My Dear Rabbi Talmudic Advice Column for September: What About Slow Pray?

Dear Rabbi,

I have been attending a 6:30 daily morning minyan at my local synagogue for many years. Right after minyan I rush out to catch a bus and go to work in the city. Many others at the minyan are on tight schedules and must connect with car pools or take their children to school. We always have completed our services at 7 promptly to satisfy our schedules.

Recently a man who is a mourner in shloshim (the first thirty days of mourning after losing a relative) was asked to lead the services, as is our custom. He recites the prayers clearly and accurately but there is a problem. He goes too slowly and sometimes finishes at five or ten minutes after seven. I have had to leave several times before the service is completed so that I could get to my bus.

I want to ask the man to speed up his davening. My friend says that is rude and I should not approach him. What is your advice?

Slow Pray in Bergenfield

Dear Slow Pray,

I play a lot of golf. So please allow me to describe a somewhat parallel question involving slow play that I encountered one recent day in that more profane activity. I was playing on a local course with three friends. The group in front of us was playing way too slowly. After several holes we all became antsy waiting for the foursome ahead of us to hit and move forward.

One of my friends insisted that we talk to them when they are on the next tee, to implore them to play faster. I argued that was poor etiquette, and if we wanted to get the pace quickened we had to speak to the ranger on the course and ask him to reprove the slow players.

We debated the point back and forth in our foursome for a while and eventually we did find the ranger and asked him to intercede. He spoke to the slowpokes, play picked up, and we did not have to confront the offending players.

Of course, slow play is not the same as slow pray. But you need to balance your desire for a steady and predictable speed with the needs of the community of praying people. You probably have a gabbai, a member of your minyan who is in charge. It’s best in a big minyan if you speak to the gabbai about the delay and let him approach the mourner who is leading your services.

If your minyan is small and friendly, you may take a chance on explaining your schedule-needs directly to the slow shaliach tzibbur (leader). It’s likely that he will not be offended and will make efforts to pick up the pace.

I do hope that you find helpful this brief Talmudic analysis and advice for the day-to-day reality of the pace of our contradictory world, where one person’s slow pray may be another person’s perfect day.

Tzvee Zahavy has published several new Kindle Editions at Amazon.com, including “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi: The Greatest Talmudic Advice” which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.

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