area of either dual existence or at the very least a matter of doubt as to whether he is living or dead, similar to the androgynous whose legal status is at once male, female and questionably either.”
Everyone looked agape at Moshe.
Moshe blushed. “I’ve been taking Torah courses online,” he offered.
“Very good, Moshe,” said the Rabbi. “But you’re missing an important point. With the androgynous we rule strictly to either category. If we applied it to Motti, he surely wouldn’t count.”
“What about Ribbi, the famous sage who wrote the Mishna. The Gemara says that after he passed away, he came home every Friday night to say Kiddush for his family.”
“Wow,” said Danny. “Really? Well, then if he can say Kiddush, why can’t we say Kaddish. They sound the same.”
“Same root different words,” answered Manny.
“It seems we have a Teko,” declared the Rabbi.
“Teko – What’s that, like a Jewish TKO?” asked Stanley.
“Kinda, It means we’ll have to wait to Elijah the Prophet to come and answer the difficulty. Until then, we’re just kind of stuck,” explained Moshe.
“If Elijah was here, we wouldn’t need to worry about the zombie over there,” said Sammy.
“Why not? Isn’t Elijah dead too?” asked Danny.
“Oy Gevalt!” The Rabbi threw up his hands in dismay.
Suddenly Sammy had an idea. “What if it’s not that he’s completely dead, but only mostly dead.”
The Rabbi”s stare was deadpan. “Now you’re quoting me Billy Crystal?”
“Well,” offered Sammy sheepishly, “doesn’t Rabbi Akiva say that if we aren’t prophets, we’re at least the children of prophets.”
“Rabbi! Look at the time!” shouted Moshe. “The time for morning prayers has passed!”
“Oh, no.” cried Stanley.”
“Don’t worry,” consoled the Rabbi. “We were engaged in a mitzvah, and one who is engaged in a mitzvah is exempt from other mitzvahs. The learning itself will count just as much for the elevation of your mother’s soul, maybe even more, because it was all done for the sake of Heaven.”
“Well, then can we, at least say Kaddish on the learning?” asked Stanley.
“Oy,” said the Rabbi. “Grab some more books. It’s going to be a long day!”
by D. Avraham
- Avraham is the author of the fantasy novels, Blight Crissing (Shirtsleeve Press, 2016) and The Shepherd King Chronicles: Foundation Stone (Beith David Publishing, 2010).
D.Avraham is also the editor of the upcoming anthology, Holy C.O.W. – SF stories from the Center Of the Earth.
His story “Tick-Tock Man,” was selected to appear in the upcoming Science Fiction anthology, Clash of the Titles, edited by Gil Bavel and with a forward by Paul DiFilippo.
- Avraham currently lives with his family in the Hebron Hills of Israel, where, aside from writing, he teaches at the Jerusalem College of Technology, raises sheep and chickens, home schools his own kids, and tries to stay out of trouble. Sometimes he’s successful.