Jewish Olympics: Speed Praying
by Moshe Feldman
I have always been fascinated by Rocket Minyanim. Rocket Minyanim, also known as Matzah Minyanim (davening has to be finished within 18 minutes), or Concord Minyanim (named after the plane) have one goal: finish davening before everyone else can put on their tallit and teffillin. You know you are in one if you show up three minutes early and everyone is, as my father says, “Saddled up and ready to go.”
There are many types of people who go to a Rocket Minyan. Some attend because they have to go to work and this is their only option to daven with a tzibbur, some people can’t sit for an extra 15 minutes in a real minyan, and some go so they can brag to their friends that they davened at twice the speed of them.
The people who can daven from the amud need to have an incredible amount of self-confidence. (They are the type of person who has the balls to wear a pink polo shirt or sky blue cords regularly but aren’t homosexual.) This is because they sound like someone recorded their voice and turned it as high-pitched as possible. Or they got knocked in the privates.
The normal ba’al tefeylah actually pronounces every word clearly, enabling the congregation to be yotzai tefeylah bi’tzibur. He reminds me of the guy at the end of the commercial who lists all the side-effects of drinking water or how only eating subs doesn’t actually make you loose weight (sorry people, it’s the truth). But if someone has a yahrtzeit that day, you always see the congregation sitting and shaking their heads while muttering about how bad the chazzan because he is wasting five more minutes of their life than the regular chazzan. The normal chazzan can be found yapping about how much of a better/faster/stronger chazzan he is than the “filler” to everyone in a half-mile vicinity.
While the chazzan is davening, the average attendee is sitting in their seat, flipping pages, skipping half of the prayer in order to pretend that they can keep up with the chazzan (also known as shake n’ fake). Around ashrei, there always seems to be a coffee break where everyone starts schmoozing with the person next to them. This is probably because they are bored of faking. You can usually find a copy of the day’s paper in one of their hands before yishtabach.
My favorite of all attendees is the amateur. He is the person who either shows up two minutes late and spends the next twenty minutes playing catch-up or says “ba’ruch hu uveruch shemo” with so much kavanah that he misses the next 8 brachot. He normally has a look of shock on his face after the cha’zarat hashatz takes less than a minute. You can find him “making up” all the paragraphs he had to skip twenty minutes after everyone else has left.
The teenagers are an essential staple that any decent Rocket Minyan has. These are the teens whose parents coerce them to attend minyan, so they attend the Rocket Minyan and sleep through the whole davening. They have a self-appointed “waker-uper” who will pound on them at key places like bahrichu, amee’dah and the end of davening. On the Sunday of a standardized test (ACT, SAT etc.) there are usually a group of them praying with all the power that they can muster.
There is usually one person who attended Yeshiva as a child but hasn’t opened a mishnah berurah since. He makes it his job to find a way to skip tachnun. After all, who even knows what that prayer is about? He is also in charge of bumping up the earliest time to put on tallit and teffillin with some psak from a rabbi that no one has ever heard of.