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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Clean and Reasonably Pretty

The last two days of the Yom Tov Marathon are officially over. Which means today is the fourth Hebrew anniversary of my father's funeral.

Friday night we had a dinner invitation by people I believe we can now consider friends. She's in the Tuesday night Tehillim (Psalms) circle I've been going to, and their youngest son leins in our shul on Shabbat mornings. The parents are smart, funny and knowelegable and the dinner was a pleasure.

We were supposed to eat in their sukkah - they make it a firm custom to eat in their sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, even though it's optional and there is no blessing to be made. However, it rained. We tried to eat there, anyway, and we made it through the kiddush and the hamotzi (the blessings over wine and bread) before being driven indoors because, well. No one wants rainwater on their plates. We ourselves have decided that we will not make it a custom to eat in the sukkah that day, unless our hosts do so, or we have our wheelchair bound friend come over.

Shemini Atzeret services are basically regular Shabbos/Yom Tov services, plus Yizkor, so we ended up slightly late. Shemini Atzeret is very strange for me because it's Yizkor and yet also the day before my dad's yarzheit. Yizkor, to remind people, is a special service held on certain holidays to pray for the souls of the dead. In our synagogue, we say a prayer for martyrs and the Israeli Army before those who still have both parents leave, and then those of us who remain say prayers for our parent(s) and other deceased members of our families, and then everyone else comes in and we say more prayers for the souls of Rav Kook and Rav Soleveichek.

After services, we went to more friends for lunch, eating indoors. As usual, the food was good and the company fun. Then we went home and took naps.

Jonathan was to lead the evening services, so he left at about 6:40. I had to wait until after 7:01, so that I could light the yom tov candles, plus the yarzheit candle for Daddy, and so I could slide the chicken paprikash into the oven.

I got there just as the special Simchat Torah stuff was starting. Since I normally don't say the evening service, I didn't bother catching up. Simchat Torah services celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, the Pentateuch. The synagogue scrolls are taken out, and are danced around the bimah, the reading desk, to joyous songs - seven circuits with specific prayers for each one. It can be wonderful - full of joy and celebration and spirit (ruach).

And this year, that's what happened in my synagogue. The first year, it wasn't like that, but then, that was in October 2001, and no one was really feeling joyous that year. It also wasn't that way last year.

But this year, we're in a new space - one more pleasant in general, and much more conducive to the singing and dancing. There was our rabbi, dancing with his baby granddaughters, and his sons and sons-in-law leading the songs, and the members of our synagogue being silly and happy and playful and dancing with the sefrei torah, the Torah Scrolls. And, with all of that, we managed to finish at a reasonable hour. And that's with an extra bit - one of our members, divorced for about a year, is newly engaged. So, when he got to carry a Torah for a circuit, they sang congratulatory and wedding songs, and stretched a tallis over his head as a "chuppah". There was even a cute interchange - rabbi's son-in-law asked our gabbai (deacon) why this song (I couldn't hear, but I could tell). He was told why, and his face lit up and he started singing as loudly as anyone else. It was cute.

Jonathan, since he was leading, got to do his own little dance as he put the Torah Scroll used for the reading (unusually, we read the Torah at night on Simchat Torah. Normally, that is not done.) back into the ark. And then we said Kaddish for my father, and went home to make kiddush and eat a fast dinner.

He also got to lead the opening songs in the morning, when there is a kaddish, and I got to shul just in time for the switch over to the official morning service. We broke after the morning service for kiddush (a collation)- normally, again, we wait until after Musaf, but traditionally this is done early. We sponsored this one in honor of my father.

They set up two tables of goodies, on each side, instead of having the men all come over to the women's side. Men came over anyway. "Women's cake tastes better." :) And then we did the hakafot, the circuits,all over again. And by the third circuit, most of the men had recovered the spirit of the night before. Even the women started dancing.

Not me. I didn't feel like it. And my husband broke down in tears. This may sound backward, but. On the morning after my father's death, we had to go to the synagogue so we could speak to our old rabbi. After getting the advice we needed, I made Jonathan go to the services - he wasn't a mourner and he needed to be there. A friend of mine left her sons (eleven and ten years old, and independent) in the shul and came home with me so I shouldn't be alone while I finally slept. So, Jonathan associates the morning hakafot with this.

Another friend of ours (thank you, zsero walked him home afterwards, so he should also not be alone.

