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Parsha Mitzvot: Terumah: Praying In a Synagogue

Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg replies to a question whether a scholar can recite his prayers in the privacy of his own home in order to save the time he would have to spend in attending services regularly in the synagogue. Rabbi roundly declares that for all the importance attached to the study of the Torah, there can be no question of any dispensation from attendance at public prayer in the synagogue.

There are a number of reasons why the scholar must not absent himself from public worship. The Rabbis (Berachot 6b) stress the importance of a man having a fixed place in the synagogue where he recites his prayers regularly, and they also teach that a man’s prayers are heard only when he recites them amid the congregation. The prayer of an individual can not be compared in worth two prayers offered by 10 persons praying to gather, neither can the prayers of 10 be compared to the prayers of 20, nor of 22 those of 100. This is because, as the rabbis say (Berachot 8a), God does not reject the prayers of a large congregation.

Furthermore, if the scholar absents himself from the synagogue, it gives the impression that there is strife and contention in the community, it shows a lack of respect for the congregation and it frustrates the aim of communal peace it should be the task of the scholar, in particular, to pursue.  – Teshuvot Maharam MiRothenburg, Volume I, #30.

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