Bless Us

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14 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    I am a jew who is learning to read Hebrew for the 1st time so that I can read the daily blessings in hebrew from the Siddur. I am a very slow reader & I am very careful to try to pronounce all correctly. When I am at shul I can’t keep up w/ the reading because it is so fast. Do they need to slow down or do I need to practice until I can read/pray at top speed?

  2. YM says:

    This problem derives from the shaliach hatzibur at most shuls, who davens faster than most baa’eli teshuva (and probably most everyone else) can bear. I would love to see our rabbinical leadership take a stand to set and enforce standards for the minimum length of time each section of the davening should take.

  3. dovid says:

    Laurie: “Do they need to slow down or do I need to practice until I can read/pray at top speed?”

    They won’t slow down even if they should as sometimes it may be the case. Practice at your own pace. As you practice, you will pick up speed. But sped should not be your goal. Two suggestions: (1) A good place to ask such questions is http://www.asktherabbi.org/ run by Gateways Organization. (2) Buy “Praying with Fire”, a 5-Minute Lesson-A-Day by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman. It’s about $10-$12. He does not say a thing about speed. He urges us to focus on the content. With best wishes.

  4. mb says:

    “I would love to see our rabbinical leadership take a stand to set and enforce standards for the minimum length of time each section of the davening should take.”

    And maximum. The Shliach ha Tzibbor is not allowed to drag things out.

  5. Big Maybe says:

    Different shuls daven at different speeds. A minyan at a Yeshiva will generally daven at a pace better suited to your current speed.

  6. Isaac says:

    A Rabbi once told me that he timed Pesukei Dezimra at his shul and calculated that they say 4 words per second!

  7. Bob Miller says:

    1. Even allowing for differences among people and minyanim, speeds too fast to allow the average person present to say all the words would defeat the whole idea of tefilla b’tzibur.

    2. The rav, gabbai or other person in charge of a minyan should normally choose a shaliach tzibbur who is known to follow a reasonable pace. However, he can’t simply ignore mourners with chiyuvim who may not be well-calibrated yet. Ideally he would guide such people tactfully to prevent problems.

  8. dovid says:

    Laurie, this “top speed” business reminds me of a drasha by Rabbi Mttisyahu Salomon. Quote: “We should not think that it [prayer] is a formula, a system, that this is how it works, like putting a coin into a vending machine, pressing the button and waiting for a can to pop out.” Prayer is an endeavor that requires serious investment in time and mental effort that can’t be achieved at “top speed”. The best for you is to talk with a rabbi that knows you and also knows the resources available in your community. This way, you will get advice suited for your needs. I want to assure you that we all root for your success. We have a stake in it.

  9. Phil says:

    According to
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_per_minute#Speech_and_listening

    (Books on tape are recommended to be 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear words. Slide presentations tend to be closer to 100 wpm, while conversations are maintained at around 200 wpm. Although research by Ronald Carver has demonstrated that adults can listen with full comprehension at 300 wpm, even auctioneers can only speak at about 250 wpm. Another study demonstrated that full comprehension is only maintained in people at 210 wpm when speech is compressed.)

  10. jason berg says:

    I am also learning to read a bit late in life and the speed makes it more challenging.
    But, I think it is critical to kavanah that things don’t grind to a halt or slow down needlessly.
    When things are going fast, even if I don’t know every word, there is no loss of concentration possible.
    I’ve learned to let go of the minor frustration that I have in keeping up in exchange for true focus.

    Two congregants at our shul came to the rabbi. One said, “The davening is too slow.” The other said, “The davening is too fast.” Our rav is very wise and said, “You’re both correct!”

  11. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The thing to do is the hard thing, and I don’t do it. But what you should really do is come to shul early and say psukei d’zimra at your own pace so that you get to yishtabach with or before the shaliach tzibur. If you determine that you will end up lagging behind afterwards, start birchot kriat shema ahead of the ShaTz, stopping to answer 1)amen yhei shmeh rabba in kaddish 2)amen at end of 1/2 kaddish and 3)baruch to barechu. Then you continue on, trying to time shema and amidah with the minyan. Not easy and frustrating, but that’s the way it goes. At yeshiva I can keep up, and mostly so by now at mincha and maariv in shul. But shacharit I mostly do at my own pace and get whatever I get. My own fault for not getting up early.

  12. Steven says:

    At the shul I go to, it takes 40 minutes (regular morning service without Torah reading). I am in a similar position; slow Hebrew reader and frustrated. I sometimes wonder if people take auctioneering courses as they learn to read Hebrew ;). Even when reading English, I simply cannot make my mouth move that fast. On the other hand, I also recognize that there are multiple considerations.

    While the ideal may be to take as much time as is necessary for exact pronunciation, concentration and kavana, the reality is that people have obligations / restrictions (work, family, distance they must come, etc.) that limit how much time they can devote to prayer. And so a balance has to be struck. If the service takes more time (an extra 10 minutes?) it can have a ripple effect on every other part of the day and on other people. Is waking up the kids a bit earlier and them being cranky all day OK? Is possibly missing your commute connections (i.e. car pool, bus, etc.) a reasonable risk?

    My ‘solution’ was to speak to my shul rabbi about the importance / priority of each section (I’m still sorting it out). I also try to show up early and get a ‘head start’ so I can join for the Amidah. There are some parts that I say in English and some that I skip all together.

    Other people I know take different approaches; they simply go at their own pace and stay longer, defer sections until later in the morning (at work, if circumstances allow) or some mornings stay home so they don’t ‘feel’ the pressure to keep up.

    In time, hopefully my (and your) Hebrew reading will improve and we will be able to do more and/or keep up. I found that reading about the history / development of the avodah gave me confidence that G-d does not reject prayers that are not ‘exact’; that my intent is also critical.

  13. barry says:

    Years ago, in Silver Spring where my wife’s family davens, there was an upper/lower limit set on davening speed at at least one morning minyan after several regulars complained that some davened at the amud at too quick a pace.
    The gabbaim developed a set of guidelines, by ‘benchmark’…
    “reach Mizmor Shir by, but not before…” Yishtabach by, not before, etc…
    If you couldn’t ( wouldn’t)conform, you would not be allowed to daven for the amud at that minyan–but were encouraged to go to one of that shul’s other minyanim.
    I do not know if that rubric is still followed (Perhaps it simply became the norm?)

  14. Dotan says:

    I am not the least bit convinced that “righteous, learned Torah scholars” generally have more success with kavanah than anybody else. I say this having spent decades in close association with a huge spectrum of the Torah world.

    Kavanah is extremely hard for many reasons, and unfortunately neither tzidkus nor high-level learning have much to do with overcoming the obstacles. Some world-class Torah scholars seem (at least to the outside observer) to have serious kavanah, but the same may be said of many “average” Jews. And many don’t.

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