Solutions for Davening Problems


siddurBy Rabbi Menachem Yoel Yormark

I have noticed many problems students have while davening.  Besides the problem of not pronouncing every word out loud and davening very quickly; many students (and adults!) innocently mispronounce the name of Hashem.  This has very, very serious ramifications and consequences. Every brocha that is made, kiddush, hamotzi, birchas hamozon, netilas yadayim,  the mitzva of krias shema, etc., is as if– it was not said at all! Many many mitzvos will be lost if not corrected a.s.a.p.! The problem is magnified if you think you are being yotzai with their kiddush, hamotzi, havdala, etc….You are not yotzai with someone else’s brocha, if the Shem is said incorrectly.  I am referring to the Shem– Aleph-Daled-Nun-Yud. The aleph has a patach which is  usually

said correctly. However, for some strange reason, the Shem is very often said incorrectly. The daled–which has a cholem, must be pronounced doe or doi–(depending on minhag). The accent should also be on the nun– (noi).   The correct way to say the Shem:-A–doenoi–(Not a-di-noi, (with a sheva) or skipping the daled and saying “anoy.”).

Many brochos, Kiddush, Hamotzei, Chazaras Hashatz, etc., are recited  with many invalid pronunciations, such as:  (most common serious mistake)–A-Di-noi,  saying the daled with a sheva, or anoy (totally skipping the daled)!!

I read an article that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg,  zatzal, said you are not yotzai even בדיעבד if you said “A-di-noi”(the daled with a sheva).  Unfortunately, many people will not change bad habits even when told the correct pronunciation. Maybe more tefillos would be answered if we only were more careful to say the name of Hashem correctly!!

Therefore, a  method to get students to daven slower is–if you teach and practice with your students to pronounce the Shem correctly as explained above, as it naturally involves a stronger effort and a little longer to say the daled with a cholem, and slows down the davening, as the Shem is mentioned many times.

Also, halacha states you really need to pause a moment every time after saying the Shem, (which happens very often) and at least think–every time you say the Shem—-Hashem was, is, and will be forever–this alone will surely slow everything down!

Say every word out loud and clearly. Students must move their lips while davening, and not scan the davening or mumble the words. Reading with your finger on the place will also help you read slower.

Many students don’t daven, because their Keriah skills are weak. The way to improve kriah skills, in my humble opinion, is to train students to do Shanyim Mikra every week.  The word Mikra also means “reading”–only reading. Maybe one of the kavonos chazal had when they were mesakain this halacha was to ensure our kriah skills would be perfect, in that reading lashon hakodesh should be as comfortable and easy as reading English. Unfortunately, many who have weak keriah skills in their school years, will and do have keriah problems as adults, when the problem is more magnified and possibly embarrassing.

Reading Chumash, even without knowing translation, is considered לימוד התורה.

Rav Aharon Hersh Fried, author of the Torah’Umesorah Kriah Scan-told me (by email) –Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky, zatzal, said–that when Chazal said “Ben Chomeish LeMikra,” they meant that children should be taught and should practice Kriah in a Chumash; not a siddur or Tehilim.

If you practice keriah by just reading Chumash–Shnayim Mikra–you have the advantage of perfecting keriah skills while doing the biggest מצוה  of לימוד התורה,

(and hopefully have more סייעתא דשמיא.)

What could be better than that?! A lack of good keriah skills is also a critical factor in causing “off the derech” problems.           (It would also strengthen the halacha of  שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום–the Gemorrah says gives Arichus Yomim V’shonim–a long healthy life, and

will also help with fluency in Chumash, and help keep children from going off the derech! ( See Shnayim Mikra Curriculum article). It will also inspire students to want to daven and learn more. One second grade student who does Shnayim Mikra every week, told me his little brother, who can’t read yet, CAN’T WAIT to do shanyim mikra also!

I recently had a student who was not in the mood for learning one day, and I suggested in the last 10 minutes, he should read שנים מקרא.

He eagerly agreed to do it.  When the bell rang, I told him he can go to the next class. He said, “I want to read another few pesukim twice, until

sheni! This took an extra 5 minutes! The next class was GYM PERIOD!

