Why The Length of the Break on Yom Kippur is so Important

The Love and Fear of the Yom Kippur Davening

The Gemora calls prayer the Service of the Heart, and as we’ve pointed out before, it’s a difficult service. It’s difficult to stay on task during a 15 minute Maariv, so it’s no wonder that the 10-14 total hours we’ll spend in Shul on Yom Kippur creates a wide range of emotional responses. For some the day is a tremendous opportunity and they could think of no better place then to spend it then Shul. To others, between the fasting, the length, and the intensity, it is very difficult to spend a long time in Shul. And there’s a wide range of emotions in between.

How Long was the Break?

Although the length of the davening can come under scrutiny on any given Shabbos, on Yom Kippur, almost everybody has an opinion on the subject. So the typical post Yom Kippur cross Shul conversations involves two related questions: “when did you finish” and “how long was the break”. The fact that most of us need a little down time or a nap before the final Neilah service takes the question beyond the realm of one-upmanship. Although many people will be forgiving on Yom Kippur if the break is short, the Shul really wants to give people as much support as possible on this important and intense day.

Try to Streamline

As we’ve mentioned previously, we don’t always have control over the Baalei Tefillah. If you’re Shul waits for your Rav to finish his viduy, it’s not quite appropriate to ask him to cut it short on Yom Kippur. However you can try to make the Leining as efficient as possible, and make sure that people who are opening the Aron are ready when their time has arrived. Many Shuls start earlier then normal and you may want to push the start time a little earlier for those who say extras like the Shiur HaYichud.

All You Can Do is Do Your Best

Even after you’ve done as much as you can to have a proper to streamline, it will probably be too long or not inspirational enough for some members. Although it would be great if the unhappy members would grin and bear it with the Shul, that’s not always practical and they might chose to daven elsewhere. In all situations, discuss possible solutions but try to keep the issue on a low simmer because it is a day of forgiveness after all.