Dennis Prager writes: I fully recognize that some Jews love all the prayers, find standing meaningful and regard the length of the prayer service as sublime. But I believe they constitute a minority even among that minority of Jews who regularly attend services. Nor do I believe that all of them find the prayer service particularly inspiring. Rather, they enjoy the familiarity of the service and the camaraderie of fellow Jews (neither of which I in any way disparage).
For all these reasons, my ideal service has much less davening, much more learning and much more music. Speaking solely for myself, I find that studying or teaching the Torah enhances my faith more than prayers do.
I have tried to put my ideals into practice. I have led Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services for the last three years here in Los Angeles, and I am doing so again this year. The 300 people who attend — many of whom have rarely or never attended High Holiday services — seem to respond quite favorably. And my services are not much shorter than others; it is the davening that is shorter.
I do not offer my suggestions as definitive, or even as necessarily original. I am only certain that there is a shul crisis and that the shul service, with its overlong davening, is one reason. Adults do not play siddur baseball; they just don’t attend.
For information on Dennis Prager’s High Holy Days services, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.