Dr. Moshe Dror on Futurist Bible
Image - Virtual Minyan by Philip Ratner
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Note: The text in black is Moshe’s original essay. The text in blue is interspersed responses and comments by Yitzḥaq Ḥayut-Man to Moshe’s text.
Wherever you are in this planet you are reading this on–line, in Cyberspace — this is what I call CYBERIA. This Cyberia is the “space” where we are working, enjoying and playing and living more and more of our lives.
This is an immaterial, information space. In some sense, it could be considered as "Spiritual Space" or "Spiritual Hyper-space".
All of us are in some sorts of virtual communities. I imagine that some of us take part in many of them.
A meeting of two in 3D space is an instance of these people meetings in a higher space.
Artist Phillip Ratner has created a “virtual minyan”
(See picture above, click on image to see it enlarged)
The term “minyan” is a designation of a quorum of ten male Jewish adults; aged 13 years or older that is necessary for some aspects of public services in Synagogue services and other religious ceremonies.
The point is that on reaching the age of 13 and Bar Mitzvah, a person may start engaging his/her Neshama (his eternal “oversoul”).
Another basic point is that these ten engage in the same one thing, they synchronize their attention (or try to). This is not a Havruta or a discussion group. It is an expansion of consciousness along a social dimension, from the (egotistical) individual, through the Minyan to transpersonal - always aiming to reach cleavage to the Holy, to the Whole.
The term refers to a “community”. The term “minyan” comes from the Hebrew root M.N.H, of “meniyah”— meaning to count or to number.
Or rather "Counting", which is almost exactly the same as "Sefirah".
How many are needed for a “community”?
For any "community" or in some way specific to a Minyan?
In the Talmud (Megillah 23b) the Rabbis derive the number as ten from the narrative in Numbers 14:27. There the term that is used is “Ẹdah” (עדה) (community) of the ten spies who returned and complained to Moses after seeing the land of Israel and its inhabitants. Thus the Rabbis equate the concept of community with the number of ten men.
But there, these ten were (the major) part of a group of 12.
They also list the ten brothers of Joseph who went to Egypt to get food during the famine,
Again here, the 12 is the whole thing and 10 the passable quorum.
Some also see that in the narrative of Abraham in Genesis 18, Abraham requests to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were ten “righteous” men. So, a community is defined as ten adult Jewish men.
This is the best Terutz. But were these ten righteous to engage in anything specific?
In all sorts of religious ceremonies we are addressing a person’s mind-heart –consciousness. In the past, the mind-heart-consciousness was attached to and connected with a person’s body. Therefore we needed ten bodies to make a community.
But now we can connect with people’s mind-heart-consciousness on-line and in cyberspace. Can we create a “Minyan” on line?
How, and how well, do we "connect with people's mind-heart-consciousness"? Through encounter and through cyberspace? For me, this triadic term is a bit fuzzy and not coherent enough. Maybe if you give me examples of each, we may reach clarification and ideas about how such a Minyan might work.
In this image we can see that there is a device that has nine (9) computer screens with the tenth “real” person facing a video camera so there are ten.
It is probably also adequate to divide the screen to 9 (3X3) frames. But then, whether you are looking at one or nine screens, you are not likely to be praying. So what is the prayer-like or spiritual "thing" about people staring at each other across video screens?
Or are there?
In the Orthodox tradition we are dealing with ten men, but in many Conservative Synagogues and in the Reform tradition, women are also included. So we are enlarging the very nature of the concept of what constitutes a community. The sacred ceremonies are not gender dependent.
In cyberspace, a person can determine the gender of his/her alias. But this is done in a sex-influenced context. I think that the point of prayer is to stay rather sex-less.
Even in the classical Orthodox tradition in certain circumstances it also may include a boy (less than 13 years old) who is touching a Torah scroll or even holding a printed Bible as the tenth person. There are some references there is also the possibility of opening the Torah Ark and permit the “Spirit of God” (Ru'aḥ haQodesh) to serve as the tenth person.
So, it depends.
Consider the following.
This is a true story.
When I was teaching in the College founded in Yeroham – Ramat HaNegev College, dealing with the potential connections of Judaism and futures possibilities, we came up with the following “experiment”.
One of the main sections of the Prayer Service is the “Shema Yisrael”. This section begins with the Barkhu - The blessing that gathers the Community together. Right after the Barkhu, in the next passage the text states:
“…He (GoD) creates day and night, removing light before darkness and darkness before light, and separates between day and night…”.
Where is this happening?
Well basically everywhere. But where can we see it?
When it is night in Israel – where is it day? And vice versa?
Consider that there is a twelve (12) hour difference between Israel and California. When the sun rises in Israel, it sets in California - and vice versa.
We did an experiment.
We got five (5) men to be in a room in Israel and made arrangements for five men (5) to be in a space in Los Angeles. We videoed the five in Israel and did a video of the five in LA. We sent the images to a satellite and downloaded it in real time. We sent the images of the LA 5 to a computer screen in Israel and along with the Israel 5 to a computer screen in LA. So we had 5 “real” bodies in each room with the virtual other 5 on the screen. We so arranged it that all of the ten would also be on each screen at the same time, in real time.
Would that constitute a minyan?
Well, like many things in Judaism, it depends on who you ask.
This was not meant to be an actual “religious service”. This was done in the early 1980’s and was quite complicated and expensive.
But now such kinds of virtual communities are going on millions of times a day – on computer screens and from your 3G cell phones all over the planet.
It is also interesting to remember that during the Biblical period and the early Rabbinic period Jews worshiped at the Temple with animal sacrifices. These animal sacrifices were called “Qorban” from the Hebrew root of “QRB” which means to bring close. For the human to be close to GoD.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, it was not possible to bring Animal sacrifices any longer so the rabbis came up with prayers and what we know as the Synagogue Service made up of prayers of words and music and sacred ceremony. It took nearly a thousand years for this Prayer format to be fully developed.
Now that entire new technology systems – that we call cyberspace and the Web are available - who knows how this will expand and develop?
There are so many of us who are experimenting with the various aspects of religion and spirituality that we are indeed developing all sorts of sacred communities in cyberspace.
We are no longer locked into bricks and mortar buildings of Synagogues and the congregations that need to be housed in them.
Can there be such a thing as cyber-spirituality?
Well, look in Google under Cyber-spirituality and you will find (946,000) that is, nearly a million hits, on the day that I am writing this, and it will only grow in time.
Do you think that quantity will breed quality? Have you found value yet? Perhaps the point is to make some Minyan-Account of quality, that might have to do with the spiritual. Or perhaps intimate sharing of spiritual content will? But what distinguished "spiritual" contents?
The creativity and innovations of many individuals, not just sitting alone somewhere but of individuals – networked over the Web is just awesome. These networked individuals will create sacred systems that we can only imagine.
Let's imagine them then.
Just think that you may even remember when the World Wide Web just began, now we are dealing with Web2.0 and many even talk about Web 3.0.
It will only continue to grow and astound us all.
Enjoy the ride!
Note: Moshe - you have raised a pertinent issue, but we have not made the point yet. In fact, I did not even get what was/is Ratner's specific idea about Minyan – nor actually yours.
Two basic questions need, I think, be addressed:
(1) What is the necessity for cyber-minyan?
(2) What might be the relative advantage of cyber-minyan vs. the traditional one?
Final note: I (Y. Hayut-Man) am currently (2012) developing "Amity Round Tables" (ART) for up to 12-participants. This would likely be influenced by the above discussion.
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