I recall hearing that it is preferable for a minyan to include transgressors. I am seeking a source.

Update: The answers have provided some Talmudic sources. Is this mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch? Mishna Berura?


2 Answers 2


Remember we mention this in the introduction to Kol Nidrei. We also consider the four species of lulav and esrog to be emblematic of different types of Jews.

As we say when learning Ki Sisa

On Kol Nidre, at the beginning of the Holiest Day of the Year, the Cantor in his prayers requests permission from G-d for the congregation to pray with those Jews who don't keep the Torah. Why?

The commandment of the Four Species that we perform on Succot symbolizes four kinds of Jew: The Etrog which has both taste and smell stands for the Jew who has both Torah and good deeds. The Lulav -- the palm branch -- symbolizes the Jew who has Torah but not good deeds. Like the date tree, he has taste (the dates) but no smell. The Hadass (myrtle) smells beautiful, but it has no edible fruit. It stands for the Jew who has good deeds, but no Torah. And the Arava -- the willow -- has neither taste nor smell. It represents the Jew who has neither Torah nor good deeds. The mitzva of the four species can only be performed with all four. If any one is missing, the mitzva is lost.

In this week's parsha, the Torah lists the eleven ingredients of the ketoret -- the mixture of spices that was an essential part of the service of the Holy Temple. If the person who formulated the mixture omitted one of the ingredients, he was liable for the death penalty. Every ingredient was vital -- without one of the ingredients there was no incense service. One of the spices in the ketoret was chelbona (galbanum). Its smell was unpleasant. Yet without it, the incense was invalid.

A yid is a yid. His ideas and his actions may not "smell" the way I would like, he may be as devoid of mitzvot and good deeds as a willow is devoid of taste and smell -- but without him, it's not Kol Nidre. Without him the Jewish People is incomplete.

  • 1
    If it is preferable to daven in a minyan with sinners, why request "permission from G-d for the congregation to pray with those Jews who don't keep the Torah"?
    – Yehuda W
    Aug 25, 2016 at 15:21
  • @YehudaW I recommend that you ask this excellent question as a separate M.Y. question. I may have an answer for this, but I think it would be unfair to cram it into a comment.
    – DanF
    Aug 25, 2016 at 15:49
  • @DanF Are you referring to the material here judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/62388/…. If not, let me know and I'll post another question.
    – Yehuda W
    Aug 25, 2016 at 16:47
  • @YehudaW Yup. That's the one. I was quite sure that I had answered that, as I surmised.
    – DanF
    Aug 25, 2016 at 17:53

The source is Kereitot 6b:

א"ר חנא בר בזנא א"ר שמעון חסידא כל תענית שאין בה מפושעי ישראל אינה תענית שהרי חלבנה ריחה רע ומנאה הכתוב עם סממני קטרת
Said R. Hana b. Bizna in the name of R. Hisda the pious: A fast in which none of the sinners of Israel participate is no fast; for behold the odour of galbanum is unpleasant and yet it was included among the spices for the incense. (Soncino)

Rashi Shemot 30:34 notes this:

מנאה הכתוב בין סמני הקטורת, ללמדנו, שלא יקל בעינינו לצרף עמנו באגודת תעניותינו ותפלותינו את פושעי ישראל שיהיו נמנין עמנו:‏
The Scripture counted it among the ingredients of the incense [in order] to teach us that we should not look askance at including Jewish transgressors with us when we assemble for fasting or prayer. [The Torah instructs us] that they should be counted with us.

See too the first Derasha of the Ran:

וכבר רמזו לנו בחלבנה שהושמה עם סמני הקטורת והיה מן הנראה שתפסיד אותם להפסד הריח הזה ועם כל זה אמתה לנו הנבואה שאץ להם שלמות זולתה, כי כן הענין בהצטרף עמנו בעבודתנו לש״י החוטאים והפושעים שלא יפסידו עבודתנו אבל תהיה בזה יותר שלמה
Our sages have already intimated this idea in connection with the inclusion of frankincense among the spices of the incense. We would expect the foulness of its odor to spoil the incense, and yet Prophecy has affirmed it to have no perfection without the frankincense. The same holds true in respect to our Divine service. The inclusion in it of sinners and offenders does not detract from it, but, to the contrary, renders it more perfect.

  • I note this doesn't necessarily imply all sinners count for a Minyan. It's possible you need 10 non-sinners and then the additional sinners add to the quality of the gathering.
    – Double AA
    Aug 25, 2016 at 16:09
  • Surely you are using the term "non-sinners" to refer to people who have not committed one or more of a few certain, specific sins. There is none among us who has not sinned.
    – Yehuda W
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:30
  • @YehudaW This term intentionally left vague.
    – Double AA
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:37
  • As written, it is misleading more than just vague. Who of us is not a sinner?
    – Yehuda W
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:51
  • @YehudaW In this context, those who count for a Minyan.
    – Double AA
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:51

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