Monday, September 21, 2009

Some reflections on Rosh Hashana

Here area number of thoughts I have on this past Rosh Hashana.

1. It amazes me how people waltz in to shul late on Rosh Hashana. Yes, davening is earlier then a regular Shabbos, but still how hard is it to get to shul on time? I had a Rebbe in 9th grade, R' Yitzchak Cohen, who I still remember very well 25+ years later for his musar. One of the things I remember very clearly is how he exhorted us to come to to shul on Rosh Hashana on time. He gave the following reasons:
a. Imagine if you had a secular court case and the trial started at 9AM. You would not dream of waltzing in at 9:20AM, you would be too afraid to come late. You would make sure that you got there on time if not a few minutes early just to be sure. Forget about court cases, imagine if you had an important meeting at work, would you show up late 20 minutes late? Rosh Hashana is the Yom Hadin, we are all on trial for our lives. To come late to shul shows that we don't really believe it and don't take it seriously.
b. Rosh Hashana is supposed to be a day where we daven with extra כוונא. To come late and have to hurry through or skip parts of פסוקי דזמרא kills your כוונא and again shows what is really important.

2. The acharonim point out that although on Rosh Hashana there is no issur of fasting half a day and therefore davening should go a little past חצות, that is on a weekday. However, on Shabbos the issur of fasting applies and therefore you should try to finish before חצות. This din seems to have fallen by the wayside. Very few shuls seem to be makpid on this. I remember R' Willig telling us in shiur, that when Rosh Hashana fell out on Shabbos he would tell his Baal Habatim that he would compromise with them, he wouldn't speak and they would start 15 minutes earlier to finish before chatzos.

3. A long speech by the Rabbi is counterproductive on Rosh Hashana. People are in shul for 5-6 hours, they are simply not able to sit and listen to a speech by the Rabbi for a half an hour. If the Rabbi feels the need to speak he should keep it short and simple.

4. Announcing how long the silent shemoneh esrei is going to be (15 minutes, a half an hour, whatever it is) is a tremendous help for kavana. This way people know how long they have to daven and how long they have to wait after they finish. You don't have people fidgeting and trying to figure out when is the chazan going to start chazaras hashatz and people who want to daven a long shemoneh esrei know exactly how long they have.


Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

If the Rabbi feels the need to speak he should keep it short and simple.

I am not sure what planet you hail from. I never "feel the need to speak", but if I didn't deliver a derasha on Rosh Hashana, I would lose my job.

Many people (myself included, when I am a congregant and not the rabbi) find a meaningful address from the rabbi to be an important part of the holiday experience for them. (Of course, if it is delivered poorly that would indeed be counterproductive).

I will say that, on Yom Kippur, I have discontinued my pre-Mussaf speech, focusing only on Kal Nidre and Neilah, since people are totally zoned out, exhausted and not engaged whatsoever when I speak on YK in the morning.

bluke said...

The shul that I daven in, and I would say in more "yeshivish" type shuls, most people will have no problem with the Rabbi not speaking on Rosh Hashana morning.

In any case I hope that you would agree that a half an hour - 40 minutes speech is way too long.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I shoot for fifteen minutes tops.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

It really depends on the shul culture.
My regular shul (which I avoid like the plague on RH and YK) posts the sermon time aobve the shofar time because more people are coming out for the sermon than to actually daven or listen to shofer.
Rav Maroof sounds like a decent self-aware man but there are rabbonim I have met who honestly believe that the sound of their voice for an hour makes people's holidays!

SpaceFalcon2001 said...

In my Yeshiva, they had it so that Davening began at 7. At 10:30, approximately, we had finished the Torah reading and took a half hour break for kiddush and some food, followed by a 15-20 minute shmuze by the Rosh Yeshiva, and then the service would continue and we'd finish about 1:20ish.

Frankly the break in the middle really helped me deal with such long prayers, and probably made the day easier for everyone.

Yehudi Yerushalmi said...

It amazes me how people waltz in to shul late on Rosh Hashana.

"Hevey Et Kol HaAdam Lekaf Zechut"

As someone with 2 autistic children at home I often come late to shull, sometimes I don't even make it to shull at all and I am forced to daven at home.

On the Yamim Noraim I am forced to leave shull repeatedly (I live across the road) to go to see if my wife is coping.

I always feel very self conscious about what people think when they see this. But Hashem gave me 2 autistic kids and He "understands". I'll just have to put up with the embarrassment.

Yehudi Yerushalmi said...

. . . I'd love to be able to just get a break and spend the whole morning/day in shull just davening, singing and learning. Even just on a regular Shabbos.

bluke said...

I understand your point. Unfortunately, I believe that many of the people who come late do so for not such noble reasons.

Rafi G. said...

and maybe there is some truth, even if only on a small level, to this -