Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Simchat Torah etzli/bei mir/at my place

When we first celebrated Simchat Torah in our current local synagogue, I commented to my husband that I felt as if we'd done the hakafot (the explanation is in here somewhere) in an old age home. So, for years, we used to go with our son to Ansche Chesed on Simchat Torah, hopping from minyan to minyan. (It's a pleasure to be able to do all one's shul-hopping within one building. :) ) We stopped going to AC the year that my husband was chosen to be Chattan Torah at our local shul. (Chattan Torah, "Bridegroom of the Torah," is the man chosen for the reading of the last few verses of the Torah [in English, the end of Deuteronomy].) At first, I resented the feeling that my husband and I, being among the few congregants interested in and/or young enough to indulge in singing and dancing, were the unpaid entertainment. But after a few years, I simply accepted the idea that leading the dancing was our role, and thought that we were doing a good deed for the congregation.

Unfortunately, time has taken its inevitable toll. Last year, I noticed that the number of congregants standing around and talking during the hakkafot vastly outnumbered even the singers, much less the dancers. So this year, I decided to go back to Ansche Chesed, even though that would mean leaving my poor husband (who's the chair of the Ritual Committee) to lead the dancing at such festivities as are left at our local shul. I concluded that I was right to assume that I'd enjoy myself a lot more at AC when the locals begged me to stick around for Erev Simchat Torah (the Evening of Simchat Torah), for fear that they wouldn't get a minyan without me. (If memory serves me correctly, it was partly because we almost didn't get a minyan for Simchat Torah several years ago that the synagogue decided to start counting women for a minyan.) To make a long story painfully short, we got less than 20 people, and my husband and I were the only people dancing. Even my best buddy couldn't join us--her knees have given out. As I said to her, "It's official--I'm too young for this shul." (Have I mentioned lately that I'm 57?) So I went to AC, and danced with Minyan M'at until almost 4 PM. (!) (They weren't even the wildest dancers--the 20- and 30-somethings of Kehilat Hadar were too wild even for me.)

It was an interestingly mixed year for me. On the one hand, I haven't had this much fun on Simchat Torah in probably more that a decade. On the other hand, it was a bit rough on my ego, knowing that, since a number of the congregants of our local synagogue had specifically requested that the hakafot be kept short and sweet, they were probably just as glad that I wasn't there.


Blogger Elie said...

I know I sound like a total stick in the mud, but Simchas Torah is probably my least favorite Jewish holiday. I am a "radical moderate" by nature, and ST has become the ultimate holiday of extremes. The hashkama [early] minyanim rush through hakafos and finish at 10 am, the regular minyanim "dray" forever and finish mid-afternoon. Much too early or much too late, nothing in-between. And then there's the excessive drunkenness and out-of-bounds behavior, the endless re-reading of the parsha, selling of kibbudim, etc. Just so not my style. I feel like the thrill of finishing and re-starting the torah, which is what it's really all about, is totally drowned out by all the horsing around and craziness.

Wed Oct 18, 09:29:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Elie, you're in good company. Dilbert isn’t too happy with Simchat Torah either, and DovBear is full of complaints,too.

I'm happy to report that I've never celebrated Simchat Torah in a synagogue that sells kibbudim (ritual-participation honors). I find the public announcement of pledges objectionable, since it embarrasses those who can't afford to donate. This was my first encounter with bottles being passed around, though, and I was none too happy about that. I think it's disrespectful to davven while tipsy. (I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's assur, forbidden, as well.) Excessive drinking sets a bad example for our children, tempts alcohols, and can lead to close calls such as this one.

I don't mind a little goofing off, though. Some of us need to blow off some steam after 18,000 repititions of Al Chet. :)

Wed Oct 18, 08:29:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Elie said...

Aw, c'mon. It's only 396 repetitions of Al Cheit!

Point well taken. And yes, it's definitely asur to daven while drunk. A rule honored in the breach on many a Shabbos by the "kiddush clubs", and especially on Simchas Torah.

Thu Oct 19, 05:59:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

What, only 396 repetitions? :)

Thanks for the info--I'm happy to know that praying while drunk is prohibited. Would that that rule were honored more in the observance and less in the breach. I think that kiddush clubs should be banned. I also object to the practice of serving alcoholic beverages at the smorgasbords that have become so popular in recent years before weddings--I don't believe that anyone should go into a wedding ceremonly already tipsy. People tend to forget that a wedding is a religious ceremony.

Thu Oct 19, 09:02:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Judith said...

This 50-something has a great time with Kehilat Hadar every year. It does get shvitzy. :-)

Carlebach the night before (if you can get in) is even more shvitzy.

Thu Oct 26, 03:41:00 PM 2006  

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