Monday, November 12, 2012

Prayers Have Been Cancelled

The following email was sent to a shul during Hurricane Sandy:
Dear Community,
In light of the deteriorating situation resulting from "Sandy", and based upon the directives issued by local authorities for people to stay home this evening and thereby protect themselves from the teeth of the storm, in my capacity as Posek for our community, I have instructed the shul to cancel tonight's Maariv service. Pikuach Nefesh is a consideration that allows even for Shabbat violation in order to preserve life so that future Shabbatot can be properly observed. It stands to reason that Tefilla B'Tzibbur, even when one has the obligation to say Kaddish, should be governed by a similar consideration. What is of paramount importance is that everyone stay safe and current conditions constitute a real danger to life and limb. May we all get through the next few days so that we can once again resume our normal lives and serve HaShem as we are meant to.
There are two main arguments about the source of the commandment to daven.  One argument links us back to the patriarchs who each is credited with establishing a tefilla - the other approach connects to the practical worship of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  While I am more inspired and perhaps persuaded that the Avot started the davening project, I think that the formulated worship, ritualized practices with codes and dogmas are more powerfully connected to the historical experience of the Temple.  One of the key concepts underlying this service was the tamid offering, that it was perpetually brought regardless of the weather or political conditions, and reflected the community's ideals much more than the individual's personality or situation.

I think that the above email reflects the spirit of davening even if it reflects an interruption of the community's service to Hashem. It also serves as a good reminder that form and function are the ideal combination for a tefilla.  Wishing everyone the best of weather and a speedy return to normal life to those effected by the storm. 

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