27 September 2010 - 19 Tishri 5771 - י"ט תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"א
Finding a Minyan Print E-mail

During Sivan, we don’t say tachanunum (supplications) for twelve days. In the desert of Sinai, each day, one of the twelve leaders of the tribes brought his offering for the dedication of the tabernacle.

During another Sivan, long ago, the Jews of Taipei assembled in their make-shift synagogue at the President Hotel for Shabbat morning service. It was getting late. One of the congregants had to say Kaddish, but we were only nine.

The poor man stared at the door with despair. I heard him moaning “umepene hataenou” (“on account of our sins” he would be unable to say Kaddish). Seeing his despondency and anxiety, I volunteered to go down to the lobby and see if I could find a tenth person for the Minyan.

I recited tefilat ha-derech (asking the Almighty for successful journey) and began rambling around the vast lobby in an anthropological search.

It was like the Persia of Queen Esther and her coincidental husband, King Ahasuerus: people from one hundred twenty nations could be found coming and going from that lobby. All colors of the rainbow, shapes and forms of man. Some were rowdy. Some smoked; ignorant of the sanctification of Yom Shabbat.

There were beautiful women, too. One looked very Jewish, middle-aged and mid-weight, her hair oxidized, her green eyes of fading youth. She held a shopping bag, empty for now. I was not, however, to be distracted from my holy mission, my libido was on hold.

If anyone thinks that miracles are things of the past, I tell you right here and now, where there is grief there is glory. On my fifth round, fewer times than the Israelite army circled Jericho, I noticed a man standing by the main entrance, austere yet pious, common yet distinguished.

He was tall and robust, his eyes fierce and big like two lakes, or, maybe just two Jacuzzis; bubbling with Shabbat joy. There was something beguiling in those eyes. His hands rested comfortably on his protruding midriff, where tshulent of many blissful Saturdays must have been stored.

He twiddled his fingers in fast circles like a Dutch windmill on a stormy day. I was amazed at the frequency and speed. He wore a long silk gabardine – probably very expensive – tied with a priestly narrow sash. His shoes were shiny and smooth, and his white socks climbed as high as one can observe.

His shtreimel was so expansive that he would not need an umbrella on a rainy day. His payos, dangling and caressing his broad shoulders, played an intricate dance with the breeze that came from the revolving door.           

His entire appearance was stately, dignified and almost majestic. Immediately I was bewitched by the man. To my mind came Andre Schwartz-Bart’s book, The Last of the Just. Could he be one? I murmured; Hodu la’Shem, ki tov (Praise Hashem for his goodness).

As I approached him, he turned, and with fast steps walked toward the western end of the lobby. Was he dreaming of the Western wall, the Kotel? I could not tell. Maybe he expected Mashiach?

As he stopped for an instant, I caught up with him. I tapped gently on his back, and he turned toward me. He was peevish and suspecting.

“Would you please join us? We need one man to complete our Minyan.” I said with respect.

“How did you know I was Jewish?” he responded.

 I was dumb struck. I turned to go, resigned. He followed, a few steps behind me.



Jewish things I never learned in Hebrew school
•    What business is a yenta in? Yours.
•    No meal is complete without leftovers.
•    According to Jewish dietary law, pork and shellfish may be eaten only in Chinese  restaurants.
•    You need 10 men for a minyan, but only four in polyester pants and white shoes for pinochle.
•    Prune danish is definitely an acquired taste.
•    If your name were Lipschitz, you’d change it too.
•    Anything worth saying is worth repeating a thousand times.
•    Where there’s smoke, there may be smoked salmon.
•    Never take a front row seat at a bris.
•    Next year in Jerusalem. The year after that, how about a nice cruise?

Jewish Times Asia is published by Jewish Times Asia Ltd. © Copyright 2010.
Material in the newspaper or on this site may not be used or reproduced in any form or in any way without permission from the editor.
While every effort has been made to ensure the content is true and accurate, the publisher is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the printed text.