Shabbos Time Management Part 2

March 5, 2012

As the Overseas Director of Bnot Torah/Sharfman’s I have the unique opportunity to travel all throughout North America and visit and pray in a plethora of shuls and communities. Indeed, there are some days that I have been in three states in one day! When it comes to Shabbos, I’ve spent that time serving as a Scholar-in-Residence or visiting with friends or family.

Regardless of the state or the size of the community, by and large I have noticed three trends when it comes to Minyanim:

1. The weekday Shacharis Minyanim are seemingly getting quicker and quicker (the quickest one I ever attending was over in 34 minutes!).

2. On Shabbos, the Main Minyan now starts as late as 9:30am. Indeed, even the Shul in which I grew up no longer starts at 8:30am but at 9:00am.

3. Shabbos morning services are seemingly longer than ever. After all, as synagogues expand their Rabbinic staff (for instance I know of several synagogues that have gone from one Rabbi to now four Rabbis in the span of only a decade) catering to a Main Minyan, Young Professionals Minyan, Sephardic Minyan, Teen Minyan, and so on and so forth, there are more and more “commercials” or in other words announcements that are taking up time on Shabbos morning. In fact, I was in one Shul where the announcements alone lasted over twenty minutes…and then there’s the Kiddush Sponsorship announcements etc!

In terms of the first point I raised, I believe the reason is simply a sign of our times. Due to the recession, globalization, technology, or whatever it may be—we live in a seemingly busier and busier world. As such, I imagine that people feel compelled to blaze out of Shul and rush off in the morning to their workplace, carpool, etc. etc. I certainly know that I’ve been guilty as charged when on the road and needing to catch a plane. Likewise, when it comes to Shabbos, this is often the one day that a person can sleep a bit later. As such, for the typical congregant Shabbos morning can not start at 8:00am let alone 8:30am. Sadly, despite announcements and warnings in the Shul email or bulletin, even the 9:00am start time gets in the way with everyone always reciting Shema at its proper time. After all, if services do not even begin until 9:00am and let’s face it—not everyone always shows up to their respective synagogue on time—let alone in time for Barchu…well, you can do the math.

An obvious solution to allowing Shabbos to be a day in which one still has several hours at home to spend with their family is to follow the model that is common in Israel. Shul starts at 8:00am and finishes at no later than 10:15am. This model may work in Israel but will not for a plethora of reasons work for the American model.

As such, is it possible to attend a service that allows for the meaningful sermon, while also providing several hours of family time?

I believe the answer is yes!

You see, as a child I attended a synagogue that started at 8:30am. In subsequent years the Rabbi of the Shul enacted a policy that allowed for services to finish in a timely matter.

He told the congregation that he will give his weekly sermon, assuming that the congregation does its part and reaches the point in the services that he gave his lecture by 11:00am.

If however, due to people dragging out the prayers by saying countless Misheberach’s for every member of their family including their third cousin, or people lining up to submit names for the Misheberach for Cholim—despite the policy that one must have submitted the names to the Gabbai and only those names would be recited, to people deciding to not simply be a Chazzan but to use the fact that they are leading the services to audition for The Jewish Star Singing Competition, then he felt that giving his sermon would be a true tircha dt’zibbur and he would not speak that particular week.

This self-policing was highly effective. People came to Shul and found meaning in the sermon of this particular Rabbi (very much in line with Rabbi Goldberg’s position mentioned in Part 1) and actively made it a point collectively to see to it that the services moved. At the end of the day, it did not mean that there was no singing. Of course there was! It just meant that the service couldn’t lag and lag and lag on. There was a communal sense of responsibility to move the services along. It meant that if the person leading the prayers wanted to sing a tune during Kedusha, he should consider which tune or only during the Mimkomcha stanza and not every section.

Ultimately, this led to people getting to their homes that much earlier and having just a little bit more family time. I don’t think it’s a solution that will work for every Shul. However, by having the congregants self-police themselves it could be a way that would allow Rabbi Goldberg to reach his goal. I’ve certainly seen this method work before with a similar demographic/congregant base to the one that Rabbi Goldberg has at BRS.

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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS). His congregation is rapidly-growing with over 650 ...