Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

At Home With Minyan

One of my earliest posts was about my personal odyssey, over the period (Feb. 2004- Jan. 2005) that I was saying Kaddish for my father, towards being able to better tolerate and even somewhat appreciate going to daily minyan. Another outgrowth of this process was that, beginning after last Sukkos, I started a Friday night minyan in my house.

My family lives towards one geographic edge of a rather populous Jewish community, in a section of town affectionately/geometrically known as "the triangle". There are a few tens of Jewish families in our area, perhaps comprising 5-10% of the homes, in contrast to the more popular part of town - or "the fishbowl" as Debbie and I like to call it - where it seems like practically every house is "frum". The families in our section all sort of know each other. We get together for a group Sukkah visitation on the first day of Sukkos every year. In a way, we have certain small-town characteristics within a larger community. You could call us a "sub-town", I guess.

I'd been toying with the idea of starting my own Friday night minyan for a couple of years, but my need to say Kaddish gave me a new impetus. My track record over the previous couple of decades, in terms of making it to shul on Friday nights, could charitably be described as "poor". So I figured that if you can't bring the man to the minyan... well, you know the rest. In other words, I acted to eliminate the possibility that my innate laziness would prevail over my requirement for a minyan.

Thus, I started this minyan for almost purely selfish reasons. I figured those who attended - if it ever even got off the ground at all - would basically look upon it as doing me a favor. But something interesting happened. I discovered that some of my neighbors appreciated having this heimish (literally!) minyan as much, or more, than I did. In fact, a few weeks into it, some of the regular attendees confided in me that they had also rarely made it to shul on Friday nights - until now.

I was surprised to find out that I wasn't alone in my shul-avoidant foible, and was gratified that in setting out to do something for myself, I ended up helping others as well.

Which leads to this thought. I know it's considered risky to propose reasons for halachik rules, lest you come to think that the rule can be broken by people for whom the reason doesn't apply. But... perhaps the fact that specifically men were given the obligation to pray with a group of at least nine others, was intended to counteract our greater (inborn or learned) tendencies towards competitiveness, isolationism, and excessive self-reliance. In essence, several times a day, we are forced to be social - or at least civilized!

Could be. At least, that's how it worked for me and a couple of other guys in the good old Highland Park triangle!


At 8/17/05, 10:36 PM, Blogger DhiRAj SinGh said...

Reminded me of Imre Keretz's "Kaddish For An Unborn Child". Very profound!! Do try and visit me at http://bodhishop.blogspot.com

At 8/22/05, 12:19 PM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Interesting. I rather like such 'heimish' minyanim myself, but I have heard objections raised that such minyanim take away from the 'main' shuls in the neighborhood. Usually the objections are directed against a full-fledged Shabbos Shacharis minyan, but sometimes against Mincha/Maariv too.
Curious what you think...
[Note: Where I grew up in Cleveland, R' N.W. Dessler (Michtav MeEliyahu's son) has his own Mincha/Maariv minyan, which I am under the impression he specifically okayed with other rabbonim, because to walk so far is hard on him. He does not have his own Shacharis minyan, but rather does walk Shabbos morning to shul, even though he has a sefer Torah. My father and I would not usually go to the Dessler minyan, unless the weather was poor or if it was far more convenient in terms of time, despite it being up the block from us.]

At 8/22/05, 12:32 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Ezzie: In general I think there needs to be a balance between splintering a community into numerous small groups just so nobody ever has to compromise, versus everybody having to go to one single overcrowded minyan that may be to the liking of only the minority of machers. So I am OK with having a diversity of minyanim in a community, within the bounds of reason and practicality.

In my own minyan's case, as I described, several or even most of the attendees (including me!) were previously davening at home, not being pulled away from a pre-existing minyan. Also, notwithstanding my son's comment above, I have no ambitions to grow this into a full-fledged breakaway shul. It's just a nice Friday night minyan in our little neck of the community, and that's all I'm looking for.


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