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I learned that one must clearly enunciate every word of tefila. At the least this would include Shemoneh Esreh and Shema, but one might presume it includes the entire prayer service. This question can easily apply to whatever definition of tefila one uses.

In many shuls, the prayer leader is generally careful to clearly enunciate every word. However, in some synagogues the pace of prayer is so fast that it seems physically impossible.

Granted, I have been davening for only about eight years, and a lot of these people have been davening for many decades. Still, there's a certain physical limit to rate of speech. It would seem, therefore, that in these synagogues they are not really enunciating every word - that or they are employing some form of kefitzas hadiburim.

I want to stress that I am not in any way condemning this practice or saying that it is in fact better to spend more time on tefila than on learning, which I assume is the impetus to pray quickly in the first place. On the contrary, I think both ways are very good, and I am not passing any judgements at all, Heaven forbid. I'm sure that this practice is well supported.

But please, help me understand:

  • What exactly is the practice here?

    • Slurring all words together into a long drone?

    • Only saying certain words and scanning the rest?

    • Only saying the beginnings and endings of each part?

    • Something else?

  • Also, what is the halachic support for the practice?

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Maybe it's simply that the people can move their various mouth muscles very quickly. –  msh210 Nov 27 '12 at 2:30
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@Ariel I thought of the memorization factor but I'm still not convinced. I have Sh"E memorized and can go as fast as the chazan in the video if I don't mind mumbling it (I have the opposite kavanah problem from you, I lose focus if I rely too much on muscle memory). I know some people can no doubt daven faster than me. There still seems to be a standard in some shuls that is impossibly fast. Is there not any support for not really pronouncing every word? If not, then it must be physical speed. I just thought some schools of thought would permit a certain leniency in prayer enunciation. –  yoel Nov 27 '12 at 13:34
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related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15922/759 –  Double AA Nov 27 '12 at 17:31
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Maybe they're inhaling their prayers? –  Seth J Nov 27 '12 at 18:40

1 Answer 1

There is no support for slurring words. Many poskim, the Mishnah Berurah among them, speak out strongly against slurring words, skipping, or mispronouncing. See the Mishnah Berurah in his opening to Hilchos Berachos and Pesukei D'zimra. He says that one must say blessings and pray as slowly as one who is extremely careful and meticulous about counting his money. If someone does any of the practices you mention, they certainly have no basis in Jewish law for doing so.

Additionally, Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt"l and also the Mishna Berurah (Hilchos Pesukei D'zimra) says it is better to say fewer things properly, and with the right concentration, than to engage in speeding and slurring. (Though this is generally not followed or practiced as the accepted custom.) One must remember that as they pray they are standing before a King and act appropriately (Mishna Berurah, Hilchos Hanhogos Ha'adam Ba'boker).

However, I do know and have spoken to Hebrew speakers who are able to daven properly and at a considerably faster pace because they know the language significantly better. So, it is possible, but unlikely for many who are not fluent.

Go at your own pace. Just because everyone else goes fast doesn't mean you have to.

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Yalqut Yosef in Hilkhot Tefillah does encourage people who pray slowly to train themselves to pray a little quicker so as to merit Qedushah and Qaddishim. Also, "The King", not "a King" :-) –  Lee Feb 5 at 15:15

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