Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some thoughts on the Yomim Noraim davening experience

Given that we just recently finished the Yomim Noraim I would like to express some thoughts about my experience.

I. Very few people pay attention to all of Chazaras Hashatz. It is simply too long with too many arcane and complicated piyutim.

There seem to be 4 groups of people
1. Those who actually pay attention to the whole chazaras hashatz, a very small minority
2. Those who try but can't focus for the whole time so they bring a sefer and look at it at various times
3. People who are bored and either fall asleep or daydream
4. People who keep themselves busy with various things (e.g. on Yom Kippur walk around with smelling salts), go in and out, etc.

I admit that I belong to group 2. I try to pay attention but I find it very difficult to stay focused on many of the piyutim etc.and always bring a sefer to look at it.
I don't have a solution for how to make the situation better, but I see with my own eyes that it is definitely a problem. If only a small percentage of the people in the shul are paying attention to Chazaras Hashatz then what is the point?

II. I like the idea of setting a fixed amount time (e.g. 15 minutes) for the silent shemoneh esrei. It makes it possible to pace your silent shemoneh esrei so that you can finish in time to hear chazaras hashatz (if you want), and if you daven a little quicker, you know exactly when chazaras hashatz will start so that you can go to the bathroom, learn something, whatever, knowing how much time you have.

III. No speeches. The davening is long enough and people have a hard enough time focusing on it, adding a speech is counterproductive. Davening on Rosh Hashana was almost 6 hours, to add a speech to that (especially along one) is too much. In addition, on Rosh Hashana many shuls announce that shofar blowing will not be before X AM so that the women know when to come. The speech has to be before shofar blowing because afterwords you can't be mafsik. Therefore, in my experience what happens is that the women come at X AM and the Rabbis is speaking and they need to wait who knows how long until the speech is over. if there is going to be a speech it should end exactly at X AM no matter when it started (even if it started 2 minutes before).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

the idea of a set amount of time for shmoneh esrei sounds like a good one, but only as long as the set time is a reasonable amount of time. If it is too long, all those people who finish early will get bored. if the difference is just a couple of minutes no big deal. As you say, go to the bathroom, learn, whatever. if it builds up to 10 or 15 minutes of a difference, that is too much of a break. People will fall asleep, start talking and lose their focus, or whatever.

Also, you mention bringing a sefer. Yes, it is hard to focus for so long. Isnt that a problem with how the day is set up? Are we really supposed to be coming to daven and bring other seforim or books at the same time for "down time"?

I was reading about this phenomenon, and it seems this is almost exclusive to the Orthodox Jews. Others have their own problems - not normally showing up, leaving early, talking. But in Orthodox shuls people are reading almost any book or sefer printed except for the siddur.

Is there something wrong with the way that our davening and minyanim are structured, if we cannot keep ourselves focused long enough (even on a regular weekday) that the siddur doesnt entertain us enough and we have to resort to other books keeping us interested?