Tuesday, October 07, 2008

HH, etc.: All prayed out—re “davvening overload”

I suppose I should probably forewarn you that this post will be of interest mainly to those serious about praying. Others may find it a bit technical, Jewishly speaking, and I don't wish to bore you.

The Punster and I had an interesting conversation over Shabbat dinner. I told him that I’d decided to pray a lot of the Yom Kippur services in English, because my efforts to pray the Rosh Hashanah services in Hebrew had been counterproductive, putting a major dent on my kavvanah (focus). It's hard for me to focus on the meaning of words when I don’t understand many of them and am attempting to keep up with the cantor in a language that I don’t read particularly quickly.

My husband said he’s been having similar problems. So we got into a whole discussion about who reads what, and why. I told him that I’d once asked an Orthodox blogger buddy what was the halachic minimum that I could get away with, and that he’d said Birkot HaShachar (Morning Blessings), Baruch Sheh-amar, Ashrei, Yishtabach, the Matbeiah shel Tefillah (the core required parts of the service, from Barchu/Yotzer Or through the Amidah), Ashrei (the repetition thereof after the Matbeiah), Aleinu, and Shir shel Yom/Psalm of the Day. I decided on my own to interpret the basic requirement of Birkot HaShachar to mean reciting all the brachot/blessings in that section of the morning service, meaning from “al n’tilat yadayim” through “gomeil chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael,” and again from “l’olam y’hei adam” through “m’kadesh et shimcha ba-rabim,” though I know that some “minimalists” start at “asher natan la-sechvi vinah” and finish at "gomeil chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael.” Here’s my P’sukei D’Zimrah, standing on one foot. (I've been known to davven less of P'sukei D'Zimrah than stated in that linked post on such occasions as forgetting to set the Shabbat alarm clock, or just being too tired to get up when it rang. I was recently told that a rabbi's-kid friend of mine said that one should say at least two psalms before and one psalm after Ashrei for P'sukei D'Zimrah, and, by pure coincidence, that's what I've been doing as my Shabbat and Yom Tov minimum--Psalm 34 [three songs--see paragraph after next] and Psalm 136 ["Hallel HaGadol"] before, because they're special for Shabbat and Yom Tov, and the last Halleluyah psalm, Psalm 150 after, because of its importance as representative of the whole Sefer Tehillim/Book of Psalms.)

(For the record, during these Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah/Ten Days of Repentence, I've followed the advice of my commenters here and added a very brief Selicot service, consisting of "Sh'ma Koleinu and the short Vidui/Confessional [Ashamnu . . .] and ending with "sarnu mi-mitzvotecha . . . ," before Birkot HaShachar. I've also added Avinu Malkeinu and the parts of Tachanun I that would usually say to both Shacharit and Mincha, plus "L'David, Hashem Ori v'Yish'i" to both Shacharit and Arvit/Maariv.)

It was actually our attempts to discuss who did what in P’sukei D’Zimrah, standing on two feet, that got interesting. It turns out that my husband also divides this section into subsections, but his divisions are different from mine. He considers certain psalms to be parts of groups, and will generally say those psalms as a group, whereas I chose my own preferred psalms, to a large extent, because I knew songs written to all or some of the words thereof. He’s more influenced by the structure of the service, whereas I’m more influenced by nusach that I know and/or by Shlomo Carlebach, Mark Skier and his current and former band-mates, Lenny Solomon and Shlock Rock, the Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Debbie Freedman, Blue Fringe, Gershon Veroba, Nochi Kron, Shlomo Katz, Yossi Piamenta, etc. (among other songwriters whose names I don’t know—does anyone known who wrote the tune to “Torat Adoshem Temimah”?).

I’ve already posted previously about the “prayer-overload” problem in my Morning Madness and “Midnight” Madness posts.

I’m curious to know how others who have a serious commitment to prayer but can’t quite manage everything in the book make their choices.


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