Sunday, May 13, 2012

Honesty and Tefilla

A friend recommend to me this anonymous article published at titled "What About Me? A Blog Essay by a Frum Man with Complaints" on April 24th, 2012.  While there is much to say about this blog essay, from gender roles in a post-modern society to the complexity of personal identity in the modern workplace.

The author, in eloquent frustration, describes the pressures to find time in his day to do anything, from eating to davening.  (Warning, you have to read the whole essay to understand the tone the author takes).

I once approached a rabbi with the following inquiry: why do we daven so much if Torah study is greater than davening and our schedules don’t allow for much Torah study. He told me that my question wasn’t really why do we daven so much but why don’t I study Torah more. (Evidently, I don’t even understand my own questions.) He told me that I should study Torah 4 hours a day. Then he stood up and walked away. 
I concluded that either he couldn’t do simple math or he just didn’t understand the life of the baal habayit.
His venting continues:
I have seen gallons of ink spilled on the topic of women and tefillah, whether they can be called up for aliyot or have their own prayer groups. (I wonder what percentage of women really desires these.) I understand the frustration with the rules. I don’t want to shut down conversation there. But I would like to see some conversation on men and tefillah. After all, we all are required to spend nearly two hours a day doing it. Can it be made shorter? Can I skip some pieces if I am utterly exhausted? For all the halakhic gymnastics that go on around agunah, pre-nuptial agreements, and women’s prayer, there is no attempt to help make davening a bit more manageable for men. Yet, adjustments even slight ones to davening, I have never heard mentioned, considered, or discussed ever. 
I feel bad complaining about davening because theoretically it is an opportunity to speak to the Almighty. However, the whole thing starts to unravel when the volume and frequency bumps up against the American materialistic rat race. As one sympathetic rabbi said to me, you spend the days counting milliseconds on your computer. How can you be expected to just stop and daven a 10 minute Shemoneh Esrei? The sheer quantity of prayers forces one to rush and all the feeling goes out the window. 
Two hours a day, three appointments a day. This is a big issue. I don’t see it discussed. Moreover, I really can’t think of a time that I read an article in an Orthodox publication about the plight of the male baal habayit in general, or went to a topical presentation on the subject. I don’t hear anybody getting outraged or looking for solutions. I don’t see people gathering in protest outside the houses of the people who make life very difficult for baal habatim.

His thesis is restated again at the end of essay: 
 My gripe is that we should be working a little as a community to help men deal with their struggles just as we work a lot to help women deal with theirs. In my view, we fail terribly at this task. We hardly take it on at all. And the baal habayit, the typical Orthodox Jewish man, is left asking, “What about me?”

What are your thoughts on this post?   Are Orthodox men's tefilla struggles under-represented in community discussions?  Is there really time in a working person's schedule for meaningful tefilla?  

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