OPINION: How to fix the sunrise minyan


Ezra Fax

RUSH: Boys speed through their prayers– or do not really pray at all– during each morning’s Hashkama minyan.

By Zev Kent, Senior Editor

There’s something wrong at Hashkama minyan. As much as people are tired of hearing it, Hashkama was created as a minyan for people who want to daven, and right now, it’s not.

When I was in ninth grade, when Hashkama was first starting, it was completely optional. It was made up of about 20 to 30 students who genuinely wanted to be there. They wanted to come early because they cared about davening.

We davened, and we didn’t talk, and we had a great minyan.

Now, many people are forced to be at Hashkama minyan so they can be free to take electives like Advanced Gemara Shiur, Advanced Tefilah Shiur and other breakfast classes – classes that meet during the regular, non-Hashkama davening time 90 minutes later. Adding in people who go just for the morning break, around half of the school now attends Hashkama minyan on a regular basis.

Many of them don’t want to be there. They are forced to wake up early in order to attend their classes. This creates an atmosphere of “I don’t want to be here,” “I don’t care” and “this is just something I have to do.”

Because of this, the goal of the minyan has changed. Rather than being a minyan where people want to daven, the minyan has evolved into: “how fast can we finish?”

Rather than being a minyan where people want to daven, the minyan has evolved into: “how fast can we finish?”

— Zev Kent

When we say Shema out loud, we fly through it. We do not do full repetition of Shemoneh Esrei on Monday and Thursday even though we always finish at least five minutes early, and on the same days we don’t say full Tachanun and the chazzan does not leave sufficient time when we daven to ourselves.

The air of “how fast can we finish?” pressures the chazzan into moving davening along even when he is not finished himself. I’ve been chazzan before, and when I took the time to daven and say the words of the prayer, I heard people muttering and telling me to hurry up.

Very often, the chazzan, for whatever reason, spends very little time on each individual prayer. While this makes minyan faster, it doesn’t allow people to properly daven. There have been many times where the chazzan has taken less than 10 seconds each to say Tachanun, Ashrei, Uva l’tzion and the shir shel yom –  all prayers that require more than 10 seconds to properly say the words.

Not everyone says all of davening, and I don’t think we should be forcing people to do so. However, Hashkama minyan should be a place where everyone is able, and has the opportunity, to daven seriously, with full intention and saying every word.

In addition, the fact that people are forced to go means there are more people there who don’t take davening seriously. They joke and laugh and cause major disruptions that affect everyone, not just the five people in their vicinity.

People also take their tefillin off early. This is also because of the need to finish early. In their haste to get out of davening as early as possible, they disregard the last section of davening, often skipping Aleinu and the yom and talking through tehillim.

Here are my suggestions.

First, start Hashkama minyan at 7:20 or even 7:15 instead of 7:25. This will allow it to not be so rushed. People will be able to say all of davening and not have to rush through it. In addition, we will be able to say full chazarat hashatz every day.

Enforce the rules. When people talk, send them to Reb Weissman’s office. Do whatever it says in the charter. When someone talks, get him in trouble so he doesn’t do it again.

When someone pulls out his phone, take it away. When someone comes late, don’t let him in. When someone takes off his tefillin early, make him put it back on. This will make Hashkama serious. People will care and take it seriously like we did three years ago.

Hashkama should be a serious minyan made up of people who care about davening and who take it seriously. Shalhevet is very proud of its very own student-run minyan that functions perfectly, but right now, it doesn’t. We need to make some changes in order to make it what it once was.