Monday, July 09, 2007

The Parking Lot Minyan

I particularly enjoyed this piece on Cross-Currents by R' Ilan Feldman of Atlanta. Excerpt:

R' Feldman: ...The email was authored by a long-time member of the community, a kind and caring soul. He complained about the length of the most recent Friday night service, during which the beginning of L’cho Dodi “sounded like a funeral dirge”. He went on to confess,

Out of desperation, I’m frivolously talking about organizing a parking lot minyan. Don’t worry, it won’t happen. But there’s no reason that mincha, kabballas Shabbos, and maariv should take longer than 45-60 minutes. My problem with Atlanta (and much of the U.S.) has become that there are few shuls where I’m comfortable with davening. The one exception is early minyan. Even weekday mincha-maariv has become a one hour event when a d’var halacha [ed.-short halachic discussion] is added. In [A North Eastern Jewish community], the davening is too fast (30 minutes for morning minyan), but it’s preferable to the long drawn-out services now taking root in most parts of the U.S.

I was hooked. My fingers seemed to have found a mind of their own, and I watched as, suddenly filled with creativity and energy, they formulated this response:

There is a reason this trend you negatively describe is happening: most people like it. That is why we have a huge crowd, in spite of the longer service than you would like (the difference between a longer service and a shorter one is really maximum 20 minutes; is that such a hard thing to tolerate, when you see it works for other people? One of the frustrations I have is that people want to have exactly their preference in length, flavor, and color of yarmulke, otherwise, the davening is wrong, wrong, wrong). When you organize a parking lot minyan—which I know you are not serious about, though you fantasize about it—-you will find that after several weeks, people will feel that you are either in the wrong parking lot, the seats are not soft enough, the lighting is imperfect, you started five minutes too early/late, davening is too slow, too quiet, too public, or too fast, etc. They will also criticize those who use the parking lot for—parking their cars while others are trying to daven. Eventually, you will have a lobby minyan, a parking lot minyan, a social hall minyan, and several living room minyanim. Everyone will be happy with their own little fiefdom, and no one will even know that what they are missing is connection with others, and training in dealing with the needs and the world of the other. They will be totally happy in their alienation and separateness, secure that all their judgments about everything are right, never challenged by anything different than their own fantasy world.
Ezzie: I've found myself guilty of similar thoughts as the man behind the original e-mail (and do find it sometimes justified), but R' Feldman's response (which gets better as it goes along) is excellent. Read the whole thing.


  1. For my part, I'm grateful that my husband is able to go to the hashkama minyan at Spitalni on Shabbos morning - 7:30 to 9 am. - it has been a godsend with my bedrest to have him home for most of the morning. But I know that for him, shul is also a communal thing, and I regret that at that speed it is a bit of a 'drive-by' experience

  2. I find it interesting that R. Feldman chides the fellow for not being able to "tolerate" the longer davening: the difference between a longer service and a shorter one is really maximum 20 minutes; is that such a hard thing to tolerate, when you see it works for other people?

    Interesting because while there is an inyan of tirchah when it comes to the length of davening, there isn't an inyan in chazal (that I'm aware of) for singing Carlebach nigunnim for every other stanza of kabballat shabbat.

    Is it really so wrong to want to avoid forced "spirituality" in favor of the actual oneg of shabbos: food, drink and time with family?

  3. RM - I hear that.

    Noyam - I don't think those are the types of things he is referring to, but just a slightly longer davening in general. That's my parenthetical comment at the end about it sometimes being justified to complain: There are items which shlep out the davening for which there is no need.

    I do find his points about separating out to multiple minyanim to be excellent.

  4. Ezzie, thanks so much for posting R' Feldman's response. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that the whole congregation isn't 23 and desperate to go socialize.