Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A Spiritual Sham

I was in shul the other night, waiting for maariv to start, when an ad for a "special shiur!" caught my eye. What was the subject? "Change the Way You Daven!" This was not the first shiur of this kind that I've seen. In fact, I saw one shul that had a multi-part seminar on how to improve one's davening! Now, I'm not questioning the intent of the ones giving the shiur, but I believe that many of these shiurim are at best, marginally useful, and, at worst, a sham. Here are the reasons why:

1) When it comes to improving davening, Poppa Kaplan's advice on improving self-confidence comes to mind: it's gotta come from within! You can go to every shiur on tefilla, but the shiur itself won't change the way you daven. You can come out of the shiur, maybe daven a more inspired maariv, but by the next morning, it's business as usual. I'd like to see one person who went to one of these shiurim and davened the next day totally zoned-in.
Granted, these shiurim have some effect, and I'm sure a few people have been inspired. But the way some of these shiurim are advertised, you'd think it was magic! Listen to me, and presto! You'll be zoned in!

2) I don't get what big chiddushim they're saying during these shiurim. I was recently reading an article about tefilla in the Jewish Observer, when I came across this priceless line: "Another major aspect of effective tefilla is the need for concentration while davening." Really now! I thought you could just get away with spacing out the whole time! Thank you, Jewish Observer. I can now sleep peacefully.

My point is, I don't see what the big deal is with these shiurim. I feel like I can give one of them. With that in mind, here are a few of Isaac Kaplan's "amazing ways to change your davening!"

1) Work on your emunah. If you truly believe that G-d is the source of all, parnassah, health, etc. it'll be hard to treat davening as a joke. Check out Raymond Beyda's tapes and website for more.

2) You gotta learn to crawl before you learn to walk. Pick one paragraph, and try concentrating on that. Then go on to a 2nd, 3rd, etc.

3) I think many books on tefilla are pretty much useless in terms of improving tefilla. Get an Artscroll or Metsudah siddur, learn the basic translation, and you're all set. I've tried many other books, and they just confuse me.

One more point: there's no mitzvah to go slow. If you're like me and have almost no attention span, go as fast as you can while concentrating. Shlepping will just cause you to space out.


Blogger Ayelet said...

How do you know this is not the content of the shiur?

9:05 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

If that's the content of the shiur, I'd be mighty disappointed!! Let them use a less hyped but more honest title such as "suggestions for improving davening" or something like that. It's simply unfair to make a shiur sound like the greatest thing ever and not say a whole heckuva lot.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Ayelet said...

So now you oppose advertising?

1:40 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

I only oppose false or misleading advertising.

Like I said, there are ways to advertise honestly, such as "suggestions for improving tefillah." But some of these shiurim sound like the "get rich quick" type of stuff that you get in email.

11:15 PM  

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