Sunday, October 23, 2011

Simchas Torah - How long should Hakafos be?

Many shuls drag out the davening/hakafos on Simchas Torah and finish very late. The shul where I usually daven started at 7AM and finished around 2PM (I believe since I was not actually there). IMHO this is not working and people are starting to vote with their feet. I have been davening vasikin on Simchas Torah for the past few years (at least 5) and every year more and more people are joining me at the vasikin minyan.  This year the vasikin minyan that I attended was packed to the gills, not a seat available. A friend who davened at a different vasikin minyan in the neighborhood reported the same at his minyan. More and more people are rebelling against being held against their will in shul until ridiculously late hours. These people have no problem with dancing and hakafos, they just don't want to be held hostage from 7AM until 2PM, they want to have some control of how long they are in shul and when they eat their yom tov meal.

The fact is, if you look around most shuls you will see a small core group of people who are dancing and everyone else is basically hanging out waiting for hakafos to finish. The average person (even in a shul of Bnei Torah) does not want hakafos to drag on forever.  The truth is that, in dragging out the hakafos shuls end up adopting a number of questionable halachic practices to do this:
1. Making Kiddush before Mussaf and eating more then a כביצה
2. Not davening Musaf before mincha gedola and therefore getting involved in a question of which should come first mincha or musaf
3. Not davening musaf before 7 hours (around 12:30 this year in Israel).

These are not the biggest issues but why get involved in these halachic issues.

In many yeshivas (including my son's) they have a much better system. They start davening earlier and have short hakafos (max 5-10 minutes each) and finish davening by 11. People can then go home and eat and enjoy the Yom Tov. They then daven mincha early and have hakafos from after mincha until Yom Tov is over, approximately 2 hours.

IMHO the above is a much better solution for a number of reasons:
1. It solves all of the halachic problems mentioned above
2. People can have a nice Yom Tov meal with their family at a reasonable time
3. Hakafos and dancing can be done at a time when no one is forced to stay, those who want to dance will dance and those who don't can go home

The bottom line is that people are voting with their feet.  More and more people are simply opting to daven vasikin and if the shuls don't adapt those minyanim that drag things out may find that their minyan is growing smaller and smaller every year.


MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

I've seen worse. Several years ago I was in a shul where the son of one of the prominent g'virs was visiting from Israel. Because he had adopted minhag Eretz Yisrael his Simchas Torah was on our Shemini Atzeres. The shul's custom on Shemini Atzeres was to do very quick hakafos at night, once around the bimah and that's it but he grabbed a Torah each time and refused to stop dancing and singing even though the Rav publicly shouted at him because, well it was Simchas Torah for him!

Pragmatician said...

Your observation is certainly correct if it discusses my shul, most (!) people are either reading or shmoozing (or going out to smoke) wile some keep the hakafos going on endlessly.