How To Measure Rosh Hashanah Services

My wife and I were speculating on how long last Friday’s Rosh Hashanah service would last. We both figured on two hours, but my wife said, “Services always last longer than you expect.”

My first reaction was to agree, but then I realized that couldn’t be so; it would imply that I didn’t have rational expectations. Having attended services for so many years, my overestimates and underestimates of their duration should balance out: on average, I should correctly estimate their duration.

It’s possible that I might make mistakes if the world changed; and perhaps our new rabbi goes longer than his predecessor. But even with that change, after a few years I should estimate correctly on average. In fact, taking Friday and Saturday together, I was correct: Friday night lasted only one and a half hours, but Saturday’s service lasted half an hour longer than I expected.

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  1. Andy says:

    Rational…if you have a perfect memory, though.

    Going only twice a year isn’t very frequent, so it’s possible that, come September, you only remember certain aspects of prior year’s services, or how the service felt. After all, feelings are generally easier committed to memory than factual details.

    As a result, unless one makes note to pay attention to duration and, perhaps, keep records, one’s estimation of service duration will be based on those other sorts of memory (well, the sermon’s message as I remember it couldn’t have taken more then 15 minutes…) or on rough imputation where necessary (well, a reader’s kaddish usually only takes a minute or two)[of course, on high holidays, it takes much longer].

    So, not irrational, given the sorts of memories people tend to put down.

    Though, I don’t mean to insinuate that you’ve been spending the holidays watching your watch.

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  2. UnderstatementJones says:

    Boy, we wouldn’t want to imply that you don’t have rational expectations, would we?

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  3. Stephen Jones says:

    Could be that your wife, like most of us, selectively remembers more cases when the thing dragged on than when it ended earlier.

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  4. MikeM says:

    Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

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  5. Steve Rosen says:

    L’Shana Tova.

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  6. Peter from Chicago says:

    I think you are considering the wrong question: It is not how long Rosh Hashanah services last, it is how long they seem to last. That is particularly true in a congregation with poor ventilation or hard seats.

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  7. N. Z. says:

    The length of your services (and your tendency to time them) probably has a relation to how much you enjoy sitting through them…

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  8. Tim H says:

    Someone has just rediscovered Hofstadter’s Law.

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