We have now been living in the upside-down world of COVID-19 for more than three months, and it occurs to me that in years to come, someone wanting to write a book about how Jews handled davening and minyanim during these three months will have a lot of material to work with.
Let’s look at our own recent timeline.
Right after Purim, with COVID rampant, the government shuts down all gatherings for davening — not just shuls, but satellite minyanim, sometimes-minyanim, etc.
The rabbis regularly send out instructions on how to cope with this phenomenon of davening solo at home, as well as warnings telling those who have organized secret minyanim that it’s assur and they had better stop or they will make others sick. (They don’t stop, and plenty become sick as a result.)
A couple of weeks later, in order to make things a little better, some rabbis suggest that during Kabbalat Shabbat, those who have enough people for a minyan on their street should go outside (but not beyond their own individual properties) to sing Lecha Dodi together. This stops after about two weeks. I don’t know why, because it was very beautiful, but I am sure there was a good reason.
Back into the houses we go to daven alone for the next couple of months, everyone waiting for Phase I when there will be at least a little crack in the window. That allows for some minyanim — outside at this point, with only 10 men, at least six feet apart, and they bring their own tallis, Siddur, Chumash, towel, or sheet for a chair (or bring their own chair). We finally get back to some kind of kavuah davening, also praying that it does not rain and cancel out the outdoor minyan.
I do hope this phantom future researcher will take note of the personal experiences that each of us have had, like leaving our windows open on a nice night, only to be awakened the next morning by some earnest person davening and singing in his yard, with beautiful kavanah, to make up for the nine other men who can’t be there. Or sitting on your back deck while different people are at different stages of davening — some davening Shacharit while the guy in the next yard is already up to Mussaf. You sit there and wonder how one guy could be singing beautifully and perfectly on-key, while the next guy is singing at the top of his lungs but is so off-key that it makes you worry the birds in the area might be contemplating suicide.
These last few months have been a tremendous learning and coping experience for all of us, each in our own way. In years to come, when researchers or writers will want to interview those of us who lived through this time, I wonder if we will remember all the out-of-the ordinary little happenings that occurred in our previously normal routine.
We are entering Phase II and then, hopefully, Phase III, as close as we will probably get to normal until a vaccine is mainstream and on the market. But one thing I think everyone realizes and will always remember is how precious each day of good health is, and that this takes priority!
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.