For the past 11 months we have been blessed to host our block’s (Edgewood) outdoor minyan. We davened with a minyan through rain, snow and freezing cold. We all felt accountable to each other and understood what it meant to be the “minyan man” number 10. While COVID created distance between people, our minyan brought us all closer. We cried together, danced (socially distanced) together and, more importantly, prayed together (with virtually no talking). We experienced many points in the cycle of life: brit, bar mitzvah, engagement (both from our block) and aveilut. We understood what it meant to be there for each other, whether it was assistance during quarantine, Tehillim due to critical injury or welcoming new neighbors to the block.
As we start to wind down our minyan, it is, in fact, bittersweet. In my discussions with individuals davening in other minyanim, one of the themes I have heard is that the shuls need to make various changes in order to entice people back. This idea of the obligation being in shul is one that I would like to address.
We as Jews have thrived based on our shul being the center of our community: praying in shul, learning in shul, having social events in shul and being inspired by our rabbis. Thirteen months ago, the rabbis of our community made a unified life-saving decision to close our shuls. It was a decision that was met with awe, amazement and some criticism. Yet, it was the right decision that led to other communities following suit. Our rabbis understood that although our shuls are our lifeblood, our health takes precedence. These same rabbis, to whom we owe tremendous hakarat hatov, have decided that it’s time for us all to come back home, to our shuls. It is now our obligation to take everything we have learned in our backyards and use these lessons to enhance our shuls. The obligation, or perhaps privilege, is on us—not solely on our shuls.
In addition to our rabbanim, we owe gratitude to Hakodesh Baruch Hu for allowing us to have the opportunity to be able to daven in shul. Berov am hadres melech. What better way to show our thanks than to daven in a minyan where 50, 100, 200+ people are saying amen, yehei shmei rabbah etc. together.
Let us welcome every new member of our shuls as if they are new to our block. Let us cry for every critical situation as if it was our best friend. Let us run to davening as if we were going to be number 10 (even if it just means that the first Kaddish is said with one more powerful amen). Let us take it upon ourselves to bring the warmth of the davening in our backyard to His backyard.
May the resilience of our unified community be a source of spiritual inspiration for many future generations.Laizer Kornwasser