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I Daven with a Minyan Three Times a Day

03/18/2020 11:55:05 AM

Mar18

Gershon Bandos

When I became frum in Madison, WI, a minyan three times a day was a fairy tale. Chabad tried here and there, like Sunday, Monday, and Thursday mornings. They also dragged out Shabbos kiddush as long as possible to be able to daven minchah before going home for seudah.

I remember one time the Chabad rabbi on campus asked me about a minyan, and I declined, and he said, "It's ok. I realize you don't yet recognize the importance of davening with a minyan three times a day." (Thank you, Rabbi Mendel)

I was already planning on going to yeshivah after graduation, and it's no wonder, then, that a few months after that conversation, I walked into yeshivah in Yerushala'im (Shapell's) one afternoon before z'man began, and one of the bochurim (thank you Moshe Shmuel) was hurrying out on his way to minchah down the block. He said, "Welcome! If you want, minchah is right now, and don't worry, the yeshivah doesn't go anywhere near as fast as this shul." Well, who was I to say no to that kind of warm welcome/peer pressure... And that was the beginning of the end. That was the last day I did not realize the importance of davening with a minyan. A few days later, when they asked me to daven the amud in yeshivah, I did a miserable job of it. (I guess that "in-depth" practice I got in Madison was not worth much.) So much so, by the way, that the rosh yeshivah had to stand next to me and motion when to pause to let everyone answer "baruch hu uvaruch shmo." And that is when I resolved to learn all of the words of davening and to actually daven properly.

[As an aside, a year later I was in Madison, and I stopped to visit the Chabad on Campus rabbi. He was hosting a summer BBQ. I looked at my watch, though, and said, "I have to go. If I leave right now, I can make it back to Milwaukee in time for Minchah/Maariv." Wow, the ways his eyes beamed could have landed airplanes and docked ships.]

A few months later, I was at the wedding of a friend from yeshivah, and probably being a little obnoxious about a minyan, and one of the married guests said, "Just wait until you'll get married. You'll really see how when your wife says she needs help, minyans don't matter as much."

So, naturally, when I started shidduchim, I was scared and concerned about that. When I met Deborah, I was about to bring up my "I daven with a minyan three times a day," but she beat me to the punch. I was on the road into Baltimore over Succot, and was expected to meet her family for the first time for dinner. But that would have made me miss minyan. So I called her to ask what to do, and without missing a beat or being at all sarcastic, she told me, "Go be holy, it's ok to show up late. My family won't mind." SOLD. I knew from that moment that we were going to get married.

Since that time, I've missed plenty of minyanim. Babies being born, early morning flights, and flights to and from Israel. Sometimes, I had to leave work late and would daven before I left home. For a year, I had to be at work so early I could not daven with a minyan any morning, and I would get to school early to daven in my classroom. It actually contributed to some level of depression, and needless to say, it was my worst year professionally and personally.

Rabbi Kostelitz once told the story of a chasid who saw his little son picking up blocks and putting them on his forehead like tefillin shel rosh. He ran kvelling to the rebbe to tell him of his son, the illui, who figured out tefillin all on his own. And when he told his rebbe, the rebbe shook his head and cried, "He wouldn't be putting blocks on his forehead if you wouldn't daven at home by yourself."

So here I am, being forced by the government and our own wise rabbis to daven without a minyan. And for some reason, I'm ok with it now. I sit every morning trying to figure out why I'm ok with this. Is it because my children barge into the room seeing me with tallis and tefillin, and I know that (b'heter) they see me davening without interruption?! Is it because now, I'm davening at home because of other people, and not because of myself?! Is it because I can daven without worrying about traffic on my way to school, or finishing tachanun in time to answer kaddish and actually daven with the minyan?! (For the first time in as long as I can remember, I said all of tachanun Monday morning, including the second-to-last standing paragraph about removing מגפה and מות. Powerfull stuff!) I cannot say what has changed my mind about this unfortunate situation, but I know that this cloud has a silver-lining. My Father, the silver smelter told me so. Thank you Hashem for this opportunity to connect with you in a different way.

Fri, June 5 2020 13 Sivan 5780