Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Minyan and Game Theory

Been a while since I've posted a puzzle-type question. Here's one where you can apply your best game theory thinking, as well as your personal value judgments, to the seemingly incongruous topic of helping make a minyan. This is actually li-maaseh [of practical consequence] for me every Monday through Thursday, as we have a work mincha minyan that exactly fits the following description. If you're not a "minyan-man", please feel free to use your imagination and play along anyway!

Situation: You attend a minyan that draws on a pool of, say, 15 or so men, not all of whom attend every day. The minyan is called for 5:00 pm, but almost always starts a few minutes late, since it usually takes until then for the required ten to show up.

Question: What is the optimal number attendee that you should try/want to be when you get there - e.g., 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc?

After a couple of people respond (or after a day or two) I'll give you my own answer.

UPDATED 6/26 9:30 am with my solution in the comments section.


At 6/22/06, 10:21 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Hmmm and the fact that I am a girl makes it even harder to answer. I don't even know what you mean by optimal number attendee. I will choose a random number-6-that is my guess. Not so random I have a reason.

At 6/22/06, 10:48 PM, Blogger Attila said...

About 8 or 9. You don't have to wait long for the minyan and the chances are good that an avel will already be there preparing to lead davening.

At 6/25/06, 1:09 AM, Blogger Lady-Light said...

My thoughts are, if you work on arriving at 5 sharp you want to be 'the tenth man' so as not to have to wait but rather start mincha immediately (if not sooner). That is from my perspective as a woman, if I were a man, since I love davening although don't regularly (I lean heavily on the 'shehazman graman' clause...um, basically lazy?)

At 6/26/06, 9:36 AM, Blogger Elie said...

Thanks for your responses. As with any value-judgment question there is no "right" or "wrong" answer, but here's my own assessment:

I don't want to get there too early and have to wait several minutes for the minyan to start. At the same time, I don't want to get there too late and miss the beginning of minyan. So a simplistic analysis might lead to the conclusion that being #10 would be optimal.

However, there is a third consideration, which is that I also hate to keep other people waiting. Once nine have assembled, they are all waiting for the 10th and will start as soon as he arrives. So if I am #10, for some period of time I am causing nine others to wait and personally responsible for keeping the minyan from starting.

Therefore, my optimal arrival position is #9. That minimizes my own waiting time without my having to be responsible for causing any waiting time for others.

Again, all this is based on my own values. One who doesn't mind keeping others waiting would want to be the tenth rather than the ninth. Others may feel a special significance in being one of the first few to arrive. Finally, some may prefer to show up a bit late and would rather be #11+. Certainly, as one of my rebbeim used to say, the fact that you made it your business to be there, whatever your arrival position, is what's really important.

At 6/26/06, 11:20 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Sounds good elie! Can you manage that though?

At 6/26/06, 11:22 AM, Blogger Elie said...

Of course it's not completely predictable, but I find I can time it fairly well most days.

At 6/26/06, 10:24 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Very wise. I misunderstood the Q - I was trying to figure out what time you would want to get there to be usually getting there about when they start, without ever being too late or too early. I'd have guessed 5:04 if you never want to be late, 5:07 if you don't mind being a minute or too late.


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