Tuesday, May 8, 2012

10,000 Hours to Daven

You read the title right - perhaps you need to go through 10,000 hours to be a good davener.  That is the theory of my friend and colleague David Katz.  In a recent meet-up in which we discussed the state of tefilla, David applied Malcolm Gladwell's thesis of the 10,000 hours rule to realm of prayer and argued that kids (and for that matter adults) need to put in that amount of active davening time in order to attain mastery of the skill.

After thinking deeply about David's framing of this approach to tefilla, I wanted to share the following three thoughts.
  • Indeed you have to put a lot of active time into tefilla to begin to get sincere satisfaction from not only on the really great moments (like when singing Hallel or at Kaballat Shabbat) but in the quiet munday moments, like a Tuesday morning.  It isn't just about showing up either, but rather necessitates moving one's lips and thinking about the processing of prayer to test this principle.
  • One really needs time to tinker and try to daven in a safe space.  Do most kids feel safe with our shuls, classrooms or siddur
  • Considering the ritualized time for Jews to daven, it is nearly possible for people who are in a Jewish Day school, go to Shabbat services, and attend a summer camp to have solid appreciation by the time they are in college.  I fear that this will not yield a good ROI for most young people (which reflects the current state of tefilla today.  David, does this rule apply to study of Talmud?  What is the ROI for this today?)  This does not mean that the 10,000 hour rule theory is wrong, it just might mean our methodology and exceptions might not be properly aligned. 
Please share your thoughts and how many hours it took you to reach a comfortable level to daven.  

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