Monday, December 26, 2011

Awkward moments

Shabbat/Sabbath (Saturday) morning

The congregant not only didn't remember that it was her brother's yahrzeit, she didn't even remember that she'd had a brother. Her non-Jewish aide stood in her stead while the Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish prayer was recited.

Shabbat afternoon
Another congregant's mental capacities have been declining noticeably in recent months. We have to be careful to remind him what time services will take place, lest he show up two hours late and miss the whole thing. But his behavior at Minchah/Afternoon Service still surprised us considerably. Our congregation may now count women for a minyan, but we're still a traditional enough synagogue not to allow the use of musical instruments on Shabbat or Yom Tov (major holidays). So you can imagine how taken aback we were when this fellow pulled a harmonica out of his pocket and began playing it in the middle of Minchah/Afternoon Service. At first, we tried to shush him, but it quickly became apparent that he had no idea that he was doing anything unacceptable. So, not wishing to embarrass him in public, we told him how nicely he was playing, and, since he was clearly pleased at his idea to play the harmonica for us, complimented him on his talent.


Sunday morning

It's a good thing I got to minyan on time yesterday. Just after we finished reciting the Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings, I snuck across the aisle, tapped a guy on the shoulder, and whispered, "You might want to get your kippah out from under your tefillin strap." (According to halachah/Jewish religious law, tefillin must rest directly on the body, with no clothing intervening.) As it happens, my friendly warning saved the man from a more public embarrassment--it turned out that he was the one who'd been given the honor of leading the matbeiah/required part of the service, and he would, no doubt, have been stopped and publicly corrected if he'd gone up to the amud/reading stand with his kippah stuck under the strap of his shel rosh/head tefillin. I haven't forgotten the time they stopped a guy who'd just started to recite the Chatzi Kaddish prayer before the Musaf Amidah prayer on a Rosh Chodesh/New Month because he'd forgotten to remove his tefillin first, as is required.

Sunday evening
I was the only person at the Chanukah party who was reciting b'rachot/blessings over the food before eating, covering my mouth in the hope that I wouldn't be too obvious. Oy.


Anonymous Dov said...


A point about your Sunday morning story:

According to the ruling of Rema (Oraḥ Ḥayyim 27:4) there is no problem with the straps of the tefillin going over the person’s kippah, as long as there is no separation between the person’s head and the bayit. There are those who disagree, and the custom in your shul may accord with them, but in my humble opinion it is improper to correct a person publicly about such a thing if it might cause him significant embarrassment (such as if he is leading the service), being that he certainly has whom to rely on.

(For a contemporary source see Yabi’a Omer II O.Ḥ. 2.)

Mon Dec 26, 07:40:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the information. So it's only the bayit (box containing the texts) that must be placed directly on one's body. It's possible that I learned incorrectly, misunderstood, or just plain forgot.

I did try to be as discreet as possible. It was not my intention to embarrass anyone in public. But I'll certainly think twice about doing anything similar in the future.

Mon Dec 26, 08:54:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...

No problem. There are authorities who maintain that it is better that the straps be directly on one's body as well, which is probably what you remember learning. I was simply pointing out that there is ample room for leniency. I should say that probably did a good thing correcting the guy anyway, because you imply that someone else might have publicly embarrassed him later had he not fixed it then. In that case, leaving halakha aside, at least you saved him from a much greater embarrassment.

Mon Dec 26, 09:32:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Dov, that is probably what I learned, but I'm certainly glad to have the matter clarified. It's important to know that there's room for leniency regarding what's permissible under the retzuot/straps.

Tue Dec 27, 10:13:00 AM 2011  

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