Thursday, January 19, 2012

Missing at Limmud: Zimun and z'mirot

There were so many courses being given during meals at the Limmud NY 2012 Conference that many, if not most, people, just ate quickly or grabbed a take-out box and ate in class. Unfortunately, this embarrassment of riches actually pitted study against song on Shabbat/Sabbath. I was a bit taken aback by the fact that no one stayed at a Shabbat lunch table long enough even to make a m'zuman for singing Birkat HaMazon/ Grace after Meals (as opposed to reciting it silently as an individual), much less long enough to sing a zemer (Shabbat table song) or two. It's a sad state of affairs to be spending a Shabbat with hundreds of Jews and not be able to sing Birkat HaMazon aloud after lunch.

In my opinion, this is one area in which the week-long National Havurah Institute has a clear advantage over the four-day Limmud NY Conference. Since the Institute lasts for an entire week, giving it five full days for classes, there's plenty of time on Shabbat to actually experience some oneg/delight. (We didn't go last summer, but, if memory serves me correctly, there are no classes on Shabbat itself.) I have fond memories of a large group of people sitting around an Institute table singing z'mirot for ages. I wish I could think of a way to encourage more singing on Shabbat at Limmud.



Blogger Miami Al said...

Not everyone enjoys singing. As traditional Judaism follows Orthodoxy's move towards textual-focused religion, the people that are "interested" in religion are going to be textual-focused people. So people that like song will find themselves finding alternative outlets.

Thu Jan 19, 04:19:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This sounds like the old dispute between Mitnagdim and Chassidim as to whether studying Torah or serving G-d with joy was more important. It would be a pity if text-focused people elbowed song-focused people aside. I don't think a Jew should feel a need to choose.

Thu Jan 19, 05:05:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Miami Al said...

"(We didn't go last summer, but, if memory serves me correctly, there are no classes on Shabbat itself.)"

That certainly seems to be elbowing aside the more academically interested Jews, no?

Fri Jan 20, 01:01:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Not so--Institute attendees have five full days of classes. Attendees choose a morning class and an afternoon class, and attend each class Mon.-Fri., so one has much more study time per subject at the Institute than in Limmud's classes, which generally run only an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half. In addition, there are usually some special one-session "workshops" on Shabbat.

Fri Jan 20, 10:12:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous jdub the misnaged said...

there's a difference between have a zimun and singing birkat ha'mazon aloud. Having a zimun when three men (or three women) eat together is an halachic requirement, singing it is not. If they didn't have a zimun at all on shabbat, that's a real embarrassment. If they didn't sing out loud, I respond "meh." We sing it out loud because we have small kids, but I'd prefer to say it quietly otherwise.

Fri Jan 20, 10:40:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

We certainly had a m'zuman at one point or the other, but not when we were finished eating and ready to bentch (recite Birkat HaMazon). Everyone was in such a rush that we would often start a meal at a table full of people and end it with just the two of us remaining. I would have settled for singing just through the first b'rachah/blessing ("hazan et hakol").

For the record, we did have a m'zuman for Birkat HaMazon on Erev Shabbat. That was the one and only we did the zimun all weekend.

Fri Jan 20, 12:03:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous jdub said...

Uh, you're saying contradictory things. You said you had a zimun at one point or another, but then said that erev shabbat was the only time you did it. Which is it?

The zimun isn't about singing. Singing isn't mandatory. and zimun and m'zumen mean exactly the same thing.

Mon Jan 23, 09:19:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry for the confusion. What I meant was that we certainly had enough people present at the conference to make a m'zuman (three adults [or three adult males, for traditionalists]) and do the zimun (invitation to bentsch), but there wasn't a m'zuman present at our table when we were ready to bentsch, so we couldn't begin Birkat HaMazon with a zimun.

Mon Jan 23, 09:53:00 AM 2012  

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