Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trying to see my actions thru the eyes of others

One or two of my regular commenters have been on my case for a couple of years or so regarding my habit of expecting my largely-non-observant congregation to support my increasing level of observance.  I think this conversation started a few years ago, when I complained that my shul's sukkah was inaccessible on chol hamoed ("intermediate" days of a holiday, on which one is permitted to work) due to the fact that the synagogue rented so much of its space.  His/her/their response was that, since the mitzvah/commandment of (at least) eating (if not sleeping) in a sukkah devolves upon the individual, not the community, it was my own responsibility to find a sukkah in which to eat, not the synagogue's responsibility to provide me with one.  Further conversations involved my complaint that the Ritual Committee had voted to allow the synagogue to buy dairy baked goods from a bakery that's not under rabbinic supervision (though we still buy parve baked goods from a kosher bakery).  The response was that, there being only one other congregant who won't eat the baked goods from the non-kosher bakery, I couldn't expect a non-observant congregation to accommodate my level of kashrut observance.  There were probably a few more conversations of that sort that I've forgotten.

But the general theme seems to have registered, and it had an impact on my davvening/praying this Rosh HaShanah.  After busting my chops to try to say as much of the Musaf Amidah prayer as possible in Hebrew on the first day, I realized that I was creating a tircha d'tzibbur, a burden on the community.  The problem is that I'm stuck right in the middle.  At one extreme are the ex-yeshiva bachurim, the former yeshiva students (and yes, as the Hebrew grammar indicates, they're mostly male in our congregation), who davven at 90 miles per hour and flat-out deny that they're praying quickly because, to them, davvening at 90 miles an hour is simply normal.  At the other extreme are those who either pray in English or simply don't pray the entire Amidah.  The result for each group is exactly the same, ironically enough--both groups (complete the Amidah and) sit down long before I do.  I'm always one of the last two or three people left standing.  And that means that the congregation ends up waiting for Ms. Slowpoke.  :(  So, on the second day, I decided to read only the Malchuyot verses in Hebrew because they're the only verses that I know well enough to read quickly--I read the Zichronot and Shofarot verses almost entire in English.  I also followed my standard "in-a-hurry" procedure and skipped directly from the final b'rachah/blessing to "Yi'yu l'ratzon . . .," then "Oseh shalom," then skipped the Temple stuff and sat down.

I have complained before, and will continue to complain, that davvening b'tzibbur/praying with a community forces me to pray way too quickly for me to have much kavvanah/focus to speak of.  (See Morning Madness--on davvenning Shacharit and Near tears at morning minyan.)  I can't find it on my blog, so it's possible that I mentioned it on someone else's, but I distinctly remember having timed the length of our Rosh HaShanah "silent" Musaf Amidah one year, and having had another commenter express shock that our shul gave the silent pray so little time--in her synagogue, roughly twice as much time was alloted, if I remember correctly.  But, on the other hand, I'm still trying to resign myself to the fact that a minyan, or, certainly, our minyan, can only wait just so long for slow davveners, and to pace myself accordingly, to the best of my ability, especially on the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays.


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