I then saw again the amazing power of Shnayim Mikra.

I would suggest, as a homework assignment for Shabbos, to have your students read Shnayim Mikra until sheni of each פרשת השבוע, with parents’ signature due on Monday–“I read until sheni/shlishi 2 times… out loud and slowly,” and also a written statement signed by parents:

I said 10 berochos out loud and slowly, saying the name of Hashem correctly,” as stated above.

There are 3 big advantages to this:

1)Child says brochos out loud and slowly, saying the Shem correctly!

2)Listener gets mitzvah for answering אמן.

3)Another member of the family will now also say brochos out loud and slowly, and now also say the Shem correctly! It will have a ripple effect on everyone who hears it!

You can give grade-sensitive prizes if done.

Did you ever observe students at the water fountain saying the baracha- Shehakol? I know they are in a rush to get to class on time, but it is said way too fast, mumbling the words. You would think the bracha only has 2-3 words– but it really has 9 words!!  It only takes a few extra seconds to say the brocha out loud, and slowly, and saying the Shem correctly! It is imperative to practice with your students/children–  to say this brocha (other berochos also) out loud and slowly, saying the Shem correctly, as this brocha is said so many times throughout the day!

Another way to correct davening mistakes is  during הַֹשַ”ץ  חַזָרַת, while the chazon is repeating שמונה עשרה.   If every mispallel would stand still and keep their finger on the place, listen carefully, and answer אמן  to every brocha said, this would help tremendously. One advantage is that the listener to  הש”ץ  חזרת  will be able to see reading mistakes being made when saying the silent שמונה עשרה!!  Of course, shmoozing, or even talking even one word during הש”ץ  חזרת, is a very BIG עבירה!!  The שלחן ערוך usually uses the word “אסור”, if something is not allowed. But talking during הש”ץ  חזרת, it says- “גדול עונו מנשוא””–His sin is too great to be forgiven!! (the מחבר does not exaggerate, and this is the same language the Torah used when קין killed !!הבל)  You must be extremely careful not to talk at this time!

I heard that one explanation is —by talking at this time, you show a massive disrespect and disgrace for תפילה.

According to some opinions, Chazoras Hashatz is a more powerful Tefillah than the silent Shemona Esrei. Therefore, if someone has difficulty in Keriah,  also daven your keriah should improve– by answering  Omein with lots of  kavana, and do not talk at all at that time!

If students are not davening with a minyan, this halacha of not talking during הש”ץ  חזרת(and קְרִיאַת הַתּוֹרָה) also must be emphasized and taught, along with the other halacha of not talking at all between

בָּרוּךְ ֹשֶאָמַר until after the  שמונה עשרה.

If it is hard to get students’ attention, or they are hard to control , or just not “in the mood” to learn or daven, I strongly suggest to have whole class read out loud פרשת השבוע until sheni.  It won’t take long,

but you will see a remarkable reversal of their attitude–to now daven or learn!  This is the amazing power of  מקרא שנים–reading תורה שבכתב, which is also לימוד התורה, even if you don’t know the translation of what you are reading!

Also, if the שמע ישראל would be sung with the “trup”,  and the many pauses taught correctly, for examples– בכל-לבבך –not בכלבבך; —וקשרתם אתם–not וקשרתמתם; וחרה אף, not וחרף;

וראיתם- אתו–not וראיתמתו –  ;…….,    it will also slow down the davening.

When saying שמונה עשרה, don’t read it from the siddur while it is on the desk; hold the siddur in your 2 hands, look in the siddur–do NOT say it by heart– as this will encourage more כונה, slower davening, and less likely to get distracted.

Always daven while looking in a siddur, and always bench while looking in a bencher.  NEVER say anything by heart, as you will be very likely to be distracted. It is better to do less davening slowly, than a lot of davening quickly. If there is not enough time, maybe for פסוקי דזמרה only say אשרי and the 5 הללוקה, as these are the most important parts of  פסוקי דזמרה.

