Volume 45 Number 95
                    Produced: Fri Nov 26 13:00:17 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Lateness to shule - impact on everyone
         [Martin Stern]
Minimal kavannah (was Lateness to Shul)
         [Martin Stern]
Romantic Love,  or,  love (ehov)
         [Yehonatan Chipman]
Solutions to make Davening more Meaningful


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 06:54:34 +0000
Subject: Re: Lateness to shule - impact on everyone

[Responding to a posting where the minyan for Ma'ariv gets started 15
minutes after the time called for. Mod.]

The shul has probably become delayed progressively later over the
years by a form of negative feedback, initially starting a couple of
minutes late and then adding more until this completely unacceptable
delay of 15 minutes The only solution is to start davenning on time even
if there is no minyan.  After a few days the laggards will get the

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 09:05:44 +0000
Subject: Re: Minimal kavannah (was Lateness to Shul)

on 18/11/04 11:23 am, Kenneth G (Akiva) Miller <kennethgmiller@...>

> Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:7) would not agree with
> this.
> He wrote "A person who feels that when he davens alone, he can direct
> his heart to heaven better than when he is with the minyan. What should
> he do? Is davening with the minyan preferable, or is having more kavana
> (attention to the prayers) preferable? In my humble opinion, if he will
> have the minimally required amount of kavana even with the minyan, then
> it is better to daven with them, even if he won't have an optimal amount
> of kavana..."
> He gives several reasons for this:
> 1) Minyan is a requirement, not merely a preference.
> 2) Individual prayer has no guarantee of acceptance, but Hashem will
> always listen to the congregation.
> 3) There's no guarantee that he really will have more kavana staying
> home.
> 4) Even if he does have more kavana alone, and less with the minyan, the
> difference is negligible, because no one nowadays really has proper
> kavana anyway.
> 5) Even if, on occassion, his prayer really is better without a minyan,
> there's a danger that missing minyan will become a habit.
> On the other hand, Rav Moshe does preface those comments with the
> stipulation that "he will have the minimally required amount of kavana
> even with the minyan". If someone's kavana with the minyan doesn't even
> reach the minimal level, then he would seem to agree that he should
> daven by himself. How to judge that level is a separate question.

I think this proviso is crucial and certainly can override points 1, 3
and 4. When away from home, I tend not to daven in shul during the week
if the only available shuls are too quick or disorderly for me to have
minimal kavannah, though at home I would normally attend thus obviating
point 5.

As regards point 2, perhaps HKBH will not answer me as readily but then
that is His prerogative; I don't daven just to be answered but mainly
because it is what He commands me to do. My perception of my personal
needs may be misguided and so I rely on HKBH to do whatever He thinks
best. Also I am not sure spending extra time 'badgering' HKBH is really
a good idea, as the navi Yeshaya (65.24) puts it "And it shall be that
before they call, I will answer, while they are still speaking, I will
hear", which is inserted in the aneinu prayer said on a fast day.

Martin Stern


From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 09:56:30 +0200
Subject: Re: Romantic Love,  or,  love (ehov)

Tzvi Stein, responding to my comments about romantic love in v45n75,
wrote, in part:

<<... these statements are too cold and legalistic to have much effect
on the behavior or emotions of someone who's already affected by the
concept of romantic love, which we all are, whether we admit it or
not... It may or man not be true that "Judaism does not have a concept
of romantic love"...  Romantic love, whether of Jewish origin or not, is
here to stay in our culture and is deeply ingrained among Jews and
non-Jews alike.  To wave our hands and say it's not Jewish and to ignore
it does a great deal of harm.  We have to find a way to integrate
romantic love into our marriages, starting at the shidduch phase or else
we're going to have a lot of disillusioned people... Then, years down
the line, they realize that they really do need romantic love, and
that's where the big problems start.>>

I appreciate Tzvi's well-thought out comments, with which I concur to a
certain extent. I thought I worded my remarks carefully: I did not mean
to delegitimize romantic love, but only to say that it cannot be the
only basis for marriage, and that other, ethical and value aspects need
to be emphasized. In this respect, my view differs considerably from the
"yeshivish" approach, which sometimes seems to reject it entirely.

Indeed, writing just after Shabbat Vayetze, I don't see how one can deny
that Judaism recognizes romantic love as a human reality, when the Torah
tells us that Yaakov loved Rahel so intensely that the seven years were
"as but a few days in his eyes, because of his love for her." (On the
other hand, it's interesting that several years down the line we find
her berating him in very sharp language because she doesn't have
children, and in desperation trading off her conjugal privileges for the
mandrakes, which we would call either a dubious folk remedy or an even
more dubious semi-magical device for assuring either fertility or love.
But this isn't an essay on Tanakh, or botany). Likewise, Shir Hashirim
paints a lyrical, romantic picture of love, which I believe was included
in the Tanakh, not only because it is a profound metaphor for the love
between human beings and the Divine, but also because it is one of the
most profound experiences human beings can have with one another.

The problem with romantic love, as I see it, is the original "oy li
miyotsri oy li miyitzri" ("Woe to me from my Maker, woe to me from my
instincts"). That is, there are big problems both with it and without
it. The "yeshivish" approach, which sees marriage as being based upon
compatibility of religious "hashkafah" often combined with practical
considerations, can often result, as Tzvi said, in young people being
pressured into loveless marriages, without any real personal or
emotional connections, which may often end in much unhappiness (whether
that of divorce and broken homes, or in which the two parties grit their
teeth and stay together "for the sake of the children"). In the FFB
world, money and yihus may play an excessive role; in the baal teshuvah
world shiddukhim may be imposed on young adults who are still finding
their place in Judaism. In both cases, negative results may often ensue.

