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  • Halacha
  • Silent Prayer - Amida

Amidah - slow reader


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Adar II 27, 5774
Dear Rabbi(s), First of all, I’d like to express my great appreciation for your wonderful work here, wishing that HKB"H grant you blessing and success in all your initiatives. I have the following question: I’m already 53 and began to learn Hebrew some years ago. I’m able to read quite properly and with no mistakes in the Siddur, however at a slow pace. I don’t use to pray everyday at the shul, due to time restrictions with respect to my job, but regularly join Shabbat services at a local shul, and occasionally go to other specific shuls during Chagim or special occasions. Even though I try my very best to keep up with the congregation, most Chazanim virtually fly through the Amidah - and the Kahal seems to do the same - in general I’m somewhere near "Sim Shalom" when the Chazarah begins (or during Arvit, by the time the Chazan starts "Yehi Shem"). I feel quite frustrated, because I seriously try to pray with Kavanah, and if I force myself to read at a higher speed, I eventually begin to make mistakes and loose concentration. I’ve already tried to keep on with my silent Amidah after the congregation restarts the prayer aloud, but it totally destroys my concentration and I eventually give up. Therefore I’d like to know how I should proceed: should I pretend I’m totally ignorant, just listen to everything and rely on the Chazan to comply with my obligation on my behalf, or any other alternative? As far as I know, there are no congregations in the whole city where the prayers are slower, and anyway I cannot expect the congregation to slow down to my level... Unless I get involved in some kind of "olympic high-speed reading" training (should such thing even exist)... I’m not lazy, and have indeed the sincere desire to improve my service to HKB"H, but this issue tends to push me down spiritually. Thanks in advance for you valuable advice on this matter. Rafael
Shavua Tov I well understand your frustration, but it is just a matter of time and repeating the Tefilla and you will manage. I know many people who have been in your situation and now are all well versed and get along fine now. Your question is not so much to do with the Halacha as much as it does to find a way to concentrate. You should not feel out of the ordinary because most people have finished, the chazan is repeating the shmoneh esreh and you have not finished. You must focus concentrate on your Tefila. Follow your siddur. Say the words of the Tefilla just loud enough so that you hear them, but nobody else and you should be able to manage. If you feel it is not good enough, although it is the best to pray in Hebrew, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 101: 3) says you may pray while in the Bet Knesset in any language. So maybe say most of the Tefilla in Hebrew so you are getting used to the Hebrew and in the parts where you feel your losing concentration because it is too fast, pray in the language in which you are best fluent. So try option one or two and I'd appreciate you letting me know if you feel a change for the better. May Hashem help you in adjusting to the Tefiila in Hebrew.
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