Monday, October 31, 2005

High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 3: The 1st day of Sukkot—this is the “ugly” part

Anyone who’s particularly sensitive to descriptions of violence should skip this post. And blame it on my rabbi. Because he’s the one who described the act of violence.


(Bail-out space—I’m leaving this space blank to give you time to bail out.)







Don’t say you weren’t forewarned.

By way of further bail-out space, I’ll post this definition first: S’chach is the organic material used to make the roof of a sukkah. A sukkah's roof must be made of organic material that has been “harvested.” [For example, you can’t use an arbor as a sukkah, because the vines’ roots are still in the ground.] The roof is usually made of branches that have been chopped from (that is, that are no longer attached to) a tree, mats of sliced bamboo or reed, or bamboo poles.

This is your final warning.

Okay, here goes.

I’ve blogged before that my rabbi’s approach to Judaism can be described in five words: “They’re out to get us.” Perhaps my description was incomplete. Because he seems to have a second part to that statement: “ . . . and we’re not going to shut up and take it anymore.”

So this is the essence of his sermon on the first day of Sukkot:

Our people aren’t all 90-pound weaklings. We can defend ourselves.

Back in the Old Country, a rabbi was once sitting in his sukkah when some anti-Semitic hooligan tossed a rock through the s’chach. The rabbi went out, found the gloating youth, and asked him to show him which hand he’d used to throw the rock. The young braggart held out the offending hand.

And the rabbi grabbed the hand and broke it.



This, ladies and gentlemen, is how our rabbi inspires us to celebrate sukkot as z'man simchateinu, the season of our joy. This is his idea of joy.

And this is why I decided that I will, henceforth, avoid remaining in the sanctuary for the rabbi’s sermon whenever possible.

When I first began blogging, I choose to write under a pseudonym and remain anonymous because I wanted to be able to speak freely about the difficulty of being an egalitarian in a traditional Conservative synagogue. That’s still the case.

But now, I have an even more important reason: I need an outlet for talking about my rabbi. As I’ve posted previously, “The problem is not entirely that he's Orthodox, but that he's a very close-minded individual with an extremely negative attitude.”

It gets worse, folks.

You see, I’m sorry to say that our rabbi is not covered under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Because his disabilites do interfere with his ability to perform his job.

That he has difficulty reading text that he doesn’t already know is bad enough.

Worse still is that he has abysmal social skills for a man in his early forties ( a problem that, assuredly, does not serve him well as a congregational rabbi).

Perhaps even worse is that, despite having chosen Orthodoxy roughly thirty years ago, and, therefore, having spent a good deal of the last three decades hanging around rabbis, batei midrash/study halls, and synagogues, he hasn’t the remotest idea what constitutes appropriate material for a sermon.

Which is how it came to pass that, at the Bar Mitzvah celebration of a male Jew by Choice, (the son of a Jewish father), he actually made it a point to mention the young man’s then-recent circumsion. Repeatedly.

It gets even worse, folks.

Usually, he just dismisses my interpretations of Jewish tradition or sacred text not as approaches with which he disagrees, but rather, as the thinking of an idiot or nut case.

But occasionally . . .

Let’s just say that one does have to be careful, lest he take offense.

Last January, after the tsunami, he announced from the bima that the U.S. government would take care of the victims, and that we shouldn’t bother helping them because they were Muslims and, therefore, opposed the existence of the State of Israel. Since I was on the bima anyway to make an announcement, I took the opportunity to disagree with him, castigating him for being willing to let children die just because their parents were of the wrong religion.

The president had to mediate the ensuing dispute. I ended up having to apologize to the rabbi and solemnly promise never to challenge his authority from the pulpit again.


Because he threatened to sue me.


“He has freedom of the pulpit,” the president said.

Okay, okay, I get it.

He has a right to discourage people from giving to tzedakah just because he doesn’t approve of the recipients.

He has the right to embarrass a teenage boy in public in the presence of the congregation and in front of his entire family, not to mention the young friends of his who were guests, who, for all I know, are probably still teasing him about the whole business to this day.

And he has the right to laud acts of violence from the pulpit and pass them off as reasons for celebration.

And to stand on the bima after Adon Olam singing "v’samachta b’chagecha, you will rejoice in your holiday," having absolutely no clue that he’s almost ruined it.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa!

So why is the board not getting rid of this sorry excuse of a rabbi????

Unless perhaps the inmates are running the asylum?

Is there no other burbling about his incompetence from other quarters?

Mon Oct 31, 11:27:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Yes, there is. But do you know the old joke that the three most important things to consider in real estate are location, location, and location? Well, for our 125ish-member congregation, probably more than half of whom are retirees on fixed incomes, the three most important things to consider in hiring a rabbi are money, money, and money. As in, we don't have any. That's why we didn't hire a rabbi through the Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly. And why most of the fine folks on our board not only renewed this . . . this . . . individual's contract, but renewed it for two years. Over the protests of several of us. So we're stuck with him for two more years. Now you know why I've decided to take the Jr. Cong. kids before the sermon and daven Musaf by myself after kiddush.

Mon Oct 31, 11:59:00 PM 2005  
Blogger The Jewropean said...

Hm, free speech is for everyone, right?
He can't claim it for himself and make you shut up? I don't think he'd have had a chance. In an association, minority opinions may be stated, and if they're inacceptable the board could exclude you at most, but no court would condemn you for stating dissent.

Wed Nov 16, 09:21:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Jewropean, I'm still stating my not-so-humble opinions, but I'm not stating them from the bima anymore.

Thu Nov 17, 12:57:00 AM 2005  
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