The Parking Lot Minyan

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18 Responses

  1. cvmay says:

    What a super article Rav Ilan! “Be Givers”, “Improve the Whole Picture”, “Community Building” – if we could inculcate these slogans into our personal lives, what a difference it would make for klal yisroel.

  2. easterner says:

    would it be fair to say that the more Modern elements of O can tolerate a ‘lumper’ type of shul, where more RW need a ‘splitter’ shul, devoid of the too boring, too long, too short, not enuf kavana, not frum enough etc? maybe i’m wrong maybe everyone wants just the one flavor and doesnt care about the Other —which many of us were taught to beieve are probably deficient if the other doesnt worship, learn, act just like us……

  3. Bob Miller says:

    The underlying assumption above is that the kehilla is bigger than any of its members or cliques, and that its broad priorities, not their narrow ones, should be respected, in the interest of unity to accomplish a common purpose.

    For a kehilla to live by this successfully, the kehilla’s own operations have to be open to needed corrections, not always “this is our way, period”. Without continual self-examination by the Rabbi, officers, and congregants, conditions can be created that justify breakaways (gasp!) and other things we’d rather avoid.

  4. Aaron says:

    Surely there is a sweet spot between a parking lot minyan and stadium seating where neither aliyas nor the ability to sponsor a kiddush is available to the simple baal habayis of moderate means.

    I’m also not fond of shuls where the Rav can be financially threatened by well-heeled machers. I see neither stadium nor oligarchic “community” as suitable for raising my children.

  5. SM says:

    Thank you for such an interesting article. I think the response suggests that people respond to what they can directly influence – an interesting thought perhaps.

    An alternative suggestion is that you could different things on different weeks so that everyone gets what they want, as well as simply being part of the community although they don’t want what’s on offer. Most shuls are run round core groups who resist change because what they most want is comfort. Everyone pays lip service to the idea of bringing new people in, but very few are prepared to compromise their own sense of ease to do it.

  6. Dr. E says:

    Many who espouse the 7-11 perspective of having a shul that works for them rather than vice-versa are short-sighted to say the least. Even without venturing into the more esoteric value of “Kehilla”, there is a tendency to overrate davening “with a minyan” as opposed to the very different construct of “tefilla b’tzibbur”. While the former is what upbringing and yeshiva has hardwired us to to, the latter is the more desired ideal with all of the theological benefits contained within. After all, are we doing God a favor or is He doing us one? Unfortunately, in some areas, shteibels have devolved into places made up of guys who went to the same yeshiva or two, are of the same age, who think alike, make fun of the same out-group, and even prefer the same brand of kishka in their cholent at the Shabbos morning Kiddush. Sounds more like a clique to me than a tzibbur.

    The shteibelization short-sightedness exists because it ignores the importance of tefillah b’tzibbur for women and more importantly is deprives shul-age appropriate children of what it means to daven in that context. While on a cold Friday or Saturday Night, the idea of a minyan down the block is appealing, one’s kavana is not exactly maximized when davening in someone’s family room wedged between the unused treadmill and the family pictures from the past 20 years. When a father exposes his 10 year old son along to this paradigm of davening (assuming he isn’t playing in the other room, in the shteibel around the corner, or worse), he isn’t exactly exposing him to a great example of what tefilla is all about.

    Of course, shuls need to be progressive and not sit on their laurels. Sometimes they need to reinvent themselves, within limits, in order to remain relevant.

  7. Oldster says:

    Why must people be subjected to long stretches of time between their expression of each particular tefilah in the davening and the chazan’s forward movement? I cannot daven as slowly as davening has come to move nowadays. I have tried to stretch my words out but I cannot d-o- t-h-a-t without losing all kavanah. When I grew up in the 1950’s, we learned to daven at the same speed we read at and talk at. Why would anyone expect the Kadosh Boruchoo to listen to slow, slow, slow recitations?

  8. Darya says:

    The Atlanta situation can hardly be described as “shtiebelization.” Whereas elsewhere hareidim leave mainstream congregations and wall themselves off in shtieblach, in Atlanta it is the converse of this situation that took place. Disheartened by what they feel is in essence an unasked-for, creeping hareidization of the main congregation, many long for changes that hark back to earlier days.

    Of course, I have no way of knowing whether it was merely a gripe about the length of services, or a surrogate complaint about the new reality. I would not be too quick to pooh-pooh it, though.

  9. Earl says:

    Ideally, I’m for the idea suggested in the article, but I think most would agree with me that there’s a limit, even though I may be on the other side of the fence here. Many shul minyanim have become far too fast, to the extent that one can’t even come close to saying the words at a regular pace of standard conversation. Throw in a heavy amount of talking and the occasional innapropriately dressed daughter (over 3 years old, raising serious halachik implications), and I’m faced with completely legitimate threats to having a meaningful davening. To that, I think it’s only fair that something is done.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Darya (July 9, 2007 @ 8:40 pm) used the phrase “unasked-for” to describe some perceived change in a shul’s orientation. Obviously, someone did ask for it and someone else did not.

    When a shul controversy really is about a major matter of principle, and not about style or atmospherics, it’s not so clear that keeping all “combatants” under one roof is the best course.

