In my last post I discussed how shul as an institution has not yet adapted to the lifestyle of the progressive observant family. Here now are some concrete suggestions for making that shift.

Shul has got to be shorter. A typical Young Israel starts at 9 AM and gets to kiddush at about noon, or even later. For many people, coming late is simply a way of managing the amount of time you’re will to spend in shul. I would argue that for most people, three plus hours is well past the point of diminishing spiritual returns.

To make shul shorter, I say we do a ‘heicha’ kedushah (that’s where instead of doing all of Chazarat HaShatz after the silent recitation of the Amidah, the Chazan says the first part of Chazart HaShatz, through the kedushah, aloud, prior to the silent recitation of the Amidah by the congregation) for all of the Amidot.

Chazarat HaShatz served two halachic purposes. The first was to provide those who did not know the davening by heart and either could not read or had no access to a siddur a means to fulfill their obligation to pray. The second was to bind the congregation together into a tzibbur – a communal prayer group. With the advent of Gutenberg, Artscroll, and Amazon.com, there is no lack in our Jewish community for printed siddurim, and the heicha kedushah would serve the latter purpose as well, and more quickly, than the full version. Have you looked around recently during Chazarat HaShatz? It feels like a Victorian drawing room – a bunch of people are reading books, there are some not-so-hushed conversations, lots of people mill around, and lost in all this is the drone of a Chazan reciting a prayer that everyone in the room has jsut gotten through reciting themselves.

Taking off Chazarat HaShatz would easily cut at least twenty to thirty minutes off of the shul experience. Let’s go one further – let’s also return to the triennial Torah-reading cycle. There’s no chiyuv to read the Torah in one year. In fact, the obligation to read Torah on Shabbat is to read seven aliyot. You could read the first column of the Torah every Shabbat and fulfill your obligation. You could easily save twenty minutes, and even more on those weeks that have very long parshas.

There’s also room to trim the beginning. Davening in shul should start from Baruch She’amar. People should recite Brikot Hashachar and Korbanot at home, as the Shulchan Aruch sets down.

Finally, shuls must be strict about liming Hosafot, mishebeirachs, announcements, mazel tovs, speeches, appeals, and so forth. Isn’t it more natural for most of the administrative stuff to happen at kiddush, rather than while everyone is still in their talleisim? As important, shul must be quiet – conversations cannot be tolerated. If you want a davening that is both dignified and well-paced, you have to shut up!

If you adopt all of these changes, you can get through Shabbat morning davening in no more than two hours, and I’ll bet that yours will be the most popular shul in town.

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