# 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.

1. anon says:

Surprisingly, nobody has yet figured out what Hamermesh’s guess was… if he’s correct “on average” and he guessed 1.5 hours for Friday but was too short by 1.5 hours on Saturday… it means he guessed 3 hours, and the Saturday ceremony was 4.5 hours. The “average error” (-1.5 hours on Friday and +1.5 hours on Saturday gives an average of 0/2 = 0 hours) is “rational” but has a giant variance.

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2. BSK says:

Maybe you’re just wrong. Ever think of that?

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3. ExileInLA says:

I prefer to measure RH services by whether or not they motivate me to reconsider my behavior from the prior year, and act better in the coming year. If this motivation lasts a long time, it’s good…if not, it’s bad.

If you try looking for the meaning of the time, not the meaning AS the time, you’ll get more out of it. That starts, btw, by showing up more often than just 3 days/year…

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4. BSK says:

Anon @17

Um, what? He said they both figured on 2 hours for the Friday services. It went 1 1/2 hours (1/2 hour under). Saturday’s went 1/2 hour over, so 2 1/2 hours. 4 hours total, or 2 per service, as he said. Did you really think you cracked the code?

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5. Let them eat Thomas Paine says:

I know rational expectations played a role in my father’s choice as to which service to attend. We’re Catholic and he would always complain about the Creaster’s (people that only attended Christmas and Easter Mass) overcrowding the church. This led us to always go to 7:30 AM Mass. I hated this as a kid.

Anyway to the point of the post, as someone else pointed out it only matters if you have perfect memory. I think it would happen more frequently that people would over estimate how long the service will take. In my experience I tend to remember the really long masses and forget the short ones. This has left a bad taste in my mouth; accordingly, mass is rarely as long as I think it will be. I just never remember this fact when estimating how long it will take.

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6. Joshua says:

Don’t forget the fact that if you ask the same question of someone multiple times, their average answer will be much closer to the actual answer.

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7. Caitlyn says:

we attend services twice a week anyway, so the normal services are pretty set – our rabbi hates going long, so holiday services are usually about half an hour longer. bar or bat mitzvahs are fifteen minutes longer than a normal service, concert services (we sometimes get a special performer in) depend on the musician and how likely he is to completely lose track of time.

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8. ChristianCMS says:

Even though services may seem boring, you still attend, which means that the services must mean something to you. You are giving up hours which you could be using for various other things, but you are willing to give up these hours and attend services, so either the opportunity cost of anything else you can be doing is lower than the value of the service or you are just not thinking rationally, which is unlikely.

Another deal with attending services is having a set time you plan on giving up, and the time that may actually be consumed. You were expecting to give up 2 hours of service, but the event lasted more than that. The extra time may represent sunk cost, as it was a slightly unexpected “extra” that you had to sit through. If we think of it over, though, that is the issue with estimating, we can never be 100% sure of the outcome.

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