Monday, September 17, 2007

Too slow to pray with kavannah, no matter where I pray

When I davven/pray in a synagogue such as our current local synagogue, in which many of the congregants can't read Hebrew and/or are irregular attendees, I can't expect the rabbi and cantor to wait for me to finish praying the Musaf Amidah prayer on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur before the cantor begins chanting the repetition of that prayer, lest the rest of the congregation get bored.

If I davvened in a synagogue in which the majority of the congregants were Yeshiva graduates who could davven at blinding speed, I wouldn't expect the rabbi and cantor to wait for me to finish praying the Musaf Amidah prayer on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur before the cantor began chanting the repetition of that prayer, lest the rest of the congregation get bored.

So I end up racing like mad and davenning/praying parts of the Musaf Amidah in English because that's the only way I can possibly "catch up" in time for the U-n'taneh Tokef prayer, which I love.

The upshot is that I davven with less kavannah (focus, intent) on the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays than on an ordinary Shabbat/Sabbath. Sad, isn't it?

6 Comments:

Blogger PsychoToddler said...

1. Wow, your chazzan must daven at blindingly fast speeds if he gets up to Unesane Tokef that quickly. It takes mine close to an hour. I could daven shmoneh esrei ten times and still end up waiting.

2. Nu, so daven in English.

Tue Sep 18, 09:53:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

1. I've never actually timed it, being too busy davvening, but I'm not sure it would make much difference if my cantor were taking the same hour, given how slowly I davven--which is my point.

2. Davvening in English has advantages and drawbacks. The advantages are that I actually understand every word I'm saying, and that, obviously, I read faster in my native language. The drawback is that I may miss biblical quotations or allusions that might catch my eye (or ear) in the Hebrew. I would never have recognized the lyrics to the song "Ataher Etchem" last year in the middle of Erev Yom Kippur services if I hadn't heard the words in the same language in which the Diaspora Yeshiva Band sang them. So, either way, I win some and I lose some.

Tue Sep 18, 07:36:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous westbankmama said...

I think you should daven at your own pace, in whatever language you find most meaningful. When the Cantor sings Utane Tokef, stop to listen, and when he finishes go on to finish your Amidah.

Of course if you went to an Orthodox shul, the person davening has to wait for the Rabbi to finish, and in most shuls the Rabbi takes a very long time - not because he can't say the words quickly, but because he is saying everyone with so much kavannah.

Gmar Chatima Tova,

Thu Sep 20, 06:35:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Stop to listen." Perhaps I didn't explain the problem clearly enough. I'm a singer by nature, and having to stand "schtum" (silent) for several minutes while everyone else in the entire sanctuary was singing "B'rosh shanah yikateivun . . ." would be like water torture. Did I ever mention how much I *hate* going to synagogue with laryngitis? When I can't sing, I always feel so excluded that I might as stay home and davven alone (bi-y'chidut?).

"Of course if you went to an Orthodox shul, the person davening has to wait for the Rabbi to finish, and in most shuls the Rabbi takes a very long time . . ." Do you mean that, in some Orthodox synagogues, the Rabbi might actually davven more slowly than I do, or, at least, slowly enough that my so-called speed might come within hailing range of his? That possibility had never occurred to me. Thanks for mentioning it. (Knocks on mechitzah: "Hey Mark/PT, wake up!" :) )

Thu Sep 20, 01:34:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous woodrow said...

I daven the Amidah in English, and I still find that EVEN IN ENGLISH I am too slow for a lot of shuls most days. (In the mid-sized city where I live, too slow for my Conservative shul, but just right for my Orthodox one).

Thu Sep 20, 11:44:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow, I think that this particular problem with Conservative synagogues dates back to the 1950s, when decorum became an important principle in Conservative worship. My assumption is that the rabbis and cantors feel under pressure to accommodate the many congregants who attend services rarely, or only on the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays, who can't read Hebrew and/or don't understand and/or respect the structure of a service, for fear that the talking that goes on while many people are impatiently waiting will, eventually, get loud enough to create an atmosphere lacking in dignity. I think that may account for your davvening speed meshing more with that in an Orthodox synagogue than in a Conservative one.

Fri Sep 21, 12:56:00 PM 2007  

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