Sunday, October 26, 2003

Yet more reader email

"I drifted on to your page and saw your comments about the Carlebach Minyanim. I am trying to figure out what you could possibly mean by "entertaining". I have been to many Carlebach Minyanim and I can't understand by what you mean when you say that they become entertainment. Maybe there is some sort shtick that I am not familiar with."

My response:

Thanks for your comments.

I am referring to the new practice of having a “Carlebach style” davening at a shul where this is not the regular mode of tefilah. It’s kind of like having a guest singer/performer during during Tefilah and it turns the focus of the event from communicating with Hashem towards achieving entertainment satisfaction.

I’ve been at many of these, and my perception is that most often these events are — for a significant number of the attendees — a way to make a boring service interesting. And I don’t mean interesting in the sense of making a dry service more meaningful. Instead, they bring in guest singers like Yisroel Williger, Elie Kranzler, Shloime Dachs, and others to entertain the crowd.

At these ‘events” there is always the obligatory dancing during Kabbolas Shabbos, but it feels forced instead of being a natural outgrowth of the davening. It doesn’t feel like people are caught up in the Tefilah experience to the point where they need to express their feelings of simcha and hiskarvus to Hakadosh Baruch Hu through song and dance. Instead, the atmosphere created is a lack of respect for Kedushas Beis Hakneses as people add singing and dancing to a davening simply to make it less boring.

One example:

At one such davening, when the chazzan left the bimah during Mizmor L’david and started a dance line snaking through the crowd, I watched two guys dancing with each other. They were shmoozing as they danced and kept sneaking furtive glances towards the ladies section to see if the women were watching. (I don’t know that this was their motivation, but it was definitely the impression my friends and I got. At the conclusion of the dancing, they gave each other "hi-fives." Now, I think that this is a lack of respect for Tefilah.

I’m not criticizing everyone who davens in this way. There are many people who sincerely relate better to Hashem through davening in this manner. For them, this experimental approach to Tefilah makes it more meaningful and helps them to feel closer to Hashem and for those for whom this approach works, kol hakavod lachem. (There is a side point that can be made here about the importance of preserving the traditional Nusach, but that’s for another time.) I’m condemning those who choose this form of davening because they’re bored by the Tefilah and choose to have a Carlebach-style davening instead of actually working on making the Tefilah, their own "avodah shebalev", meaningful.