Why do the central prayers of Judaism require a minyan, a quorum of 10? That is true of the Kedusha in the Amidah and the Kaddish, among others.
Such a central question has no single answer. One response is that human beings are in God’s image, and for some experiences you require as many images of God around you as possible — for comfort, and sometimes for inspiration. Another answer is that Judaism emphasizes community, and so wishes to ensure that Jews will always seek out community, since there will always be a need for prayer.
In addition there is an important symbolic statement Judaism makes to each of us. There are many central tasks of life that can never be accomplished alone. It is not an issue of effort, or intelligence — the greatest scholar in Judaism may not recite the Kedusha alone either. Rather, the nature of God’s world requires we do certain things together. Cooperation and community are not only comforts. You cannot be a full Jew alone on a mountaintop; to reach the heights you need others, pulling and pushing and climbing with you. God exists alone. For us, as the old saying goes — it takes a minyan.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), has recently been published.