Covid and The Problem of No-Frills Davening

With the rise of Covid, No-Frills Davening is becoming the norm. No-Frills davening the phenomena where people join and/or attend Shuls on Shabbos for davening alone. What could be wrong with that? Shuls are built as places to daven. To answer this question we have to take a step back to look at the goals of Judaism.

The goals of Judaism are to create three types of connection:
1) the connection of our body and soul
2) a connection to Hashem
3) connections of ourselves with other people

Body and soul connection is achieved by learning and following the Torah’s prescription of how to act, feel and think from a spiritual perspective as we navigate our lives in this physical world. Connection to Hashem is achieved through serving Him via the mitzvos and through prayer. Connection to others is achieved by diminishing and overcoming our self-centered perspective and helping, seeing the good, speaking well of, and giving honor to our fellow Jews.

Although the Shul is a place where we connect to Hashem via prayers, it is also a place where we connect to our fellow Jews. Connecting to people requires us to go beyond the comfort zone of our family and close friends, and dealing with people who are not such close friends, who have different views than us, who might sometimes rub us the wrong way. And it takes work because we have to put aside our self-centeredness to accommodate the perspectives, needs, and personalities of others. Many people don’t enjoy this and therefore seek a no-frills, no-conflict, no-accommodation-required environment. But if we are to grow as individuals and collectively as a community and a people we need to get our hands dirty and constructively deal with these differences and conflicts.

The world is becoming a much more polarized place and as inhabitants we are affected by this division. The Torah gives us the prescription to eliminate polarization and that is through connection. Hashgacha has placed us in Shuls where we have the challenge and opportunity to do the real work of creating connections and a true unity. No-Frills Davening is harmful because it keeps us in our comfort zone and prevents us from creating the connections which are a major component of our purpose in the world. When Covid makes a retreat, we must strive hard to get back to relationship building in our Shuls.

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