[Haveil Havalim is here!]
I’ve never had to choose a minyan; as a child I davened in my parents’ shul of choice, then I moved to a teen minyan, and upon reaching independent adulthood I became rabbi of a shul. There was never any question of where I would daven.
Now, I have the new experience of selecting a minyan for my family. Main minyan, family minyanim, shul and breakaway and shteibel, all is open before us. Which do we choose?
We’ve tried two minyanim already. We’ve discovered that we value a shorter walk, and sitting at tables rather than chairs. My kids feel more at home with Nusach Ashkenaz, although I enjoy aspects of Nusach Sfard. We want a minyan with minimal talking, a focus on kavvanah, and the presence of young children.
In particular, we want to daven with people whose davening priorities match our own, so that the davening experience is what we need for ourselves and our kids.
Illustration: Some time back, on a Shabbat when I was away from Allentown, I davened in a minyan that took the tefillah for the State of Israel very seriously. I noticed a man compel his kids to stand ramrod straight and recite the tefillah with him. Then, for Ashrei, he let them run around while he schmoozed with the fellow beside him.
That’s an example of what’s not for me. I say the tefillah for the State of Israel – but I also believe in the rest of the davening.
But it’s about more than just talking; it’s the feel of the shul, the experience as a whole. It’s about the way people approach davening, a sense that emerges from many factors, such as:
• How does the shul look during chazarat hashatz – are people staring off into space, singing along, reading parshah sheets?
• Do people come on time, or at some reasonable semblance of on time, or at 10:45 AM?
• Is the pace dictated by kiddush, or by leisure, or by kavvanah?
And so on.
In Allentown we valued the fact that we had a relatively quiet, davening-focused minyan, with people who genuinely liked each other, a good pace of davening, and a derashah I enjoyed. If I could find another Allentown here, that would be great.
The two minyanim we’ve already tried have their plusses, but we intend to try more in order to experience the scope of what’s available before settling down.
I wouldn’t want to find something that was exactly what we wanted – we can all use broadening – but, hopefully, it will be a minyan that helps us achieve the positive davening experience we want for ourselves and our children.
So here's my question for you: How do you choose a minyan?