I am writing in response to the article describing and justifying the continued existence and positive nature of what are called “outdoor minyanim.” [Heard in the Bagel Store, “The Outdoor Phenomenon Continued,” November 20]
I really don’t understand the rationale for outdoor minyanim that are now, for all intents and purposes, indoor minyanim.
When asked why they do not just go to an indoor shul, you quoted one of the organizers of an outdoor minyan responding “No way.”
That’s not a rationale. That sounds like a cop out.
Equally inaccurate is your conjecture that outdoor minyanim are “most likely here to stay because of the camaraderie and closeness they foster among neighbors.” Only outdoor minyanim have a monopoly on camaraderie and closeness that they foster among neighbors?
It seems to me that shuls have thrived because they indeed have “camaraderie and closeness amongst neighbors” … and not only neighbors, but fellow Far Rockawayites and or Five Towners from the other end of town as well.
Yes, believe it or not, people are attracted to the shuls, with many shuls offering a wide spectrum of choices of minyanim styles, within each shul.
But most importantly, the shuls offer what outdoor minyanim can never offer: a rabbi, or two or three, to become close to, to learn Torah from, to ask shailas to, to turn to for advice, or bikur cholim, or yes, when a funeral needs to be arranged and issues revolving around shivah need to be addressed.
Yes, many shuls offer youth groups.
Most importantly, an intangible, which is more than crucial: davening in an outdoor minyan, means you have no one to “answer” to; no higher standard to seek. There is no one to challenge you, no one to give you that subtle or straightforward mussar we all need. And dread.
So, yes, the fact is that the services that shuls offer are only possible, with the full support, both financially and in person, of the community.
No one is denying that the outdoor minyanim served a crucial role when our shuls were shut. Outdoor minyanim served a crucial role when there were those of us who were anxious to return to an indoor setting. Outdoor minyanim served a crucial role before the shuls instituted mask wearing and social distancing. Some shuls offer the option, for better or for worse, as it appears is an attraction of some outdoor minyanim, of a relaxed stance regarding the enforcement of strict mask wearing and social distancing.
But it is just plain wrong to promote and expect the same financial support of the communal infrastructure by those attending outdoor minyanim as they had in the past. So, what will suffer? The critical infrastructure of our community of rabbanim, minyanim, youth services, Torah classes, daf yomi, and the amazing offerings of many shuls of a place to imbibe Torah from the rabbanim and from each other.
Who will suffer? We all will suffer. The so-called outdoor minyanim, I’m sorry to say have no permanent place in our community.
If you want to start a minyan, like so many have done, by all means do so. Hire a rav. Set up Torah classes. Identify and create a location. And spend money to do so.
“No way” just doesn’t cut it.
Listen to Your Vaad
Thank you for your wonderful paper that I look forward to reading each week. I am writing to you because I feel it is offensive for the 5TJT to have published a full-page ad by a local meat restaurant for five straight weeks “thanking the 5 Towns.” The ad is basically saying, “Thank you Five-Towners for going against almost all the rabbanim of the community and supporting our store.” One of the hallmarks of the Five Towns is the unity that exists here. The Vaad of the Five Towns is run by many different wonderful rabbanim from all parts of our community who contribute their time and effort to ensure a high level of kashrus in the community. The unity that exists here is due in large part to the rabbis respecting each other and working together. When this “machloket” started, almost all the rabbanim in the community signed a letter denouncing this new hashgachah. Regardless of how one might feel regarding the Vaad having control of the kashrus in the Five Towns, this letter should have ended the controversy.
Judaism is really based upon listening to our rabbis. We study and follow the ways of the Torah based on their interpretations and teachings. By publishing these ads, you are basically taking a stand against our esteemed rabbanim, and by doing so, I feel you are inadvertently contributing to a chillul Hashem. I find it very shocking for a publication of your stature to be going against our rabbanim.
I was hesitant to write this letter, but I felt strongly that these sentiments needed to be expressed. We are living in unprecedented times, when we are truly in need of rachamei Shamayim. A good way to gain that is by honoring our rabbis and the directives they give to us, and by stopping a machloket in its tracks (which was one of the objectives of the rabbis’ letter).