5 comments on “Advice on How to Daven When You Don’t Know Hebrew

  1. another couple of pointers which i hope will be helpful:

    -chadishmedia.com has great tapes of davening (also cd’s). for men who will be davening in shul and understandably want to be able to keep up, these are great tools. benching also available.

    -albany jew makes a great point in bringing up the distinction between those who can’t keep up due to a need for speed and fluency, as opposed to those whose hebrew isn’t great and therefore tend to stumble. i’d add one more possibility: that the person’s reading isn’t so bad, and he can keep up pretty well or isn’t bothered by his inability to do so well – but he is troubled by his lack of comprehension in what the tefillos are saying. many people in this situation have been helped by great tools that are available like the artscroll interlinmear siddur mentioned

    – i’d also add NJOP’s excellent level 2 course in hebrew reading (actually titled crash course ion hebrew reading, level two – module is entitled “now that you know the alef bet, how about adon olam?” the interlinear siddur references the translation to specific phrases

    – the NJOP course goes one better by teaching about prefixes, suffixes, etc, all within the siddur. they also have parallel modules based on the hagadda and on avinu malkeinu, for seasonal use. this free NJOP course is available in many locations throughout the US and Canada, and NJOP also provides partners in torah with these materials so if you are a partner, you can have PIT send them to you.

  2. Hello Albany Jew,

    We sent your questions to Rabbi Brovender and here is his response:

    1) Practice will ultimately help. You don’t have to lead the davening, but you should remain determined to say every word.

    2) If you say the chapters of Tehillim and check the translation as you go along you will significantly improve your Hebrew. Just make sure to check on the definitions with someone learned from time to time.

    3) Of course you have to be practical. You must daven each day. You should use that as an opportunity to improve you Hebrew. You have to divide the time in a way that works for you and is most practical.

    Hope that helps.

    Your friends at WebYeshiva

  3. Keep in mind that what Rabbi Brovender is referring to is the davening one does from the siddur. It does not mean that one should not speak with Hashem in his own language whenever and as often as he/she has the opportunity to do so. Personal prayer with Hashem is critical to one’s relationship with Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu.

    For those who are new to Hebrew, an Artscroll Interlinier Siddur can be an invaluable aid to becoming familiar with the meanings of the words one is saying in Hebrew. Over time, my vocabulary in Hebrew blossomed thanks to these wonderful siddurim. It is a totally different experience davening from one of these siddurim than from the classic Artscroll Siddur. I encourage all to take a look and give it a try. It takes some practise to use them, but it’s well worth the effort IMO.

    Also, for those who can’t possibly keep up with the turbo davening performed in so many shul’s (and what’s their rush, anyway??), just come to davening early and get a head start.
    I show up on Shabbos morning 15 minutes early
    (and that’s after davening all the morning brochos at home first). At my own rate of davening, I end up arriving with everyone else at Yishtabach without breaking a sweat. Give it a try! :)

  4. This is a good starter lesson. Where would one get additional information, such as:

    1) Is it better to switch to English if you are hopelessly behind or keep plodding along in Hebrew? (when I am asked to lead davening, I always say “If you don’t mind a one-hour Mincha” That usually causes the person to find someone else.

    2) Besides Shema and Amidah, what else should be done in Hebrew if one can incorporate a little at a time?

    3) Rabbi Brovender does seem to make a distinction about when one is davening alone but that could also be impossible if one’s hebrew is very bad. It may not be just a question of understanding what one is saying versus speaking in the holy loshon but simply “I can’t read Hebrew very well at all”

  5. Looks like a very interesting topic, but I can’t hear the person speaking clearly enough to understand him. Any chance of a transcript? I went on their website, but it looks like the accompanying document is in Hebrew.

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