This Parsha this week is Parshas Mishpatim. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of many technical commandments (mitzvohs) that have to be done. The Torah then tells us of a promise Hashem makes to the Jewish people; “Vaavadetem - And you (plural) shall serve Hashem your G-d; and He will bless “lachmecha” - your (singular) food and “maimecha” - your (singular) drink,… (Exodus 23:24). In English the word “you” can be used to refer both to a group and a single individual. In Hebrew, however, this is not true. There is a clear difference between the way one refers to an individual, as opposed to the way one refers to a single person. Here in this verse, the Torah starts out with the plural, talking about many serving Hashem; then the Torah changes and refers to the blessing given to the single individual serving Hashem. Why is there a change in whom we are addressing? Why not either talk right away about each individual serving Hashem, or if we are talking about many serving Hashem together, promise the reward to them as a group?
The Baal Haturim points out that there is a most powerful lesson hinted to in this verse: The power of prayer with a minyan – a quorum of at least ten men. If many people pray together in a group, there is a promise that their prayer will not be despised. This promise is even to each individual in the group. The verse can thus be understood – If you will serve Hashem together, as a group, praying with a minyan, then Hashem will give each of you individually a blessing and success.
This underscores the importance of trying to pray with a minyan. When one prays alone, we are taught, it takes great merit to get his prayers accepted in Heaven. The prayers are scrutinized to see if all the proper intent and thoughts that accompany the prayers are pure. On the other hand, when one is praying with a minyan, the prayers are offered up to Heaven as a group. Hashem accepts the prayers of a group, even if each individual did not focus as much as he should of.
In truth, the importance of praying with a minyan goes beyond this. For answering amen, as one hears the kaddish or the repetition of the Amidah, the Gates of Gan Eden are opened to a person. For answering “Amen Yehai Smeay Rabba” properly, – which is answered every time we hear kaddish, bad decrees that would have befallen someone are ripped up. In order to pray with a minyan one must travel up to eighteen minutes even if it is out of his way. (Code of Jewish Law, 90:16) One is not supposed to leave town if they will miss a chance to pray with a minyan.