Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rabbi Signs

I believe that shuls which want a davening-focused experience should make sure their 'management' – the rabbi, president, gabbaim – exemplify it. Of course, managing davening may require talking from time to time, such as when the expected baal musaf doesn't show up and the gabbai needs to recruit. Nonetheless, much can be done in advance, and much can be handled by brief signaling or by leaving the room for a quick conversation.

When I was in the pulpit, I kept signs by my seat for particular occasions, to be handed to people as needed. One said "Please slow down," and was meant for chazanim who were leaving the minyan in the dust. Another said "Don't wait for me," for occasions when I wanted to take my time with shemoneh esreih. A third said "No Tachanun" as a heads-up for the chazan. I had more, but these are the ones I remember.

I also gave the gabbaim cards to use on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur when offering various honours, to minimize the talking that would be needed. For example:

1st day of Rosh haShanah
Pesichah – Opening and Closing the Ark

The Congregation wishes to honor you with the
Opening and Closing of the Ark
Open: page 314 – middle of the page
Close: page 314 – bottom of the page
To maintain the dignity of the synagogue, please do not speak during services


What other signs should a rabbi have at his seat, or a gabbai at his post?

28 comments:

  1. דע לפני מי אתה עומד!

    Useful on weekdays, when "please slow down" only addresses the symptom. Useful on Shabbos and Yom Tov, when the Chazan appears to be lost in impressing everyone with his skills.

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  2. please don't come over to say hello to me during davenimng.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. to ask people not to cause you to be mafsik?
      KT
      Joel Rich

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    2. What happened to greeting mipnei hakavod?

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  3. The rabbi should go around with cards,
    "Please daven with more kavanah."
    "Don't think about business during davening"
    "Did you pay your babysitter by sunrise or sunset?"
    "Did you check your suit for shatnez?"

    The point is, talking is to shul as tznius is to women.

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    1. Melech-
      I'm not talking about putting an end to talking, or to proactively approaching others. I'm talking about making an effort toward preserving a good atmosphere by using cards to communicate simple messages.

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  4. I know of one short-on-space shtiebel that had a card -- "this seat belongs to the baal tefilah" -- so that whoever got up for shachris would still have a place to sit for mussaf.

    A friend of mine handed out pesicha cards for high holidays; there was one instance where it looked like the pesicha was dozens of pages away, but due to the skipped liturgy in between, was a matter of minutes (seconds?) away. So he marked it with -- "watch out. It's sooner than you think."

    He related how years later he davened mincha just before his wedding -- he opened up his machzor and out fell a note: "watch out. It's sooner than you think!"

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    1. Cute story, and I like the idea of that baal tefillah seat card; that could avoid uncomfortable situations.

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  5. You wrote that you have a card "Don't wait for me." I think some say you're not allowed to have the congregation go ahead of you (see Teshuvos VeHanhagos 1:116 http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20025&st=&pgnum=93)

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    1. And some say it's allowed.

      Waiting for the Rabbi and other Examples of Tirchah De'Tzibur

      http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/762470/Rabbi_Dovid_Gottlieb/Waiting_for_the_Rabbi_and_other_Examples_of_Tirchah_De%27Tzibur

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    2. The Aruch haShulchan cited by Rav Shternbuch is good enough for me. In any case, one could argue it's not a matter of kvod haTorah if they wait only for the Rav and not for talmidei chachamim who may be present.

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    3. Except he isn't citing the Aruch Hashulchan to support waiting for the rabbi. He is citing the Aruch Hashulchan that the rabbi can allow the shatz to NOT wait.

      And in fact the Aruch Hashulchan is the rabbi should davka instruct the shatz not to wait if he, the rabbi, prolongs his tefillah.

      And further the Aruch Hashulchan is suggesting waiting for the rabbi not because of issues of kavod but simply because the rabbi is a good benchmark since mistama the rabbi will not be too quick or too long.

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  6. Yes. I was in our host's shul once, and despite the kavod a great anvan like myself deserves, they didn't wait for me!

    (Yes, that was an entirely fictional attempt at humor.)

    My wife and I learned American Sign Language in order to be able to teach grammar to our son who has Downs and lacks the motor skills to talk clearly. He was able to learn a lot more language skills younger by not waiting for his speech to clear up.

    It created a problem for me when washing for hamotzi. It is WAY too tempting to want to say something to Mrs B, and realizing I can't talk, switch to signing. But it's no less a hefseq in ASL as in English. In either case, it's an off-topic discussion, a break in the chain of thought.

    (This might not be as true for talking during davening. That not only has issues of hesekh hadaas, a distraction from thought, but also of interrupting the coinage. Signing mid-tefillah only suffers from one of the two. English suffers from both.)

    Anyway, communication by card should be the same as ASL.

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    1. Except that by washing for haMotzi, one can use one or two words to indicate something that is necessary for the mitzvah; in the case of pre-written cards, communication would most likely be considered for the purpose of enhancing/smoothing along the tefilla process, without active cognition.

      ASL still requires a certain amount of intent that a prepared card doesn't...

      You can hand me your response Shabbos morning :)

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    2. R' Micha-
      The concern is היסח הדעת, which may well apply to any divergence of the mind to communication. However, see MB 61:20 on movements which enhance kavvanah.

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    3. Where in shulchan aruch does it say you can't talk between washing and hamotzi?

      [What it DOES say, at least in the Rama, is not to wait the time to walk 22 amot. Which is ironic].

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    4. In that very Siman (166), the Mechaber brings both de'ot concerning talking between washing and HaMotzi and concludes that it is better to be careful not to speak. See Mishna Berura's qualifiers.

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  7. I was asserting that there were two concerns:
    heisekh hada'as and shinui hamatbeia'. WRT washing, there is only the first. WRT ASL communication, there is also only the first, unless we're discussing someone davening in an ASL translation.

    Speech that adds kavanah is a chassidishe kulah; at least some rabbeim were known to throw in a geshrei of "Tatte" (with a capital "T") or the like into their Shemoneh Esrei. This would pose an issue of shinui hamtbeia', but not heisekh hada'as.

    So it would seem that ASL to aid kavanah would be okay -- ASL isn't an interruption of a spoken matbeia', and since one is doing it in order to add kavanah, there is no issue of hesekh hadaas.

    Tangent: Which got me wondering.... Is someone who cannot speak but can sign chayav in tefillah? I know in general we do not give them the limitations of a cheiresh, but what about the chiyuvim? Can he be counted toward a minyan?

    That last clause raises a different question.

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  8. How about flashing "it can wait" to people who come up front to converse about matters that can wait?

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    1. Anonymous-
      I'd be more comfortable with a sign asking, "Can it wait?" That leaves them to make the judgment...

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    2. It also deflects responsibility from the rabbi to the supplicant.

      With, "can it wait?", the supplicant is making the determination if it can or can't.
      With, "it can wait", the rabbi is making the determination off the bat.

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    3. I think "Can it wait?" is too often used rhetorically, as an impatient "It can wait!" In writing, where there is no tone of voice, it's too likely to be taken the wrong way for my comfort.

      (How many arguments have you been in on the internet because the lack of tone of voice led to misunderstanding?)

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    4. R' Micha-
      I hear it. Perhaps "Would it be possible to speak about this later?" would be better.

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  9. mpnei hakavod - interesting- I always thought that it was a given that the person didn't realize you were in the middle of davening. You think it's OK lchatchila?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. Joel-
      Not universally; see Aruch haShulchan OC 66:4.

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