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From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu> Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 22:07:22 -0400 (EDT) Subject: In defense of Praying in English The interesting question of the ideal way to pray and enunciate words was raised by David (v28#64), & Rabbi Wasserman, (v28#65).My bottom line advice (which I will then defend halachically) is that * if you know Hebrew you should pray in Hebrew at a talking pace-- about a minute for ASHRAY, 6 minutes for Shma, 4 minutes for Shmneh Esray * if you don't know Hebrew fluently it is preferable to pray in English for BOTH the Shma and Shmoneh Esray. To defend this note that the Rambam identifies the primary requirement of Shma as UNDERSTANDING (Rambam, Shma,2:1) and allows it to be said in any language (Shma 2:10). Clearly note (Shma 2:1) that if you don't understand what you are saying YOU HAVE NOT FULFILLED YOUR OBLIGATION. By contrast there is NO statement in Rambam that it is prefered to say Shma in Hebrew. I am at a loss why Rabbi Wasserman thinks this is a controversy between Rambam and Raavad. Rambam Shma 2:8 clearly states that it is PREFERABLE to observe DIKDUK laws but does NOT invalidate the SHMA if you don't. In fact with regard to using SIGN LANGUAGE during Shma Rambam says that a) you shouldn't do it and b) if you did do it it is POOR. By contrast Rambam does not call a non-Dikduk shma as POOR. At any rate the primary law is expressed in Shma 2:1---you MUST understand what you are reading (and if you don't understand the first verse it invalidates your reading) Of course any Rabbi may insist that a congregant uses a Good English translation (e.g. art scroll with modifications). As to the SPEED of davening many people are suprised to learn that there have been business studies on the idea rate at which to speak when making a business presentation. The ideal speed is 2.1 words a second; using the number of words in Shma you get 6 minutes for Shma the exact speed suggested by the Rambam in Shma 1:11. Thus the primary part of davening---Shma and Shmoneh Esray---should ideally take 10 minutes (not a difficult task). Russell Jay Hendel;Phd ASA RHendel @ mcs . drexel . edu Moderator Rashi Is Simple http://www.shamash.org/rashi