  11. Calev says:

    Rabbi,
    I wouldn’t be so chutzpadik to try to counter your argument. But (admit it, you were waiting for that word!) from my own much more limited experience I would suggest a qualification: your correspondent’s motivation may be the critical factor in undermining his own argument. I am fortunate to be part of a thriving kehilla in England. However, I found that Shabbat davening in the main minyan to be intolerable because of the brazen talking of a significant minority. Fortunately, Shabbat mornings there are three minyanim (excluding youth and children’s services) and I have found a sanctuary in the earliest of them. Whatever the motivations of the founders of the smaller minyanim, all I know is that I now have a better chance of fulfilling my davening duties in a group of people who exhibit more kavanah than ego. So hats off to our rabbi who saw the potential of ‘e pluribus unum’!

  12. Norman, Memphis TN says:

    I am not prepared to accept the argument that an alternative minyan is shteibelization. This is a negative frame around what might be a positive problem – the growth of orthodoxy in America. Why is this movement self centered? Does one size fit all in the American Modern Orthodox Community. Why should someone have to endure 3-3.5 hours of davening on Shabbas morning? Is there a rule somewhere that I am missing. Have you ever tried to listen quietly to Torah reading when there are 250 people with different agendas? No wonder people drink during the Haf Torah! I have tried it both ways and I have to say I do not think it self centered to want to daven with a like minded group that davens quietly and finishes in an hour and a half.

  13. David says:

    As with many things, one size does not fit all for T’filah. This article uses the tactic of arguing the opposite side to the extreme in an effort to make absurd the notion of one shul offering more than one style of T’filah. If a community or shul is large enough, it can sponsor more than one style of T’filah under the aegis of that shul, with all minyanim following the shul’s customs and under the leadership of its rabbi. If managed properly, more peole will find opportunities for meaningful T’filah and for leadership.

    As an aside, I don’t agree that services are growing longer because this is what people want. In any given minyan, look and see what percentage of the people arrive within the first 30 minutes.

  14. Charles B. Hall says:

    I really appreciated this article. I had read it in *Jewish Action* and it really made a difference for me in terms of how I think about my community. It is an article that I will remember whenever I want to complain about the shuls I attend.

  15. Chana, Columbus, OH says:

    Rabbi – Two of the 3 Orthodox shuls here do not have parking lots 😉

  16. Aaron says:

    Oldster, NYC-paced speech is hardly normative for anyone outside the parochially myopic “city” (and outside of Parisians, NYC is the most parochially myopic). It’s a reason I left after 5 years of living there and only return when I’m forced to.

    You read as fast as you speak, too?

    I try to pace myself in English according to a speech pattern that seems to be paced that’s friendly to foreigners and lip-readers as well as clear for any region in the USA. How do I know this? In my college summer session there was an English intensive language program. My regular roommates were from Brooklyn, Boston, Miami, Kentucky and Delaware. All of our foreign roommates found my pronunciation most closely matched what they were being taught in class. Regarding lip-readers, a deaf congregant at my shul would have me mouth what the Rav was saying in his Shabbos drash. Others, he said, barely move their mouths or mumble. OK, I’ll admit to a few of my parents’ Philadelphia-isms, but have worked on getting rid of them.

    Many dialects are INTENDED to exclude others or at least quickly reveal outsiders. “Ooo’s” and “Eee’s” anyone? If a person can’t turn off his dialect so that someone outside his region can easily understand him, he’s no longer in control. Don’t get me started on people who pronounce my name the same as they’d pronounce the girl’s name “Erin”. There’s no “eh” sound in the name “Aaron”.

    As a BT, Hebrew is a struggle. I’ve been to blitz minyanim and there is NO WAY you can convince me that they have kavanah for anything other than to catch the train on time. There is plenty of English, my mother tongue, that I can say as quickly as they mumbled their davening, but there is NO WAY I could have more than a moment or two of focus while doing so. 90-minute Shabbos shacharis and mussaf? 3 hours is long, but it’s hardly an argument for half that time as a standard. Exactly what are you in a hurry for? Do we want to be asked at 120 why we spoke more respectfully and intelligibly at business meetings than to HKB”H.

    My proof? If the old time davener can’t write me a rough English translation of each paragraph of Pesukei Dzimrah in 4x the speed he said it, the davening dilettante doesn’t really know it as well as he thinks he does.

    And while we’re at it, can we outlaw the professional mourner’s kaddish guy who feels it’s his duty to go faster and louder (and chap more “amens”, perhaps?) than those who have a personal chiyuv and are still raw from their loss and don’t want to be rushed?

    And for the haftorah drinkers? I’d close the bar as they’re no example for my kids to see. Ever.

  17. Henry Frisch says:

    There is no reason why “splintering” should accompany the existence of multiplex shuls. Members can come together on some occasions and respectfully daven apart and attend shiur apart at others. That is certainly the model in Teaneck where many of us belong to more than one shul via affiliate memberships to secondary and tertiary shuls.

  18. David says:

    To Aaron – you may be missing the point I and several people are trying to make: Rather than judging the 90-minute daveners and trying to find some optimal length of time for everyone, why can’t we agree that having different styles of prayer for different people’s needs is as appropriate as is having different shiurim for different levels and interests?

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