Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a great article that I believe a lot of us "out-of-towners" can relate to, especially those of us who find themselves currently living in the Tri-State area.

This subject - if not a point of contention - is a mildly frequent topic of discussion between my wife and I. We come from two different types of communities, so naturally we have our differing opinions about the pros and cons about living in the Tri-State (or any major Jewish community) area versus living out-of-town.

Of course, there is a certain security in the knowledge that when it comes to Judaic specific amenities, a large community offers availability, variety, and convenience. Moreover, when it comes to things like minyanim, what could possibly be better than having myriads of places to go to, at any time necessary? For all intents and purposes, it's practically impossible to miss a tefillah b'tzibbur if one wants to pray with a minyan. There's a broad selection of schools that cater to every type of affiliation, so you can find exactly the kind of like-minded people that you want to associate with.

But I believe that all those good things listed above possess a certain danger as well. Although we're influenced to feel that convenience is important, it really isn't, in the grand scheme of things. It's nice, and by definition it makes life *easier*, but at the same time it doesn't really nurture a value for things. Not having that value can very quickly lead to complacence, and carries over into other realms as well. Concerning minyanim: I don't have any hard statistics, but I think that people who come from communities where there is a limited amount of places and times to pray develop a certain ethic when it comes to timeliness and will tend to procrastinate less when it comes to prayer times.

Going home to my parents' house every summer had a tremendous effect on me. Knowing that in my neighborhood, the latest minyan for shacharit was at 8:30 and if I missed it I would have to drive all the way to the other neighborhood (a hassle when you're still sleepy-eyed) made me get up in time. This culture of choices creates a difficulty for developing persons who don't have the maturity to make proper decisions; I think that they will ultimately struggle more to develop a strong work ethic, punctuality, and an appreciation for certain things that they take for granted...

Like Rabbi Shafran wrote, the potpourri of people that pray in my shul in Cleveland helped instill in me an appreciation for character, not just external appearances. The school that I attended also lent to this effect; the charge that such a school (due to its attempt to cater to all groups) ultimately results in an academic deficit in Talmudic skills and Hebraic studies is a fallacy, to my mind. At the time of entry into high school, I doubt that there is any significant difference between kids from the respective schools (although there may be apparent differences); any differences that exist as a result of the school attended will sort themselves out by the end of freshman year...

I have more to say on this matter, but I'll leave you with this to chew on.

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