Dear Rabbi,

I want to go somewhere different this year for our vacation. I’m tired of going to the same places all the time, and I’d very much like to further detach myself from my regular routine amongst an unfamiliar crowd. The problem is that my husband is worried he won’t be able to find a minyan while on vacation. I know we can take food and anything we might need, but I want to make my husband happy. How important is it to pray with a minyan? Should we go somewhere more conventional?

Travel Weary

Dear Travel Weary,

When dealing with vacations, there are no fixed rules. Everyone is different, and the type of rest and recuperation that one chooses should be tailored to fit his or her individual needs. The all-too-familiar phenomenon of “needing a vacation after returning from vacation” is partially a result of a mismatched choice of retreat, or, in more simple terms, not getting the necessary rest and recuperation.

Some people enjoy congregating in the conventional vacation spots, while others need the novelty of a new environment and new faces. And thus I certainly understand your position when you say, “I want to go somewhere different this year on our vacation,” and your husband likely recognizes and sympathizes with your preference.

On the other hand, your husband’s concern about the availability of a minyan is unquestionably a valid one. Our sages afford great importance to praying with a minyan (see Rambam,Hilchot Tefilah 8:1), and one should not put himself in a position where he has no access to a minyan except under extenuating circumstances (see Piskei Teshuvot, vol. 1, 90:22). Additionally, leaving religious concerns aside, a vacation has a far greater chance of success for everyone when the concerns and needs of all travelers are taken into consideration.

The truth is, however, that in your situation there is really no need for any compromise either way. I know others who have had the same dilemma and helped themselves quite well. We live in a country where there are synagogues scattered everywhere, and you’d be surprised how many remote cities and even small towns across the U.S. have a synagogue with a daily minyan. Whether you’re looking for a mountain, coastal, or countryside vacation spot, chances are you can find a suitable location within driving distance of a synagogue. You’ll probably find a limited selection of kosher food available, as well, and perhaps even a kosher restaurant or take out place. Of course, some flexibility will be necessary, as the synagogue might follow a different tradition, and you might need to bring along some supplementary provisions, but as long as the synagogue is Orthodox and the food is kosher, the setting could make for an ideal vacation suitable for both your and your husband’s needs.

It should be emphasized that the accessibility of a minyan and kosher food are not the only religious concerns that need to be considered when choosing a vacation spot. Especially during the summer months, or even all year round in certain tropical locations, the conventional mode of dress could be very inappropriate, and this, too, is something that should be considered when planning your getaway.

My suggestion, then, is to do some research in advance so you can find a suitable place in reasonable proximity to a minyan, and learn about available provisions. A GPS can get you through the local streets without having to stop for directions, and a Jewish travel guide could put you in touch with countless synagogues and kosher shops. With modern technology, you can enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation without having to compromise religious standards and with little, if any, inconvenience.

May Hashem lead you and your husband to a most beneficial vacation environment, where you both can relax and prepare yourselves for a new start ahead.

With warm wishes and Torah blessings,

Rabbi Yechiel Elbaz