Anyway, we finally finished the hakafot, the torah readings (three of them, and one repeated over and over again until all the men got an aliyah - we have two scrolls, so we split into two groups - and then the children's aliyah) followed by the additional services at 1:30, said at breakneck speed. And that was followed by the afternoon service, led by my husband, who did a little shtick - singing the repetition to tunes belonging to other holidays - just a line or two so people would laugh, and then going back to the appropriate tunes. We got home at 2PM - we'd been in synagogue longer than we had for Yom Kippur morning. Of course, we also got to eat and drink (mmm, whiskey at 10AM...) We had another fast meal and then napped the rest of the day away.

To explain the subject header:

On Rosh HaShanah, everyone tries to wear new and gorgeous clothing to give proper honor to the day and to just feel good. By Simchat Torah, we settle for clean and reasonably pretty. :)

Current Mood: relievedrelieved

May your father's soul be upgraded in Heaven. (Note: tradition has it that on the anniversary of a person's death, they may get an upgrade to a higher class, rather like on an airline, except that there are infinite classes, and infinite room in each, so there's no capacity control; good deeds done in the dead person's merit by people here on earth, and especially by the person's children or descendents, earn that person points that can earn them these annual upgrades. This may sound weird to those not brought up in this culture, but there it is.)

Meanwhile, at your old shul, we didn't finish the services until after 3, and then we had a very nice lunch (kindly sponsored by a member), which took us almost through to the evening services, so I didn't make it home all day. Something like Yom Kippur, but with a table full of food at the back of the shul...

Did your new shul have women dancing with the Torah? This remains an issue at our shul - the Rabbi announced that after the services were over and all the men were gone, the women could stay behind and take out the Torahs and dance with them. His reasoning was that only those women who truly desired to dance with the Torah should do so, while men could dance with it even if it wasn't that important to them. It seems to me that once he has admitted that it is allowed, the decision on whether it's appropriate should be left to the individual, just as it is for men; he can advise against it, but he shouldn't be using his authority as the Rabbi to forbid it. There also seemed to be a lot of emphasis in the announcements on Saturnight on our being `the only Orthodox shul in Park Slope', and `the only place where anyone should dream of going', evidently a reaction against the new kid on the block.

Women do not dance with the Torah in my current synagogue. It does not happen - there are even those who are afraid to dance at all, w which they should not be, and, indeed, women did dance.

If women want to dance with the Torah, there is a women's hakafot in the area in the evening, and one of the other local synagogues has women's dancing in the morning. It is an official policy - it seems there was nearly a split on this before we arrived, so we don't even talk about it now. As there is an option for many women (not me because of my father's yarzheit), it's less of an issue.

And, at least the little girls go under the tallis for the children's aliyah. :)

at least the little girls go under the tallis for the children's aliyah. :)

They did here too, but while the boys were each called up by name, the girls were not. I'd really like to hear a rational explanation for that one. Still, progress comes gradually.

Sigh. All the more reason I'm glad to be out of Park Slope. I don't have to make a choice between the UTJ group and Bnai Jacob. Although, there were always a few people who wandered between PSJC and CBJ - I can think of three right off the bat. And dissatisfied as we may have been with certain aspects of CBJ, Debbie is not the radical feminist that my mother is - I don't think she'd be all that comfortable in a women's Torah reading. Have you tried them out?

Well, it looks like your new shul is less liberal on this issue than B'nai Jacob. After all, the Rabbi did officially announce that it was permitted for women to dance with the Torah, and gave permission for them to do it, albeit under conditions that made it somewhat unlikely than any would actually do so. And we did include the girls in the children's aliyah, albeit not by name.

As for the new group, I have not and will not be trying them out, because they have chosen to affiliate with UTJ. I recall you telling me that you tried and could not nail UTJ down on their theology, but it seems safe to say that it is at least somewhat heretodox. If they were to discontinue that affiliation, and make an unequivocal statement of adherence to orthodox theology, I would certainly try them out; I think in a way their establishment could be a healthy shot in the arm for CBJ, but by going the non-Orthodox route they've blown that, because the Rabbi and his partisans can simply dismiss those who go there as heterodox heretics, who would ultimately never be happy in an orthodox environment.

It also seems to me somewhat bizarre to make the whole congregation wait for 10 women in addition to 10 men, just to make the women feel somehow `more equal'.

It depends on what is done in the women's Torah reading. I'd be more comfortable if they said a pasuk, like they do at Drisha, than a bracha.

But, no, I'm not a radical feminist. I do support the existence of women's tefillah groups and women's leining (and certainly women reading Megillah to all female crowds)because A. there are no halachic difficulties that I know about and B. they are important and valuable.

That I prefer more traditional services is not a factor.