Volume 28 Number 24
                      Produced: Sun Nov 15  8:42:40 1998

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

An Actuarial Analysis of  The time it takes to pray
         [Russell Hendel]
As long as it's different every day
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
Kavannah & davenning in the car
         [Sheindel Shapiro]
Stop agonizing
         [Schwartz Baruch]
Various responses
         [Shlomo Pick]


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:44:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject: An Actuarial Analysis of  The time it takes to pray

In MJ10, Sheri and Seth Kaddish cite David Rozensweig and discuss how
long it "should" take to daven. A very simple analysis based on firm
halachik precedent was made by me in the Email Group,HebLang (on
Shamash)last year.  The analysis is consistent with research on
effective speech speeds in the business world and research on typing
speeds. Allow me to redevelop the argument for the situation at hand (As
well as cite my own personal studies)

>>Ideally you should start Kriath Shma at the beginning of sunrise and
>>finish it at the completion of sunrise--this takes about 6 minutes
>>[Rambam, Shma 1: 11].

Thus we have that an "expected time to say Kriath Shma" is 6
minutes. This turns out to be about 2.1 words per second which is the
same figure recommended for good business presentations.

For those interested in "CONCENTRATION-CAVANNAH"--the typing literature
points out that typing speed increases when you start to "type phrases"
vs "individual words or letters". A similar practice can be advocated in
prayer---pray in phrases..do not pause on each word. This has signficant
implications for Cavannah...if you pause on each word you can't really
concentrate so that praying too slow and praying too fast are both bad!!

For those wishing to do their own counting a simple (effective)
estimation trick is to count words per line and muliply by the number of

As a final application the Bible has 100,000 words in 6,000
verses---which suggests 8 seconds per verse during laining (using 2.1
words per second).

Now for some personal studies: I have timed Kriath Shmah and laining in
many shules (most people are unaware that the average seconds per posook
is relatively stable for each Ba'al Koray and similarly the time to say
Kriath Shmah and its blessings remains the same in most shules.)

I have found Kriath Shmah normally takes 4-6 minutes. Similarly I have
found most Ba'alay Kriah take 6-12 seconds per posook (8-10 seems

RECOMMENDATIONS: Let Kriath Shmah take 6 minutes and Shmoneh Esray 4
minutes.  This is the main part of davening. A congregation can just say
Bracoth or let korbanoth be said individually. Rush thru PSookay Dzimrah
at 70% of the recommended rate and take 10 minutes. This leaves 5
minutes for Kadishes tachnun etc. Thus you can still daven in 30 minutes
but SAY the important things with FULL cavannah and be fully compliant
with halachah.  (Please don't misunderstand me--if you can find 10
people on a weekday who want to daven uniformly at 2.1 words per second
(50 minutes for davening)--fine; but if you can't the above is
halachically kosher and will give full cavanah)

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA Rhendel @ mcs drexel edu


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 17:40:37 +0200
Subject: As long as it's different every day

	Thanks to Akiva Miller for posting the "wise comment" he heard
from Rabbi Baruch Witkin: "It doesn't matter so much whether you daven
fast or slow, as long as it's not the same every single day."
	One of my rebbeim in high school made exactly the same remark to
me, and I never forgot it.  It's completely true, because as Hazal
explicitly taught, no one can always have kavvana.  So a person who
prays at the same slow pace each time is just fooling himself if he
thinks he always has kavvana.  If kavvana is ever for real, then it
cannot always be there; and when it is there, it cannot possibly be the
very same experience each and every time.
	In my opinion, such variation is partially because kavvana
requires personal expression, or "hiddush" as Hazal called it.  On the
opinion in the gemara (Berakhot 29b) that prayer without hiddush isn't
meaningful, Rashi explains: "Just like today -- it was the same
yesterday and it will be the same tomorrow!"  When there is hiddush --
when prayer is not just a repeat performance -- its length will vary.
	On the other hand, the person who always speed-reads by habit
doesn't even allow himself the *possibility* of kavvana.  I do think
there's a minimum that allows for kavvana and even encourages it,
namely: to speak in a meaningful tone of voice, respectfully and
clearly, just as you would to a human king.  (But even doing this can't
*guarantee* kavvana, which is simply impossible at times.)
	To paraphrase the statement that started this whole "thread"
about kavvana: "What matters is not whether your prayer is long or
short, but how well you use the time."



