Loud Davening: You’re distracting me

So I was thinking about writing a post about why davening in a minyan sucks but then I realized that the reasons behind this conclusion could be made into their own individual posts, so why smush all that material into one post? Even though I’ll probably write that post anyway, of those numerous reasons, people who daven too loud is definitely the one the screams louder than the others (pun intended).

What am I talking about exactly? I’m talking about those people whether their sitting beside you, across you or even on the other side of the room who love to vocalize their davening for all to hear.

You know who those folk are: they’re typically the big machers, the loud mouths, the arrogant types who are always willing to share a piece of Torah and mussar whether or not they care if you want to hear it or not. Or perhaps it’s that person who’s just really confident with their Hebrew speaking skills are wanna feel good about it aloud. Or maybe it’s just a regular yid. This is a problem that’s promulgated by Amy type of Jew, at any type of minyan.

And this isn’t about shmoneh esreh where the custom is make sure the words you speak are audible but too loud for another to hear. I’m talking about normal davening speech that’s as loud as an answer of Amen, or during Kaddish/Kedusha/Brachos for leining (which are all universally acceptable times to ‘speak up’).

If you aren’t feeling me, I’ll give you my own personal example: at my Shul, the rabbi is a very loud davener. How loud are we talking? Let’s just say from where he sits, there’s a good four foot radius that separates him from anyone else during davening. And to be honest I don’t think that’s because our congregants are intimidated by him (yes he is intimidating, but we still respect him to the max). Even when I sit across from him from the other side of room, where there’s a direct line from me to him – I still can’t concentrate cause his loud davening is cutting off my ability to not only read the words aloud, but also to stay in the same sentence of where I’m at. Too often I have to stop, cover my ears and try to remember where I was, thus probably saying Hashem’s name in vain and doing other mistakes in davening.

It may just be my own ears, I don’t know. But perhaps I’m not the only one who can’t concentrate because the guy beside you doesn’t know what it means to lower the tone of his voice while praying.

I know you guys are probably thinking that raising your voice is just another way to increase kavanah and that you too will either get used to the noise or you will become one of the many noise makers in Shul. The term noise may be my own definition, since prayer isn’t really noise…

But I’m pretty sure G-d finds it annoying that one’s claim to kavanah in davening is coming at the expense of another’s.

I mean come on, this isn’t a battlefield nor is it a competition. It isn’t about who can be more articulate in their davening an thus be confident enough to increase the tone of their voice so that everyone else in the Shul can hear just how incredible you are at reading prayer and how focused and how ‘into’ your davening you are.

Now I know that these actions are most definitely unintentional, and your probably thinking – why don’t you just do your best to focus on your own davening rather than waste your breath on the distractions?

I won’t make excuses. But let’s be real: if davening is like your own special pipeline to Hashem, where the two of you can have a little exchange on how things are going, it certainly is a big stress when outside factors are causing that pipeline to get clogged and perhaps find a way to get holes poked in it (the ladder metaphor probably being more appropriate since the loud daveners are an outside distraction).

And yes, the biggest challenges are within, we’re not denying that. Rather we’re just shedding some light on potential reasons why some Jews might be turned off by going to a minyan.

So how can one solve or make it easier to manage this distraction? Well there are a fee ways worth exploring that could embarrass yourself or the distracting dude – which in a sense says there’s no ideal way to solve this issue.

1) Move away: can’t concentrate? Then move. No places to sit, then stand up and face a different direction. If it’s better for your kavanah, why not do it?

2) Drop hints: if you’re unable to move or you’re too afraid to actually approach the dude, make it look like you’r struggling and it’s his fault because of it. Cover you ears, give a dirty look, do a litte davenese gestures that imply ‘dude, you’re to freaking loud’. Shake your head, roll your eyes… The best time to do these things are When he’s being exceptionally loud so he’s probably more likely to realize it’s his loudness at that time that’s causing the displeasure – I’ve done this with the rabbi and even though I have conclusive evidence, I did notice a change in tone I aggressively covered my ears and gave a look of frustration while doing so.

3) Tell the dude to quiet down: If the opportunity is right, and you’ve calculated the best and most sensitive way to approach the dude, then go for it. If you often find yourself sitting around said individual on a regular basis, a gentle request may prove to be extremely helpful in the future. Who knows? Maybe the dude will stop and wonder if anyone else thinks the same thing but is too afraid to say anything. Chances are you’ll probably become closer with the dude since you had the balls to come clean – being that you’ve approached him with manners and minus a chutzpahdika attitude.

And if the dude tells you to f-off, well than you can take solace knowing you did what you could and that in the end you are probably a better person than that insensitive shmuck. At this point options 1 or 2 are worth exploring.

If it’s a one time occurrence in a place that’s not your normal minyan, it’s probably better to suck it up this once.

As for what to do while davening, I’d suggest davening at your own speed regardless of where the congregation is at. I’m sure your local rabbi would favour your chance at having greater kavavnah if it meant doing things a little than everyone else.

(Side note: Even though I wrote this from a purely male perspective, I would like to ask our female readers whether it this issue is prevalent on your side of mechitza…?)

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Posted on November 21, 2011, in Davening, Experiences, Frummies, Rants, Shul and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. While I can not say that overly loud davening is such a problem in the women’s section, there does tend to be an issue with overly loud talking. I can understand how sometimes at shul you see someone you haven’t seen in a while and want to catch up, but it when it becomes a full conversation take it to the hall. Some women will spend the entire time chatting so that there is little to no hope of being able to concentrate on your own tfillah, or even hear the Rabbi’s speech.

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