Thursday, November 11, 2004

One for the traditionalists, one for the egalitarians—another glorious Ritual Committee meeting

Many moons ago, I promised an update on the great Include-Dad-in-the-MiSheBérach Debate. (See my September 8, post, http://onthefringe_jewishblog.blogspot.com/2004/09/whats-wrong-with-being-fair.html#comments and my September 12 post, http://onthefringe_jewishblog.blogspot.com/2004/09/whats-wrong-with-being-fair-part-2.html#comments ). Well, here it is, and the news ain’t pretty. No sooner did the words come out of the rabbi’s mouth that adding the name of the father of the sick person to the name of the sick person’s mother was forbidden by halachah/Jewish religious law than my motion was defeated, 4 against, 2 in favor, 2 abstentions. Nobody wants to go against the rabbi. Even though he’s an Orthodox rabbi in a Conservative synagogue, and, therefore, his interpretations are stricter than those of any of his predecessors. Even though, for all his protests against me mentioning the fathers’ names after the mothers’ names, it took him six months as our rabbi before he even noticed that I was doing so. Even though the previous rabbi, a graduate not only of the Jewish Theological Seminary but also of the Orthodox Maimonides School in Boston (founded by none other than Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik—you may have heard of him) never objected once in five years. Irrelevant. What the rabbi says, goes. My Orthodox readers, and some of my Conservative readers, as well, will protest that that’s exactly as it should be, that a congregation’s rabbi is the mara d’atra for his synagogue, the person whose interpretation of halachah rules. All I can say is that if I’d wanted to follow an Orthodox interpretation of halachah, I would have joined an Orthodox synagogue. It’s bad enough when half the congregants, including many of the women, one of whom is my age, oppose my way of thinking, but when the rabbi’s against it, too, it’s just too discouraging.

On the plus side, the Ritual Committee had a very interesting discussion concerning the qualifications for being a gabbai/Torah-reader’s assistant. Much to my shock, the rabbi insisted that there were absolutely no halachic requirements—he said that the gabbaim were there only as escorts for the sefer Torah/Torah scroll. I finally had to turn to the chazzan/cantor for support, since he, being our baal koreh/designated Torah reader, was the person for whom the question was most relevant. Would he prefer to have a gabbai who was merely decorative, or one who could read Hebrew well enough to correct him when he made an error? Well, duh. Naturally, the committee decided that, on weekdays, when we run out of men who can read Hebrew well enough to follow the Torah reading, a woman who is capable of following the reading in Hebrew may be a gabbai. (Thus far, it hasn’t been an issue on Shabbat or Yamim Tovim/holidays.) So maybe next time the only second gabbai available on a Thursday morning is a guy whose Hebrew is so poor that he can’t even read the brachot in transliteration without making a fool of himself, at least the cantor won’t feel obliged to pick him instead of me. Did I mention that I’ve known how to leyn/layn/chant from the Torah scroll for almost 30 years?

Sigh. Now you now why I’d never make it as an Orthodox Jew.

2 Comments:

Blogger Naomi Chana said...

I think your shul may be my (Conservative) shul under its last rabbi. The good news is that the one we have now has infinitely better sense, and the Ritual Committee chairwoman has terrified all the minyan regulars into offering every honor in the book to women who turn up in tefillin (all three or so of us).

But the whole mara d'atra thing is why I'm never going to be a good Conservative Jew.

Thu Nov 11, 02:50:00 PM 2004  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Man oh Manishevitz, as they used to say in the old wine ad, remind me never to post in the middle of the night. I'm sorry to say that this isn't the first time I've published a spelling error all over the World Wide Web. How embarrassing. :(

Error corrected. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. :)

Thu Nov 11, 06:55:00 PM 2004  

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