On the other hand, romantic love can also be abused. It can often be
confused with lust - again, the Tanakh ssometimes uses the root "ohev"
for simple physical desire, such as that felt by Amnon for Tamar, or by
Shechem ben Hamor for Dinah (coming up this next Shabbat), whose
feelings are variously described as ahav, davak nafsho (his soul
cleaved), or hashak nafsho (his soul desired). Or a woman may be swept
off her feet by a powerful, "masculine" man, who turns out to be
abusive, their life becoming a cycle of insane jealousy, beatings,
making-up with sweet talk and flowers, nights of passion - vehozer
hallila to the start. Or, among those are not firmly committed to
halakha, claims of love can be used as a rationale for intimacy without
commitment. How many men have used the line, "If you really loved me,
you'd sleep with me"? And how many women have believed it, to discover
to their chagrin that they've been used by the man, whether consciously
and cynically, or in some hazy and concupiscent mixture of sincerity and

Martin Stern commented that <<romantic love became a dominant theme in
fiction from the 18th century onwards that lay behind the strong
rabbinic opposition to reading secular literature and, by extension, to
secular studies in general. By its very nature, emphasising strong
personal emotion, it was seen as corrosive to traditional social mores,
something that has clearly happened and is 'progressing' at an
increasing pace to this day>>

Indeed, romanticism in Western literature and culture was filled with
tragedy: adultery and/or suicide Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther,
considered the first major work in this genre, has its hero feeling
unrequited love for his best friend's wife, and ends up committing
suicide. This seems emblematic for the romantic conception of love. The
same holds true for Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Flaubert's Madame
Bovary. Today, extramarital affairs seem to be increasingly acceptable,
and are shwon in many novels and films as a positive alternative,
providing relief from the "boredom" of middle-class marriage that,
according to the prophets of "open marriage" or "polyamourousness," may
actually revitalize it. Thus, e.g., in The Bridges of Madsen County or
Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage.  The key motto is "love
conquers all." Nor should one think that Orthodox Jews are automatically
immune from such feelings or even, on occasion, actions.

I am bothered, for example, by the type of sermons I hear at certain
weddings, in which people talk about the concept of "soul mate," that
the person one marries is one who is uniquely destined for one. (I know
this is an idea expressed in aggadah, but that doesn't make it any less
problematic) I feel that this type of talk creates excessively high
expectations that are bound to be disappointed.

In brief, there are dangers to both but, in my view, the bottom line is
that it's probably worthwhile teaching our children a certain degree of
clear-eyed and healthy skepticism about romantic love. (Now you hear the
father of three unmarried, mature daughters talking.)

All of which goes to show that God created sexuality so as to present
humankind with a never-ending series of difficult choices and ethical,
emotional and practical perplexities and difficulties. Or, to give an
extremely rough paraphrase of the opening Rashi of Parshat Vayeshev:
life was never meant to be easy.

Yehonatan Chipman


From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 05:10:33 EST
Subject: Solutions to make Davening more Meaningful

<< From: Anonymous

Is there not something very odd about davening? There is so much stuff
to get through. Can anyone really take concentrate on all those words
that they are saying day in day out? Is it really possible to read all
of it in the time alloted let alone really appreciate it? It just ceases
to mean anything when there is so much of it. Comparisons with
appointments with Royalty do not help. I have never had a regular
appointment with the Queen but if I did I would not spend it muttering
the same tens of pages of text and I am unconvinced that all this
davening is really what Hashem wants.  I accept that there are those who
find the rapid recitation of so much material meaningful but there are
plenty of us that do not. With some of this might be symptomatic of 'an
even deeper problem' but I do not think that it is fair to make that
assumption. >>

I thank anonymous for writing frankly on the topic. I suspect that many
others think like him, though they may not write or talk about it.

I believe that we must take to heart what the Shulchan Oruch says (Orach
Chaim 1:4) that 'tov miat bikavonnoh meharbos bilo kavonnoh' - a small
amount with kavonnoh is better than much without kavonnoh.

I have previously mentioned a book called 'Kavvana : directing the heart
in Jewish prayer', by Seth Kadish. As I recall, one of his suggestions
there to make davening more meaningful is to select part(s) of the
davening to concentrate on, even if not everything will end up being
recited, rather than rushing through everything in the siddur (of course
one should make sure that they fulfill the basic requirements of
tefillah). Not everything printed in a typical siddur is obligatory and
of equal importance.

Davening is supposed to be avoda shebileiv [Duty of the Heart] - not
avoda bipeh [Duty of the Mouth]. Just reciting many pages mechanically
is not what it's supposed to be like.

The plague of speeding during davening as well, is a great part of the
problem. It can bring great spiritual harm and destruction to the world
(G-d forbid). While too long of a davening can be too hard for some
people to endure, too fast of a davening makes it difficult to
impossible to make it a meaningful and spiritual experience. A good
shliach tzibbur (who is like the captain or pilot of a minyan) can make
a davening very meaningful (by davening at a speed conducive to proper
kavonnoh, with proper pronunciation, intonation and nusach), or chas
vesholom, make it just like a race to finish as soon as
possible. Traditionally, great care was taken to select a proper shliach
tzibbur. Unfortunately, in many places, that has fallen by the wayside
these days (at least on non-special occasions). See the sources in
'Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz' (volume IV, chapter I) about this.



End of Volume 45 Issue 95