Of course, these methods are easier said than done. However, if we make a strong effort to use these recommendations,  הקב”ה will help us succeed.

Also, many students do not even understand what they are davening. If we teach translation of some key parts of davening, it will be more meaningful and naturally slow it down.  There are parts of davening which refer

to healing the sick, helping those who are being insulted or bullied, being lazy (ליעף כח (הנותן,

getting better grades (חונן הדעת), Parnassah, שלום בית, etc.., not just in שמונה עשרה , but also in פסוקי דזמרה, and other parts of davening.   Each student has issues that apply to them, or they can daven for someone else who has other problems.  This will also slow down the davening, because the student will daven slower with  more כונה at that part of the davening which applies more to their specific problems.   As the שלחן ערוך says– we should say every word slowly, just like we count money slowly.  A large print siddur would also be very beneficial, as the נקודות are much easier to see.

Another suggestion to slow down davening is: to listen to each student read the whole שמע,  because this a– מצוה מדאורייתא,– every word must be read perfectly, without mistakes, to fulfill the מצוה of  קריאת שמע ! You will be surprised how even “good” readers can make careless mistakes while reading שמע too fast, and this is the chance to correct them. A common mistake I hear from students while saying שמע is : בּשפתך with a פ, instead of  בּשבתך, with a ב !! You must say שמע slowly to avoid mistakes, and stop for a moment before saying קריאת שמע to have כונה that you will fulfill the מצוה of  קריאת שמע , before you will do this important מצוה.

I also notice בִּרְכוֹת הַתּוֹרָה are said way too fast; these בְּרָכוֹת are דְאוֹרַייתָא,  not very long, and therefore must be said slower and with more כַּוָנָה.  If students are taught they will have more      הַצְלָחָה in learning if ברכות התורה were said slower, and with more כַּוָנָה, maybe they will even want to daven it slower!

The translation of both paragraphs of אלו דברים…–after ברכות התורה, should be taught also, to be properly yotzai the

ברכות התורה. (learning torah right after berochos are said).

An added benefit of teaching the translation and meaning of these 2 paragraphs, is also to learn about many basic, very important mitzvos.

There are also important parts of davening which must be taught to your students, and will also slow down the davening, because they must know the meaning and translation of these parts!

1) First posuk of שמע

2) First ברכה of שמונה עשרה

3) in אשרי–the posuk of פותח את ידך

Also, in the all inclusive ברכה of שומע תפלה–a time when everyone can make personal requests, which will increase כונה,

and significantly slow down the davening.

Of course, some time must be set aside to teach and implement

these very important recommendations, but I firmly believe it is well worth the time and effort, and will pay off very big Torah

and Davening dividends!!

Davening is a privilege, and should not be a joke or a chore! If you want הקב”ה to listen to your תפילה, please use these methods above, including saying it out loud and slower, pronouncing the Shem correctly, absolutely no talking during חזרת הש”ץ, saying the  שמע carefully, and thereby hopefully you will take davening more seriously- and give it your respect and attention it truly deserves!

Menachem Yoel Yormark

South Bend Hebrew Day School

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  1. The correct kavana for the Shem is:

    a) Hashem is Adon Hakol – Master over Everything

    b) As the author said, Hashem always was, is, and always will be

    The Vilna Gaon holds that only the first kavana of Adon Hakol is necessary, and the second kavana is only necessary for the first pasuk of Krias Shema.

  2. Hebrew is best learned by mastering its phonetic basis. Phonetics should be taught from the earliest possible age. This allows any Torah text or siddur to be read accurately whether or not a given word is familar to the student.

  3. Wow! Thank you for writing such an article.
    Lots of important info to share with children and adults.

    May Hashem give you strength to continue doing good work for the klal.

  4. While on the subject, aleph lamed vav heh is pronounced el-oh-ah, not el-oh-hai or el-oh-ha. The patach heh at the end of a word is similar to a patach ches at the end of a word (ruach not rucha).

  5. To #9, Shimon,
    There will be no sources for these “halachos”, because the entire premise of this article is mistaken. Everyone is yotzei everything, no matter how they pronounce it. Period.