I attended the Torah UMesorah Convention recently, which is an amazing gathering of Teachers and Principals seeking to improve the quality of Limudei Kodesh education in our schools. On Shabbos morning the main minyan began at 8:15 AM with a Hashkama minyan at 7:00 AM. More men attended the Hashkama minyan than the main minyan. It could’ve been the earlier ending time, the lack of speeches, the faster davening or the early kiddush which attracted the bigger crowd. An unscientific small sampling said it was a combination of these factors that contributed to the Hashkama preference.
While discussing this with a friend, he mentioned that he also liked a no-frills davening – adding no misheberachs and minimal announcements to the list of potential benefits. I sometimes opt for a no-frills davening and had planned on attending the convention Hashkama minyan, but my alarm failed. I was planning on joining the main minyan for the speeches as I’ve done at past conventions. As it turned out the main minyan davening and speeches were great.
One might assess this as a different strokes for different folks discussion. Shmuel likes no-frills, Yaakov likes full-frills and Reuvain likes some-frills. Thank G-d many communities can support different options. Nothing to see here, move on, move on. However, I think the growing no-frills preference is a problem. Although ending early with a morning Kiddush is a benefit, the avoidance of speeches diminshes the impact of learning Torah B’Rabbim, one of the most powerful spiritual group activities. Not all speeches are created equal, but attendance is minimally a show of respect for the speaker and for Torah. Faster davening is also of questionable benefit, although I recognize that davening is difficult for many Jews.
However, the problem with no frills davening goes beyond a pros-vs-cons balance sheet. G-d willing this will be elaborated on in a week or two.