Schechter Logo for Print

How is it that even 10 ‘evil’ people create a minyan? Rabbi Arie Hasit deepens our understanding of “Who is wise”

Rabbi Arie Hasit
| 13/06/2023

Rabbi Arie Hasit challenges us to find commonalities and meet with those who do not necessarily agree with our own visions. After all, this is how Talmudic reasoning found the basis for a quorum, an eydah of 10 people to make a minyan and sanctify God.

Who is wise, Pirkei Avot Ethics of Our Fathers, asks.

“Who is wise?” ask the rabbis. The one who learns from all people.

What a beautiful, yet challenging message that we are taught in this Mishna, because we as a people are inclined to run away from people that are different from us, that challenge us that we think are sometimes even bad.

Yet Pirkei Avot tells us we need to ignore that polarity and find what we can learn from every single person.

When we are polarized we might say there is nothing to learn from those people, but we can move past our differences.

This week we have a small circumstance of difference. In Israel, where I am sharing these words, we will be reading Parashat Korach and last week we read Shelach Lecha. While in most Diaspora Jewry, this week you will be reading Parashat Shelach Lecha.

That is why this week I want to share some Torah that comes from both of those Parashot.

Parashat Shelach Lecha is the story of Moses having left Egypt with the Israelites, getting ready to go into the Land of Israel and choosing 12 leaders that will go and tour the land and bring back word of what this land is like to the entire Israelite people.

Many of us might know this story that two people – Joshua and Caleb – come back with the message that this is a wonderful land that God will give us and we are ready to move in.

Joshua and Caleb bringing grapes from the Land of Israel

10 other spies don’t disagree that the land is wonderful but they disagree that God will help us, they disagree that we can do it and they say that there are giants here and we are like grasshoppers in our own eyes and in their eyes as well.

Grasshopper, photo by Shadow Ayush

The people of Israel choose not to listen to Caleb and Joshua. The people of Israel choose to listen to these 10 spies and say we should have died out here in the desert why would we ever leave (Egypt).

Just as they ask not go into the land, so they received it. At this point, it is decreed upon the people that there will be 40 years of wandering in the desert.  This generation with a slave mentality will never make it to Israel.

But something so curious about this parashah is where do we know the number 10 in Judaism?

We know it of course, because our Jewish ritual life requires 10 to have a minyan.

The Talmud learns this from three texts.

They learn it from a Hebrew phrase understanding that a minyan must happen inside of a group called an ‘eydah’ and that an eydah is 10. That goes by starting with the ‘eydah ha’ra’ah.’ The evil group of these spies that is 10. But why does it have to be a group at all?

It has to be a group because we learn in Parashat Korach which we are reading in Israel this week that Korach was with his eydah and something happened within that eydah. The beautiful Talmudic reasoning is that we look for that word ‘within’ and we find this line in Hebrew:

ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

God says I will be sanctified within the People of Israel.

We understand that things that are sanctified the קדושה, קדיש  the kadish – these words with holiness and sanctification must be done within a group and that group must be 10.

So, amazingly, our Jewish life centered around community and centered around togetherness – that 10 is our basis – finds its root in this story of the evil spies.

I’d like us to learn from them and to learn from this that we in fact should always look for inclusion inside of our groups. We learn these two awful stories of the spies and of Korach’s rebellion about what happens when a group disperses what we say those groups are still a part of our history, those groups are still a part of our people.

We think about who is part of our group, the Jewish nation, we should think not about how we separate, and not about evilness but can we learn this week to include our groups?

Can we learn to speak together? To listen to one another? The role of our group is not to convince people that God is not on our side. The role of our group is not to create strife within our people.

The role of our eydah all of our community of Israel is to listen to one another and to find a way to always sanctify God and make our world a better place.



Rabbi Arie Hasit, Associate Dean, Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, was ordained by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in 2016 and was in the second cohort of the Mishlei program. Prior, he served six years as the founding rabbi and CEO of 70 Faces — Mazkeret Batya, a unique community that promotes the values of Masorti Judaism and religious pluralism in the public sphere.

Rabbi Hasit volunteers as co-chair of the Masorti Movement’s Youth Committee and as a member of the Law Committee for the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly.

He lives in Mazkeret Batya with his wife, Sara Tova Brody and their two children.

Join our mailing list

Sign up to our newsletter for the newest articles, events and updates.

    * We hate spam too! And will never share or sell your email or contact information with anyone