From: Sheindel Shapiro <sshapiro@...>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 12:54:17 -0500
Subject: Kavannah & davenning in the car

Kavannah & davenning in the car

Aryeh Kaplan, in his book, Jewish Meditation, addressess the issue of
concentration during davening and he has a rather interesting
perspective on it.  Here he is talking specifically about the amidah,
but it can be extrapolated to davenning in general.  He says, "After one
has recited the amidah three times daily for a few years, one can
literally say the prayer without thinking.  While this is a danger, it
is also a great advantage. [Here he describes how the danger is that
prayer becomes lip service and meaningless, and this is a problem.]
However, if it is treated as a mantra then the automatic nature of the
reictal is a great boon.  The words themselves become like a mantra,
quieting the mind and removing from it all extraneous thought.

Of course, this does not mean that one should not think about the words
of the amidah, but the way one thinks of the words becomes very
different.  Instead of thinking about them in an intellectual sense, one
allows the words to resonate through the mind.  It feels as if the words
were conveying their message in a nonverbal manner."

Further on, he recommends memorizing at least the first paragraph of the
amidah, and reciting it at the pace of one word every seven seconds,
which, he says, is "...a reasonable time, yet long enough to put one
into a deep meditative state."

On the subject of davenning in the car or while walking home, I've found
that the morning commute is a very good time for me to talk to HaShem.
There are no phone calls, or interuptions from people wanting my
attention, and physical action of driving seems to allow the mental to
go elsewhere .  The same for jogging: I've found that jogging is another
time when I feel I can speak to HaShem.  Reb Nachman recommended going
out into the fields and talking to G-d from your heart, in your own
words.  (I wouldn't, however, try to daven a "formal" tefillah in either
of these situations.)

Sheindel Shapiro


From: Schwartz Baruch <Schwrtz@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 08:32:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Stop agonizing

The recent discussion of the old-new topic of kavvanah in prayer raises
the issue of rapid davening, which is held by virtually all who have
contributed to be the very opposite of kavvanah. Indeed all seem to
agree that the two are mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed. The
consensus seems to be a recommendation that those serious about prayer
ought to start saying less that the daily seder hatefillah mandates, and
that they should do so at their own pace, ignoring the congregation--who
are at best a mild disturbance, and more to the point, not "really"

Into this unanimity I fear to tread, yet the other point of view really
ought to be given at least a fair hearing. Several points could be

1. In order for the daily prayer service to be recited in all its parts
as a conversation with an earthly king (better perhaps: employer,
landlord, judge), it would take much more time than the maximal estimate
given in this discussion (two hours or so I think). To be truly
analogous, it would need time for thought, emphasis, tears, response
(felt, or at least imagined, if not audible), and enough time to pause
and change the subject several dozen times. This would not only rule out
rapid davening. It would be much much more time-consuming than even the
slowest daveners devote. The question seems not to be whether RAPID
davening consistent with this model, but whether davening per se
is. Since it isn't, perhaps it wasn't intended to be?

2. There does not seem to be any evidence that earlier generations, on
whose rulings and pronouncements about the necessity of kavvanah we
rely, recited any less of the daily seder hatefillah than we do, or that
they recited it any slower. In fact, historical evidence may be quite
the contrary: until the abolition of most piyyutim, the service actually
included more, not less, and before the rise of modern hazzanut it was
performed more quickly, not more slowly, than it is today. Were all
previous generations guilty of praying without kavannah?

3. It should be obvious that no one, in earlier times or the present, is
capable of the brain-strain or emotional roller-coaster required to
concentrate daily on the sense and intent of each of the hundreds of
verses that comprise the pesukei dezimra at one sitting, whether the
"sitting" lasts 10 minutes or sixty. And what if someone could do so? Is
there anyone out there who thinks this is what our Sages had in mind
when they prescribed the daily recitation of these verses: that we
should spend some time each morning flipping back and forth and up and
down from thought to thought, from snow and hail to the dispossesion of
the Canaanites to the eternity of God's glory to the drowning of Pharoah
and a hundred other motifs, in the given order?  Would the test of
endurance demanded by such mental gymnastics qualify as prayer with

4. It seems to me equally obvious that few if any are capable of
concentrating daily, in order, on each of the nineteen berachot that
make up the Amida--at any pace. And if one could, would this necessarily
be what the Sages had in mind: that whatever the Jewish people need or
feel they must force themselves first to concentrate emotionally and
intellectally on God's faithfulness to the patriarchs, then on His
promise to resurrect the dead, and so on, in the given order, three
times every day, and exclude all else?  Would this then be the elusive
kavannah: forgetting what you really have in mind, individually and
collectively, and forcing into your mind nineteen topics only?

5. It also seems clear to me that the litany of pleas and petitions that
make up the long tahanun is a repetitive anthology of thoughts only
occasionally and tangentially connected to the penitence and remorse
that the tahanun prayer is supposed to be an opportunity for expressing,
and that saying it slowly enough to force oneself to think about each
section would not be any more conducive to the declared aims of this
part of the service than rapid reading.

