Tefillah Remains Second Period


Rebecca Kalimi '23

Ramaz has a new procedure for tefillah this year: tefillah is during second period instead of first period. This was, at first, considered one of the changes exclusively for hybrid schooling, but many Ramaz students were surprised to hear that this change would be sticking around. 

Although some Ramaz students have very strong opinions opposing this change, Ramaz rabbis emphatically support the administration’s decision to keep tefillah second period. Rabbi Albo, Rabbi Schiowitz, Rabbi Schimmel, and Rabbi Gober all recognize the negative effects of the new scheduling, but feel that the benefits outweigh the deficits.

Rabbi Albo, the rabbi of the Sephardic minyan, points out that logistically, having tefillah during second period adds an element of seriousness to tefillah because students are finally arriving on time. Contrary to the idea that any type of learning before davening is halachically incorrect, Rabbi Albo noted that the Gemara talks about how a person should transition into davening from learning, which is why we have korban or in our siddurim before beginning tefillah. This is the idea of Mechayil Lechayil. We learn some type of Torah on our way to daven to elevate ourselves spiritually before entering a conversation with God. 

In this ideal situation, there seems to be no halachic problem with having tefillah after first period, but it is practically impossible to create a schedule where each student in the whole school has a Judaic studies class first period; this is where a problem arises. Halachically, going to a general studies class in the morning before davening is considered a distraction from davening which should be a person’s first focus of the day. Mia Denti ‘22 finds it, “difficult to transition from my first period class to tefillah. Tefillah requires a focused mindset and it is difficult to reach that level of concentration when I am fixated on the material I learned in class.”

Another problem we could encounter is related to the timing of Kriyat Shema. The concern is missing the time to say the correct Brachot surrounding shema. Rabbi Schimmel notes that when the clocks change for daylight savings, we will miss the time for Kriyat Shema. Theoretically every student could combat this problem by saying shema in the morning before class, but the school and teachers would not be able to monitor that system. The only solution to this problem is to educate Ramaz students on the correct time to daven and say Shema. 

In addition to learning general studies before tefillah and missing the time for Kriyat Shema, a significant problem Rabbi Albo sees with this change is that people are supposed to eat after davening. Two years ago, Ramaz students would eat breakfast promptly after davening. Now, students need to wait until after first period and davening to eat breakfast at 10 am. Rabbi Gober adds that while it is not ideal for students to eat breakfast at 10 am, there are benefits to having tefillah second period. In accordance with the other Rabbis, Rabbi Gober is happy that the new scheduling allows for students to arrive on time to tefillah.

Despite some flaws in the new schedule, Rabbi Albo is satisfied with the countless benefits surrounding this schedule. Most importantly, students are not showing up to tefillah directly after long bus rides or after sprinting to school. He acknowledged that he has noticed many students have wanted to daven in the past but have been too tired to try. Now, thanks to the period buffer between students’ commutes and davening, students are able to pay more attention in tefillah. 

Rabbi Schiowitz agrees with Rabbi Albo, Rabbi Schimmel, and Rabbi Gober. He adds that according to the Rambam, it is best to make tefillah a person’s primary focus in the morning. We should refrain from making other activities our priorities and doing them first thing in the morning, especially if these activities expend large amounts of time. 

Although the Rabbis acknowledge the issues of having tefillah during second period, they believe that there are many advantages to this system. They hope that this schedule will enhance the overall respect and seriousness of tefillah.