July 24, 2024
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Acceptable Abbreviations

In these crazy COVID times, davening outdoors has become a necessity for many, even when the Celsius readings plunge. This embracing of the elements has not been easy for many Jews because Fahrenheit and yiddishkeit usually go hand in hand, i.e., the warmer the weather, the greater the turnout on Shabbos morning.

It therefore is heart-warming to see so many Jews braving the chilly weather. For example, during the High Holidays, Kol Nidre felt more like Cold Nidre but that did not stop Jews from davening in the open air. In the crisp weather, shiva calls have become “shiver” calls but the callers have remained undaunted, showing up to comfort mourners regardless of the wind-chill factor. Those attending outdoor catered simchas in the winter months are faced with frosty temperatures, the kind that are more brisk than brisket and more cold than coldcut, but attendees nevertheless show up to celebrate alfresco affairs.

In an attempt to nip the nippiness, some minyanim have looked for halachically-approved methods of shortening davening, boiling it down to its core and critical requirements. The hope is that an abbreviated davening will increase attendance and decrease freilich frostbite.

A popular tactic for speeding up davening is the heicha kedusha. Some might erroneously believe that a heicha kedusha is a recitation of only half of the kedusha. That, however, would be a chatzi (half) kedusha. In contrast, a heicha kedusha involves congregational recitation of the kedusha along with the chazzan rather than having a silent recitation followed but an out-loud repetition. This is a time-saver because the chazzan does not wait around for the masses to finish their silent soliloquies. This can be significant because often there are two or three congregants who become so enthused and enthralled with the silent kedusha that they lose all concept of space and time. Waiting for such congregants to wrap things up can sometimes feel like an eternity, especially for impatient people who cannot wait the (i) five (or even three) hours between eating fleishig and milchig, (ii) eighteen minutes within which matzah must be made or (iii) the silent minute or two between hand-washing and hamotzi.

Make no mistake about it, implementation of heicha kedusha is intended for extenuating circumstances only. Just because the weather is less balmy or a bit breezy does not warrant a heicha kedusha. Cloudy or even overcast skies do not justify a heicha kedusha and neither does a light drizzle. That said, one need not wait for a Nor’easter, typhoon or monsoon before calling for a heicha kedusha. The same is true of a cyclone, tornado or sharknado.

If we assume that a heicha kedusha means an abbreviated kedusha, then we can (loosely) apply the “heicha” term to abbreviate other things in life. For example, if you have a dispute with your spouse, then for the sake of shalom bayis, it would be advisable to make it a heicha machloket. If a pulpit rabbi is infamously known for verbosity, then the shul president should suggest that the rabbi deliver a heicha sermon. If you enjoy running but are concerned about your endurance, perhaps try running a heicha marathon. If the I.R.S. is questioning your tax return, then ask for a heicha audit. If you are thoroughly enjoying a Broadway production and cannot wait for the second act to begin, then ask for a heicha intermission. When a pandemic occurs, pray for a heicha quarantine. If you are trying to curb your gossiping but feel compelled to spread a particular rumor, try speaking heicha lashon hara.

In other facets of life, there is no need for such heicha-ish abbreviation. In fact, under some circumstances a heicha could be counterproductive to enjoyment and could be quite a buzzkill. For instance, it would be highly unlikely for anyone to advocate for a heicha kiddush, heicha seudah, heicha kumzitz, heicha malave malka, heicha farbrengen, heicha smorgasbord, heicha summer camp, heicha color war, heicha shiriyah or heicha chosen’s tish or heicha Mordechai Shapiro concert.

The heicha concept has its limits. Once a kedusha has been converted to a heicha kedusha, a further reduction would not be appropriate. In other words, you should not seek permission to recite a heicha-heicha kedusha. Furthermore, some things in life simply cannot be reduced or abbreviated including a fast day, the number of days before performing a bris or the challah baking process.

Final thought: If it is cold outside but you still want to daven with others, try wearing a fleece tallis, an Ushanka kippah and Gortex tzitzit.

Send comments or criticism to Oy Vey headquarters at [email protected].

By Jon Kranz

 

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