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A Minyan and a Milestone

by Cantor Benny | Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Minyan and a Milestone, by Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky

Today marks a very important second anniversary in my life. Two years of not missing a Minyan! I am sharing with you what I wrote on this very day last year, in the days following the post I received dozens of emails and PM of people sharing their own personal stories and thanking me for sharing mine. I hope the post continues to inspire.

Today I celebrate 365 days of not having missed a single Minyan. I’m sure that for many of you reading this, you will ask yourselves “what is the big deal?” But in my life, it is a very big deal.

As a single parent, it is so often a challenge to make it to Minyan. Often I am ready to go to Shul, but my little ones have different plans. There are times when in order to go to Shul, I need a babysitter to cover, but she too works on her own schedule. Having little children is a blessing from G-d, but it also brings along a bus-load of complexities when you’re steering the ship solo.

Over the last several years, I have often not been able to make it to Minyan. Just over a year ago, I had an epiphany. I was talking to a friend of mine, and sharing with him the challenges of single parenting and being alone. I told him how painful it was that often I pray for something so devoutly, and with so much conviction and sincerity, and yet it seems that the prayers go unanswered.

He reminded me of the words of the late president, John F. Kennedy, but adding his own twist: “Ask not what G-d could do for you, ask what you could do for G-d.” A few simple words, but with such profound meaning. I thought to myself, I could get a Masters in asking G-d for things. I am a professional “asker”. Not a prayer goes by when I don’t ask for something. But when is the last time I offered to do something extraordinary and difficult to show Him my sincerity?

So last year on President’s Day, I took a silent vow. I made a promise that regardless the challenge, I would not miss Minyan. For those of you who have experienced what it’s like to attend Minyan daily, you’ll know that this could often be a Herculean challenge. There were days when due to my domestic and work responsibilities I couldn’t make the early Minyan that I’m used to going to. Living in Manhattan, not often do you have a Minyan past 8 AM. There have been days that I came into work, and then left a couple hours later to travel into Brooklyn or Williamsburg to find a Minyan, sometimes past noon. And then there were those days where I traveled out of state or the country for work, and I had to ensure each time that at my destination, I would have a Minyan. I always had a back up plan. If I would arrive late, I knew where the next Minyan was. In fact, there is one driver in North Miami, who is originally from Trinidad, who now knows every single Minyan time throughout Miami, thanks to our visiting six Synagogues on none Sunday morning, before finally making it to a Minyan.

I think that during the year I developed a condition known as “Minyan Anxiety”, a condition that can only be sullied and remedied by standing together in prayer with a quorum of Jews. After all is said and done, I made it. I’m not a hero by any stretch of the imagination, but this experience has taught me that when you set your mind to something, it can be done.

I wish I could end this post by telling you that every prayer that I have said this year has been answered. Alas, I cannot. But last night, as I put my little boy to bed, I shared with him what a special day this was for me. I don’t know how much he understood of the detail that I have expressed here. But he looked at me straight in the eye with his piercing brown eyes and said to me “Daddy, I’m so proud of you.”

What more can a parent want than a child to look up to them, to love them and respect them? If this entire experience landed me in a place where my child appreciates the value that I placed on praying with a Minyan, then my prayers were truly answered.