6. We are told over and over again by halachic authorities that the
prayers are to be said "correctly": grammatically and in the traditional
melodies--so much so that the attention given to these matters has
become an essential part of daily davening, and when these matters are
ignored, serious worshippers rightly complain of disrespect for the
tefillah. Yet training oneself to distinguish between sheva na' and
sheva nah, for instance, or between shabbat and yomtov nusah, is not
always conducive to concentrating on what is being said from line to
line, berachah to berachah. Perhaps we should consider abolishing this
as well?

The implication of my remarks this: spontaneous outpourings of the
spirit in the form of a conversation with God (or better: a speech made
to Him) are the stuff of private, individual, occasional ad hoc
prayers. The regular, institutionalized, statutory, daily davening is
something else. It is the mandatory recitation, by rote, of a
standardized text--so fixed that even its variations are predictable and
unchanging!--rain or shine, good mood or bad, good times or
bad--composed of rigorously formulated blessings of a set number and a
precisely organized selection of biblical verses and other
passages. This does not add up to a conversation by any math. It is
exactly what it has always been called: avodah: the service of God. It
is a thrice-daily ritual designed (1) to extol and adore the King of
Kings, to sanctify His name by publicizing it eternally, for which the
sacred words of prophets and psalmists who praised Him and extolled Him
in ancient times are employed, and (2) to acknowledge our complete and
utter dependence on His beneficence by petitioning and thanking Him
daily, in the form of brachot fixed once and for all by the Sages, for
the collective, historical needs of the Jewish people, whether relevant
this particular morning, or century, or not. Davening is a ritual: a
ceremony composed of acts and words performed and uttered in honor of
the Holy One, blessed be He, by which the Jewish people bear perpetual
witness to His existence and dominion, which is the only thing we Jews
are here for. This sublime task, which was in Temple times fulfilled by
THE avodah, is clearly expressed everywhere in the siddur (look at the
opening and concluding blessings of pesukei dezimra, and read carefully
the Alenu prayer: what is our task? to praise the master of all).

Rituals are performed with kavvanah if you know in whose presence you
stand and in whose honor you are performing them; if you realize whose
name you are sanctifying and intend by your words to do so.

Since I feel this way, I cannot help but think that speed is a
non-issue. I personally have become accustomed to rapid davening,
particularly on weekdays, and not because I have a train to catch but
because I daven in a minyan composed of people who received this
practice from their ancestors and teachers and find prolonged davening
to be distracting. Others are used to the opposite, and daven slower. To
each minyan its own custom. But to daven in the manner, and at the
speed, that the latter-day kavvanah seekers seem to be suggesting seems
to me to be a drastic break with the intent and character of Jewish
worship. Al achat kama vechama, truncating the statutory prayer service
in order to do so. And kal va-homer ben beno shel kal vahomer, removing
oneself from the community of worshippers.

So what I'm trying to say is: stop agonizing over the fact that a
hundred generations of Jews have served God by reciting a fixed litany
of praise and petition for their whole lives, and join them. That, to
me, is kiddush hashem.

Sorry for going on so long (though I suspect there's much more to be said).
Baruch Schwartz


From: Shlomo Pick <picksh@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998 10:22:38 +0200 (WET)
Subject: Re: Various responses

shalom aleichem and welcome back!
1. concerning sheva brachot at seuda shelishit, see the comprehensive
volume on the laws of shevah brachot by Rabbi Seraya Devlitzki, Sefer
Sovah Semachot, Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1971, chapter 4, paragraphs 53 - 54,
pp. 96 - 105 and fns. 174 - 210 for everything you wanted to know and did
not know you should have asked, including whether one bentched before 17
minutes after sunset or after, the various customs, and what to do if
there is no prevalent custom.
2. For communal singing in 7th brachah, see Ibid., p. 81, in chapter 4,
paragraph 26.
3. for dovid oratz's comment in mailjewish 28:8 on the chafetz chayim's
custom, see mishnah berurah, 65:4 and tzarich iyun katan.
4. for r. walpoe in 28:06 on tzonoahem in nu. 32:24, see R. Meyuchas b.
Eliyahu's commentary to that verse, pp. 201-202 and especially fn. 34
which differentiates between the root ending in "heh" or "alef". Hence,
a mispronuciation would require rereading the word or the verse.
shabbat shalom

Shlomo Pick
Machon Hagavoah Le-Torah
Bar-Ilan University
Ramat-Gan, Israel


End of Volume 28 Issue 24