It’s been four months since I’ve replied publicly to any of the hundreds of e-mails I receive weekly. This pandemic has really changed things around, to say the least, and I have not been able to respond due to time constraints. (I must have been doing a great job by “not” responding, since I gained many subscribers during this time.) Nonetheless, something is happening that’s forcing me out of my “sabbatical” of sorts.
When this virus reared its ugly head, shuls all over the world had to shut their doors. As soon as we got the OK, backyard minyanim popped up all over the world. I read an article that said, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael! If shuls aren’t open, we’ll still daven with a minyan!” It was amazing.
In some areas, minyanim began davening inside the shuls months ago. In other places, it started up a few weeks ago. While most people are beginning to head back to shuls, others are contemplating keeping their small minyanim going. There are a few reasons why.
- It’s convenient
- It’s quicker
- It’s safer
I completely understand. I personally know of six such minyanim, and it really is safer from a health perspective. It’s outdoors, everyone wears masks, and davening moves along very quickly. There are no speeches, no schlepping, and no membership dues.
In case you’ve forgotten, I wrote an article a while back that generated a bit of controversy. Specifically, I wrote that perhaps Shabbos davening was taking longer than it should in shul. I strongly feel that children’s attention spans are shorter than ever, and if we want to give over a love of tefillah b’tzibbur, we need to do our part. There were many people who disagreed with me, but I still believe that we need to be a bit more understanding.
When this virus hit, I began giving nightly shiurim to help children who weren’t in yeshiva. Along with the learning, I sent home a weekly newsletter that had divrei Torah, jokes, and an article from the yetzer ha’ra. (Spoiler Alert: I write the articles for the yetzer ha’ra.) One of the articles jokingly said the following (from the perspective of the yetzer ha’ra): “I hope that you continue to daven at home. Backyard minyanim aren’t as powerful as going to shul.”
I was kidding. At least I thought I was. As it turns out, many people have told me that they’re not planning on going back to shul once this pandemic ends. Why should they? The minyanim are closer, faster, and more convenient. Basements are being upgraded and responsibilities are being assigned. In many neighborhoods, new friendships are being formed. Neighbors who never really met before are joining together to create minyanim, and it’s simply wonderful.
Or is it? There are a few things that should make you take a step back.
- You will likely lose the connection you’ve had with your rav. I can’t stress how important it is to have a rav. I’m not talking about the derashah. If there’s an issue at any time (personal or halachic), having a rav who knows your family is crucial. There are so many reasons, but here’s one. When your kids start dating, the other side is going to ask, “Who is their rav?” The response of “They don’t really have one” is a big warning sign.
- When there is an issue during davening, you won’t know what to do. You’re in the middle of leining and there’s an issue with the Torah, chas v’shalom. There are halachos that clearly delineate what steps should be taken. You can’t just skip that pasuk. Being in a shul with a rav is the safe move.
- Lastly, your kids will lose out. I am well aware that many children are losing their “geshmak” of going to shul. Students of mine have told me that when they go to the local minyanim, it’s not as “real.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m hearing it from many children.
If shul isn’t an option yet, it’s understandable. However, once the shuls open, we must get these kids back into shul.
The virus has devastated us in so many ways. It took many of our loved ones away. It hurt us financially. It took a mental toll on everyone. Let’s not allow it to affect our spirituality. Let’s make every effort to return to our shuls as long as it’s safe.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.