Davening Down Time and AFAHP

Davening down time are the periods in the service when you’re not actively davening, such as taking out the Torah, Kaddish, and the repetition of Shemoneh Esrai. These are the times when boredom sets in and inappropriate behaviors like texting and talking will increase.

Another consequence of davening down time is the birth of AFAHP. It has become an admirable trait in many weekday minyanim for the Sheliach Tzibbur (Shatz) to repeat the Shemoneh Esrai as fast as humanly possible (AFAHP) without making mistakes. Some people are quite good at this, while it creates a general expectation on every Shatz to daven faster. Although many people support this practice with cries of Tirchei D’ Tzibbur, I think our current average speed is over the limit intended by Chazal.

Another effect of AFAHP is the perpetuation of the mentality of getting out of Shul as soon as possible. In its extreme form, this has led to the creation of the matzah minyan which allegedly finishes an entire weekday Shacharis in 18 minutes. This devalues the experience of davening in Shul, which is quite unfortunate given the fact that minyan-goers put in considerable time and effort to daven with a minyan. Shouldn’t we be looking to increase the benefits of this experience rather than trying to getting out of there as soon as possible.

One suggestion is to calculate a range of how long the repetition should take and publicize it. For a weekday mincha the formula is:
Repetition Time = Total Allotted Time – Silent Shemoneh – 4-7 minutes (for Ashrei, Tachanun, Aleinu and Kaddishes).
A part of this exercise includes increasing our appreciation of our God-facing activities like being in Shul, and possibly lengthening the total allotted time.

Another idea is to productively use our davening down time as stated in the Shulchan Aruch 124:4 – “When the Shatz repeats the Shemoneh Esrai, the congregation should be silent and apply their minds to the blessings made by the Shatz and respond Amen to them”. If we look in the siddur and follow along we can greatly increase the connection to Hashem that davening can enable.

Davening with a minyan is a tremendous opportunity for collective spiritual growth, especially if we do it with a little less speed, a little more care and a little more consciousness.