Where have all the snow days gone?

I certainly don’t mean that we haven’t had enough of them! The students I met on the eve of our last snow day were actually dreading another day at home! It’s boring, they say, and they don’t want to have any of their vacation days taken away.

Snow is one of those things that brings me a sense of “radical amazement,” a term that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel used to describe the state of witnessing God’s presence in the world around us. I look out my window at this moment, and I see a snowplow in an exercise of futility, fighting its way across the synagogue lot, only to have its tracks entirely covered in seconds. I realize that as much as we try to control time and space, the world is much bigger, and God’s majesty is to be witnessed all around us if we would only take the time to see.

snow day 1

Snow days are just not what they used to be. If you are around my age, I hope that snow days presented ideal opportunities to enjoy family, a warm fire, home-baked cookies, playtime in the snow and hot chocolate made with milk. (Sorry, the Olympics were only being seen recorded during prime time! And there was no Net Flix, On Demand or DVR to binge watch!) Today, the snow may be an inconvenience, but it doesn’t stop most of us from working. Our technology has enabled us to be productive from home, and we are content knowing that the xbox will keep our kids out of the way long enough to let us conduct our business.

There is a good reason why our Halachah with respect to virtual minyans has only evolved to a point. The rule is as follows: an individual may “call in” through electronic means to a minyan for the purpose of communal prayer or to say kaddish. It is indeed wonderful that we can bring people together in this way, especially for the homebound. However, there needs to be an actual, physical minyan present somewhere that is being joined. Ten individuals in separate homes, connected virtually, cannot comprise a minyan. Ultimately, there is simply no substitute for the ideal of being there. Radical amazement can only happen when we are truly present to the moment and to each other.

Snow day. A chance to be there with ourselves or with the ones we love, to appreciate blessings and to acknowledge that we can’t always be in control of time and space. Can’t make it happen on the next snow day? Hang in there, Shabbat is coming!

Rabbi Craig Scheff

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