Refusing the Amud

I am in the year of mourning for my father – (H’KM). I daven in a shul where the various mourners are very respectful towards each other’s “chiyuv” to lead the davening. That said, I had the opportunity several times- so far- to refuse the amud- even as it was offered to me:

For instance, on a day that tachanun is not said- including the mincha just before Shabbos -is not a time that an aveil is an appropriate candidate for the amud according to our tradition. When offered the amud on the morning of Erev Rosh Hashanah for part of the davening I declined for this reason- as well as the reason that the selichos chazan is meant to daven that day. The gabai was surprised that someone would refuse for these reasons.

I often tell people that “where I come from” at the beginning of one’s aveilus – bar minon- the “gabbaim” (read ‘ Synagogue committee member; vorstandt?) infrom the aveil that they might come to shul on some occassions and receive neither the amud nor the chance to say kaddish- if there are others with priority. Once one has come to accept that this is a possibility- they are less likely to “look for” an amud in circumstances that are not perfect.

By having limits and rules about when we daven, we come to appreciate the importance of our service. It is a service- and it is the generosity of the communtiy- that bring us to the amud. It is not a privilege.

A friend of mine who was raised in another community once complained to me that a gabai didn’t give him the amud (in a Brooklyn shtieble) on Chol Hamo’ed! I explained to him how inappropriate it is to send an aveil up at that time. He replied, “But what does he care if I go to the amud? ” I could not answer this misguided approach to the “chiyuv” of the amud.

In Devarim 18;14 וְאַתָּ֕ה לֹ֣א כֵ֔ן נָ֥תַן לְךָ ְד אֱלֹקֶֽיךָ

“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your G-d has not permitted you to do so”. The Chasidic reading of this is (Rabi Bunim MePeshischa brought in Lekutei b. lekutei):

“Hashem your G-d “lo kein nasan lecha” He has given you prohibitions! Do not engage in sorcery or idol worship in which the religion was created to the whim of the followers. We were given “לא” -things that we can’t do. It is these things that give importance and meaning to that which we “can do” .

Shana Tova and Good Tidings to all!

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