(Photo: Harvey Sapir Pikiwiki Israel/Wikimedia Commons)

The Tenth Man in Florentin, Tel Aviv


It’s a Tel Aviv morning. I arrive early, seeking a coffee shop where I can pass the time until the meeting. It’s a beautiful moment for a coffee with a little whipped cream, the radio and a croissant.

A shrill voice interrupts my day dreaming. “We need a tenth man for the minyan!” He is wearing a cardboard kippah on his head, in the middle of Florentin. “Come, brother, come complete the minyan!” Another one of the dozens of shuls planted here in the alleyways. Some are entirely empty, while others are open to the praying public.

This could be a nuisance, but I decide to join them. I approach the shul, and realize that they are still missing another person. And so I stand outside together with him, to help him recruit for the minyan. Many people pass through Florentin, a neighborhood overflowing with students and young people passing by. 

I feel for a moment like one who sees but is not seen. And so too the shul and the gabbai, all of us transparent, as befits messengers of the hidden G-d, the disappearing One.

In the meantime I sit on the side of the shul, answering amen to kaddish and washing the hands of the kohanim. A son of the tribe of Levi, with coffee I prepared in the old kettle in the kitchen, without a menu, but with a purpose.

Tell me why?

Why are the coffee shops here so full? Why are the shuls empty? Why aren’t the waiters in the coffee shops searching for a minyan? Why are the shuls not full with young people?

I need to leave already for my meeting; I am thinking about how to escape. But now they are taking out the Sefer Torah. I see it coming towards me. Never before have I felt as if the Torah itself wanted to approach me, to draw close…

I run to the Torah. I kiss it and am teary-eyed. And I promise it: one day they will run to you here; the young people of Tel Aviv will dance with you in the coffee shops!

I am about to go outside to the street, to escape the minyan, but they call me up to the Torah. The Levi aliyah. I find myself making the blessings over the Torah like I have never done before. I hold back my tears, tears that did not fall even during Neilah at the Kotel. What a merit!

Here in the empty synagogue in south Tel Aviv, in the end, I made a minyan.


Aaron Razel is a writer, composer and artist. His twelve albums include songs like “Ha’Sneh Bo’er” (The Burning Bush) and “Zman Ha’Geulah” (The Time of Redemption) that have become part of the broader cultural landscape of Israel. He lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem with his wife and children. This essay was originally published in Hebrew in his book “HaChayim k’Niggun” (Life as a Niggun).

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