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    Shortening services – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Should our services be shortened?

    A. I agree that the prayer experience eludes some or many people who come to shule, not that they deliberately try to avoid praying but they feel daunted by the sheer length of many of the services. So there is an argument for short prayers. Moses, for example, said it all in five Hebrew words when Miriam was sick: “God, heal her now please”.

    However, there is also an argument in favour of the more extended prayers. Our prayer book contains an astonishing variety of material: passages in praise of God, reflections on human nature and destiny, petitionary prayers, references to Jewish history and hopes, and straightforward passages for study.

    You do not have to proceed so fast through the prayers that you lose sight of their meaning and inspiration. Instead, slow down, take your time, focus on something that seizes your fancy.

    Occasionally, especially on the High Holydays, simply close yourself off from what is happening around you in the synagogue and think, meditate, and allow yourself a spiritual daydream. Whatever you do, stop yourself talking to your Shule neighbours. There are other places and times for social interaction.

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