In a peaceful corner of Cedarhurst, it looks like people stagger into this shul at all hours and leave happy and satisfied, and according to my experience and observations, that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m referring to davening with a minyan three times a day, something that all of us have either practiced or endeavored to practice since early childhood.

When I was in high school and taking trains and buses to reach my yeshiva, I almost never made it to minyan on time. But that was only until 11th grade, when I took a Driver Education course and had to meet my group in front of the yeshiva once a week at 6 a.m. It appeared I had no trouble making it to yeshiva then.

When one of my rebbeim noticed the contradictory nature of my behavior and asked me how I could reconcile the two situations, I did not have a good answer for him, and all these years later, I still don’t have an answer.

In all my years, there were times when I davened in the morning with the sunrise, and other times when I would catch the noon Shacharis minyan in Boro Park. But that’s a long story, and you’ll have to keep reading to hear how the story ends.

When we first moved to the Five Towns in 1993, if you were accustomed to davening a little later, the best you could do was the 8 a.m. minyan in Woodmere. If you lived in Lawrence, which was where we live, the best you could do was a 7:45 a.m. minyan at a neighborhood shul.

At the time, I was working in the city and attended the 6:15 a.m. minyan and then ran to catch the 7:32 a.m. or 7:55 a.m. train to the city. Back then, there was a Daf Yomi shiur on the 7:55 a.m. train, which was a great way to start the day.

There was one memorable 7:55 a.m. trip, when a newly-married couple was heading to work and someone decided to make an impromptu sheva brachos for them. There was a bottle of grape juice and two cups, one for the chosson and one for the kallah, and a box of Dunkin Donuts that got passed around for all to share. The kicker was the bride had to change trains at the Jamaica station, so whatever festivities we planned had to be finished rather quickly. As I recall, everyone had a smile that day.

Around 1980, I was hosting a morning radio program that required me to leave my Brooklyn home at 5:30 a.m. so I could be in East Orange, New Jersey before 7. The radio show was on the air until 9, so with traffic and a few other things, I didn’t get back to my house or office until 11 a.m. At one point, I found out about a few late morning minyanim in Boro Park, so I arranged to daven there most days either at 11 or with the noon minyan. In those days, we affectionately called these shuls “minyan factories.” The shul here in Cedarhurst with the non-stop minyanim is called Beit Midrash Hachaim Vehashalom, life and peace. It’s a great place to daven at 9 or 10 a.m. when you’re not in a rush to go to work. I understand that the latest minyan is at 12:30 p.m. each day, and I’m happy to relate that I have not personally observed that yet.

What the non-stop minyanim shuls remind me of more than anything else is my old neighbor from Crown Heights, Rabbi Mordechai Jungreis, who has a shul in Woodbourne, which is the hub of the frum Catskills, where they say you can catch a minyan virtually around the clock. I’ve spoken to people who have davened Maariv there at 3 a.m., and yes, there was a minyan!

At the same time, you can catch a Shacharis minyan in Woodbourne sometimes as late as 3 p.m. I became familiar with the Woodbourne shul in the Covid summer of 2020, when we rented a house upstate because all the summer camps were closed and…well, you know the rest of the story.

It was during that summer that Rabbi Jungreis told me that some people had complained about allowing a Shacharis minyan to proceed at such a late hour of the day. The rabbi explained that he posed the question to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, who had spent his summers in the Catskills and was familiar with the Woodbourne shul. Rabbi Weiss told Rabbi Jungreis that in his opinion, when a Jew comes to daven, it’s better to let him daven regardless of the time or circumstances.

Not everyone who reads this will agree with that position, so perhaps it requires a bit of qualification. I don’t have to spell it out for our target market, but let me just say that one should daven Shacharis in the morning hours unless there is some kind of emergency situation going on.

I heard someone say last week that now that we have a Bingo Supermarket, around the clock minyanim, and people making U-turns on Central Avenue, we are for all intents and purposes living in Boro Park.

But let’s stay focused on this new, non-stop minyanim shul, Beit Midrash Hachaim Vehashalom, and some of its outstanding qualities. Aside from the opportunity to always have a minyan available day and night, there are other aspects that make this place of worship so special and unique.

Here are some of those features. Since the shul has non-stop, rotating minyanim, the question automatically rises as to who has a chiyuv or yahrzeit to lead the minyan and daven for the Amud.

The other day, one of the people I know who is davening for the Amud because he is in the year of mourning for his father, showed me the shul app that allows people to reserve the Amud for different tefillos throughout the week. The app is cleared at the end of the week and then beginning on Saturday night, if you need the Amud, you can reserve your spots accordingly.

Apparently, there are three liturgical options each day for the various tefillos. There is Ashkenaz, Sephard, and Sephardi, so since the composition of the participants can vary, the shul policy is that whatever your personal nusach is, that is the one you should adhere to in your minyan. All you have to do is post a sign as seen on the accompanying photo of what nusach the minyan will be following.

I spoke to the rabbi of the shul and mentioned that I was doing this story, and he agreed to talk to me on condition that I not mention his name. Naturally, I respected his request.

One of the things this rabbi told me is that since it became known that there are non-stop minyanim all day, at least a hundred people confessed to him that in some cases, they have not davened with a minyan in about twenty years.

The rabbi, a humble, soft-spoken talmid chacham, can be seen quietly circulating throughout the shul, making sure everything runs smoothly and all goes well.

On the flip side, I’m told that some of the other shuls in the Five Towns are not so enthusiastic about the non-stop minyanim formula because it impacts on their ability to put a minyan together for Mincha-Maariv during weeknights. I mentioned this to the rabbi, and that is when he told me about the large numbers of people who shared with him that they had not participated in a minyan for close to 20 years.

Another feature of the shul is a corner table where hot coffee and a wide variety of snacks are always available, sometimes even full meals. So far, I’ve only davened there on occasion over the last three weeks. In the morning, as far as I can tell, there are always muffins, Danishes, and other cakes available along with bagels, butter, cream cheese, and so on. The few times I davened Maariv there, I saw hot pizza being warmed in a heated box, and on another night, there was a big bowl of salad and a container of pepper steak.

So, whether you’re hungry to attach yourself to Hashem through prayer or hungry for a hot bagel and coffee, everything is here for you at Hachaim Vehashalom on Cedarhurst Avenue in Cedarhurst. Whether you live here or are just passing through, stop in and try it.


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