Readers of this site know that this is my year of living dangerous, as I have taken the amud on a regular basis for the first time in my life. I’m getting better at davening, but not being a great reader, I make mistakes in pronunciation, especially when I rush or feel pressured. Because we pasken that exact pronunciation is not required, on-the-spot corrections are not necessary. Some of my closer friends have pointed out some consistent errors, and since they showed care and compassion, it wasn’t too painful.
What’s interesting about davening Shacharis is that the brochos are often the first sounds coming out of your mouth. On a recent trip to the Amud, those first words revealed a post-nasal drip driven horse-ness which was not a good sign for the upcoming 50 minute Shacharis. In addition I made some pronunciation mistakes right off that bat. I got through it, but it was a stressful Shacharis.
After davening I was going to get my coffee for my daily dose of the daf, and I saw an acquaintance who is not a regular minyan member, rush out after me. I knew what was coming and before he said anything, I said “Don’t correct me”. He was taken off guard and he said he just wanted to wish me words of consolation. I said thank you and then he asked, “Can I correct you?”. I politely told him no and said that he should speak to the Gabbai, which was the procedure that had been established to handle corrections.
The next day he was there again, and I motioned to him to step outside and I asked him to please not look for corrections. He told me he has been correcting people for years and this was the first time anybody objected. I tried to explain how this was still difficult for me and how correction usually required a closer relationship than we had. He would have none of it and he insisted that his corrections were the right thing. I decided not to daven from the amud that day.
After davening, I related the incident to a friend for a specific reason, without mentioning names. He shook his head knowingly, and told me the corrector had corrected him in the past and he was upset by it. He did not say anything, because he didn’t want to get into it with the corrector.
We all find ourselves in potentially correction situations including shushing, seating conflicts, meetings and other situations. It’s easy to forget the connection before correction rule. Even if we have a good relationship, we have to be sure the person will accept the correction and will not be insulted by it. It’s difficult, but with more awareness I think we can all improve here.