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I have noticed that some people take a lot longer to pray than others. I was wondering what exactly adds to this length? I do understand it's probably thinking of the meaning of the words etc. but being that its davened so often, doesn't the person know what he is saying already? And wouldn't that familiarity reduce rather than lengthen the time needed?

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What exactly do you mean by "the holier the person..." Do you mean the people of more actual importance, the people with the most Jewish knowledge, the people dressed in the most traditional way, or something different entirely? –  Daniel Aug 14 '12 at 16:54
    
@Daniel it doesn't really make a difference for the question –  negul vaser Aug 14 '12 at 17:00
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@user1445 I think it does. How can you possibly have entered a shul and drawn an immediate correlation between holiness and length of prayer?!? How could you gauge right away how holy someone was? Depending on what metric you used, it might help explain why those people in particular appeared to pray slower. –  Double AA Aug 14 '12 at 17:21
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@DoubleAA answering that will be politcal and personel there's simply no need to go down that route, the point of the question is to find out the anatomy of a long prayer –  negul vaser Aug 14 '12 at 17:31
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@user1445 If you're just after the anatomy of a long prayer than just say so. Why bring someone's potential holiness into the equation? Just say: "Some people spend to my eyes a very long time praying. What exactly accounts for the difference in prayer time between individuals?" –  Double AA Aug 14 '12 at 17:41

5 Answers 5

The goal is concentration and that takes awareness and work. Some people naturally read slower but for many, it isn't a matter of reading as it is of focusing. The prayer isn't a race but a chance to connect with the divine -- it shouldn't be the goal to get through it as quick as possible -- that should be the opposite of the desired experience. It isn't about the holiness of the individual, but about the kind of religious experience that the individual is going for. We don't try to assess another person's holiness or tie it to our external sense of what they are doing.

If you had a chance to have a sit down with the president, wouldn't you measure every word carefully and speak slowly instead of zooming though some prepackaged speech? And if you had a prepared text, wouldn't you deliver it carefully, infusing into each word the subtleties of meaning and intention showing that yours is a conscious delivery and not a "by rote" performance? Actors on Broadway don't finish their plays faster just because they have memorized their lines.

The challenge is to keep it vital and fresh even though one knows what is coming next. Sure, in a pinch, someone very familiar with the words can rush through, but unless there is a pressing emergency or other valid reason, the effort should be made to pay attention to what each word means and carries with it.

Prayer used to be a personal liturgy, not a codified one. It has become established to help people who would not, otherwise, have the words to communicate to Hashem. We are still allowed to add in personal supplications and give the prayer even more meaning. But even if we don't, our job is to take the printed word and breathe life into it. And that takes time.

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In my shul I am one of the slowest daveners, if not the slowest. One a good day kavanah will slow me down, but by far the most influential factor on my pace is straightforward pronunciation.

My spoken Hebrew is poor, but years of davening have made the words fluent in my mouth. Even so, I am careful to pronounce the words properly and it simply takes time to verbalise them.

Perhaps what I am doing differently is speaking loud enough to hear what I am saying, albeit in a whisper. When I can hear each syllable I am forced to slow down to make each sound separate and distinct. Not exaggerated, not extended, but not running into the next.

For me it's pedantry, not holiness.

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This is the same thing as I mentioned in my comment above. The original poster explained in a comment above that the apparant "holiness" of an individual was not the point, yet I wonder therefore why he/she has not yet removed that remarked from the original question. Could the motivation for the question really be somehow connected to how the original poster perceives "holiness" in other people? –  Shemmy Aug 17 '12 at 11:04

I think this question is based on a false premise that knowing the literal meaning of the words is equal to having kavanah. The question also borders on evoking a discussion rather than an answer that can be supported with traditional sources, however, I have a vague memory of a possible source that could address this question. Namely, our tefillah should be new every day despite the fact we're saying the same words. It requires thinking beyond the simple literal meaning of the words to make one's tefillah new every day, and that takes a little extra time. I can't remember if this teaching comes from a chassidishe sefer or the Talmud.

Addendum added later: I remember now. I got it from S'fat Emet on Parashat Ki Tavo, focusing on the pasuk Devarim 26:16, "Today, Hashem your God commands you to do these decrees..." There, he compares tefillah to bikurim (first fruits) because we suspend our typical human activities to take time out to engage with Hashem at the "first" opportunity. The idea of "first" opportunity relates to "reishit peirot," first fruits. He then expands the concept of "ha-yom," today, citing Rashi and Midrash Rabba on this pasuk where they say the Torah and mitzvot should be regarded as new every day. The S'fat Emet then points to Hashem's constant re-creation of the world and suggests that this is a hint to us that we have the power to make our daily service of Hashem new every day, and tefillah is the natural focal point for renewing our daily service to Hashem.

To respond to the original poster, I am suggesting that some people who take longer to daven might be attempting to engage in this mindful renewal of service through concentrating on the significance of what they're saying. This goes way beyond merely knowing what the words mean and what's coming next.

Additionally, some people who take a long time to daven may just be mindful of the correct pronounciation of the words. It actually does take a great deal of concentration and some extra time to make sure every letter is pronounced clearly, distinctly, and correctly, and that in and of itself is a new challenge every day. When standing before the King of kings of kings, it's generally a good idea to avoid carelessly mumbling and slurring one's words just for the sake of whipping through them as fast as possible.

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Maybe תלמוד בבלי ברכות דף כח עמוד ב רבי אליעזר אומר: העושה תפלתו קבע אין תפלתו תחנונים. –  Double AA Aug 17 '12 at 23:18
    
I can't remember if this teaching comes from a chassidishe sefer or the Talmud It's in the Shulchan Aruch, laws of Shema — "vehayu hadevarim ha'eileh asher anochi metzavecha HAYOM al levavecha" –  b a Aug 17 '12 at 23:18
    
See Brachos 63b that one who missed shma once is like he never read it. –  Shmuel Brin Aug 19 '12 at 5:44

Davening is about connection, we are during Davening connecting with Hashem.

When you try to connect with someone, it's not just about the words, rather it's about the feeling behind the words. The same goes with Davening, we try to not only understand the words but generate a feeling of love and fear of Hashem, this takes time.

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You are posting a lot of very heartfelt answers to a lot of questions. Have you the ability to cite sources to support any of them? If so, your scores will go up in line with the improved quality of the answers. –  Seth J Aug 21 '12 at 2:21
    
i definitely will try :) i mostly answer questions when i have a few minutes break from work (so i don't have Sforim with me to look up - it's mostly from memory) –  pzkd Aug 21 '12 at 15:24
    
Try Hebrewbooks.org. –  Seth J Aug 21 '12 at 15:42
    
Thanks! it takes very long to browse some of the sforim there (and i'm used to certain new prints which allows me to find things quicker) –  pzkd Aug 21 '12 at 15:46

At about 9 minutes into this video, R' Aryeh Kaplan, ZT"L, discusses how a meditative 'Amidah would be slower, and how this would afford the person praying the opportunity to connect to the Divine.

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