Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pluralistic Services

One of the members of the Frum Skeptics Group was complaining about davening and how we should take large parts of it out of Jewish practice. He was saying,

"Endless hours of davening. You ever see the mincha factory on avenue L? Rabbis who insist on 3 hours davening on shabbos. Stupid superstition. Ah whats the use, it is what it is."

I responded:

There's no harm in davening mincha. For those who find meaning in it, good for them. I hardly ever daven mincha, but why take it away from those who do?

And for Shabbos morning, I don't usually come until the middle of Torah reading. That works for me, other people like to come in at 8am. That's fine too.

Would you take that all out of Judaism just because you don't consider it meaningful to you? Judaism is for all the Jews, not just for the skeptical ones. I'd prefer to see a pluralistic Judaism rather than one that serves just one segment.


Jewish Atheist said...

The problem is that the most Orthodox Jews with the most chumrahs always win because, as the logic goes, it won't hurt someone less frum/stringent to do the more frum/stringent thing, while the more frum/stringent person can't do the less frum/stringent thing. Frum/stringent always wins.

This dynamic happens all the time at college hillels, where the Orthodox gradually take more and more control over things.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be changing from a 'frummy with a secret' into a 'skeptic with a secret' ! Better be careful, the skeptics are going to disown you.

Orthoprax said...


You're right, but in terms of davening, it's no big deal to just opt out. Why take it out of Judaism entirely?


It's more like I'm going past the skeptic/frum divide. While I am still against dogmatism, at the end of the day, it's really not the most important thing in life - or Judaism.

debka_notion said...

Jewish Atheist-
Interestingly, I was doing research for a term paper, and found some materials in the volume published in relation to the 1958 Annual Conference of Hillel Directors about just that issue and how difficult it was to work with- how that always skews things in one direction- and for some people, say, egalitarianism, may be more than just a preference, it may be an actual violation of their views to daven with a mechitza... So- it's an issue that the professional types are aware of, and have been struggling with for ages...

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Interesting that you post on this topic-- I have had similar thoughts recently. I also roll into shul around mid-Torah reading. Now, at least, I have something of a weak excuse-- I walk over to my ex's to get my kid (she's on the way, but still), get kid settled upstairs in groups, then get into the sanctuary (having donned my Tallis in the coatroom, of course).

But I also have been attending weekday morning minyan as of late too, for reasons I still don't fully understand. (Not every day-- oh no, not nearly; I have noticed I seem to do it when I can catch the 8:30 minyan on the way back from dropping my kid at school... the hidden benefit there is I don't have to daven groggily at my kitchen table before going out, and can sleep later, stumble right out the door with tallis bag in hand, and wake up with coffee on the way over. )

However, I recall one morning a while back at davening... it must have been right after Succos. I had forgotten it was Chamishi (of Sheni/Chamishi/Sheni). So in addition to the regular shacharis, there was long Tachanun, Selichos for Chamishi, Krias HaTorah, and there may have even been Avinu Malkeinu. Now, I had to be at work by 10. Needless to say, I couldn't stick around; I recall grumbling to myself sarcastically that we had to say all these extra paragraphs upon paragraphs, because the Lord knows we don't say enough davenings already. I find that over the years I have lost patience for Selichos, and Kinnos on Tisha b'Av, and similar things that I end up haltingly breaking my teeth over and having no cluse what I'm saying while the shliach tzibur zips on ahead like he says this every day. In fact, on days when I don't go to minyan my shacharis consists of the abridged version.

Thanks for bringing up this topic.

Anonymous said...

Just wonder how much of the davening is bottom up rather than top down. What I mean is that when the siddur was being compiiled, how much of the davening was kept in to accomodate local sensibilities about their traditional ways of davening , than because some Rav thought we were obligated to include the particular prayer in the davening.

Maybe the idea was that to get a consensus, different groups had to have their prayers retained in the siddur even though including all of them meant there was a lot of redundancy.
Another anon