Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Back to the future, unfortunately

It's not my girlfriends' fault that their adult Bat Mitzvah celebrations will take place on Erev Shabbat/Sabbath Eve/Friday night--the organization from which their synagogue rents space has other activities scheduled on Saturday morning in the shul's rented room. But it's been years since I attended an Erev Shabbat Torah reading voluntarily, and I think I was not yet a Bat Mitzvah myself the last time I went to an Erev Shabbat Bat Mitzvah celebration. I'll go, because I'm happy that they're celebrating this long-delayed simchah/happy occasion, but I feel a bit weird about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is a Torah reading on Friday night any wierder than a women getting an aliyah or layning or wearing a tallit?
All are liberal American innovations that are without precedent in Judaism.
I remember one time in a Conservative shul, two older guys were arguing about a minor point of nusach (both points of view were totally fine) yet no one seemed to care that everyone broke Shabbos and there was no mechitzah!

Thu Feb 04, 09:51:00 AM 2010  
Blogger elf's DH said...

I would ask the same question as Anonymous, but coming from the opposite point of view -- aside from being nontraditional, what's wrong with a public Torah reading on Friday night?

The Monday, Thursday, Shabbat Torah reading cycle seems intended to introduce Torah readings when people will be in shul to hear them. (Monday and Thursday were market days; I'm not sure of the sociology of how that got people in shul, but they seem to be related). If people come to shul on Friday night, why not read Torah then?

Thu Feb 04, 10:15:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That's an interesting perspective, Anon. As a lifelong Conservative Jew, I hadn't thought of these practices from quite that angle.

Elf's DH, I'm not sure that the Monday and Thursday Torah readings originally took place in whatever passed for a synagogue in those days: I'm under the impression, quite possibly incorrect, that the readings were done right there in the marketplace.

"If people come to shul on Friday night, why not read Torah then?" You may have a point there--the market-day readings do seem to provide a precedent.

Thu Feb 04, 11:11:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't find the source or the reasoning behind it, but there is some sort of halachic distaste/prohibition against public layning at night. When the practice of of layning on the night of Simchat Torah was first introduced, many commmunities (particulary in Germany) opposed it. The original practice was for the Torah reader to simply start layning without giving out aliyot, so that it wasn't a "real" Torah reading. In German congregations today, the aliyot are given ONLY to minors so that it maintains this feel of not being a "real" Torah reading. There are also some Chasidic congregations that layn sefer Devarim on the night of Hoshana Rabbah, but again, without aliyot, and again to the consternation of some.

Thu Feb 04, 11:21:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon 11:21 AM, this is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps, in the days before electricity, keeping people out later than necessary after sundown may have been considered a dangerous practice. It's one thing to gather in a central place to make a minyan for Maariv (Evening Service), but quite another to stay a few additional unneccessary minutes for a Torah reading, increasing one's risk of being robbed--or worse--on the way home in the dark.

Thu Feb 04, 12:42:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that too, at first, but upon reflection that theory doesn't hold water.
The Megillah reading has to be at night and so does Eichah, and both of these were instituted before the advent of electricity. There is also no prohibition against being in shul all night learning, in fact this considered meritorious. There is something specific about a public Torah reading with aliyot that is not supposed to mix with the nighttime, I just don't know why.

Thu Feb 04, 01:10:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oh, well, so much for *that* theory.

Any takers?

Thu Feb 04, 01:25:00 PM 2010  
Blogger The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Explanation at

Elf's DH does lay out the usual reasoning given for a Friday night Torah Reading in the Reform context.

Thu Feb 04, 05:37:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Jacob said...

re. Elf's DH "Monday and Thursday were market days; I'm not sure of the sociology of how that got people in shul, but they seem to be related". If you're a farmer (and in pre-modern times, almost everyone was a farmer), then you're going to be in town for market day.

Thu Feb 04, 06:22:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Reform BT, thanks for the link. It was interesting reading.

Jacob, the shepherds may have come to market on those days, too, along with the craftspeople and small-business owners--everyone needs to eat, after all. I agree that market days would have been a great time to draw a crowd for a Torah reading.

Fri Feb 05, 08:22:00 AM 2010  

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