Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tales out of shul :)

Now that my father's nine months of kaddish are over, I'm back at my old stomping grounds--our local Conservative synagogue--on Sunday for Shacharit/Morning Service.  There, I've gotten two surprises, one pleasant, one not.

The good news
I had completely forgotten that, because two of our members--namely, me and the woman who sits next to me at Shabbat/Sabbath morning services--are both hard-core davveners (pray-ers) who learned the prayers late in life and can't keep up with the average yeshiva grad, the cantor has made it a point to lead the Sunday morning service at a slower speed than he would prefer.  It's a pleasure to be able to davven/pray a weekday morning service at (almost) literally my own pace when I'm in a synagogue, and not just when I'm praying bi-y'chidut/alone at home.

 The bad news
This morning, the cantor had to leave right after Shacharit, the congregant who usually splits the divrei-Torah (study session) honors with him was not present, my davvening partner (see above) was preparing to coordinate her extended family's Mother's Day celebration later today, and my husband was teaching his usual college accounting class.  So when it came time for Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals following the "minyannaires" breakfast, there were only three people present, and, of those three, I was the only one knowledgeable enough to lead.  Much to my dismay, no one responded when I led the zimun (formal verbal invitation to say Birkat HaMazon), due to limited Hebrew-reading skills.  I had serious halachic reservations regarding whether I should "lead" the zimun in the future under those same cirmcumstances, but I thought about it on the way home, and concluded that I should treat the zimun like the chazarat haShaTz (repetition of the Amidah prayer by the prayer leader)--just as the ShaTz/shaliach tzibur (representative of the congregation/prayer leader) repeats the Amidah for the benefit of those who may not be able to read it, so one should say the zimun no matter who's there, for the benefit of those who don't know the responses.  When I lead, I will continue my practice of always slowing down when I get to the chatimah/seal/closing line(s) of each b'rachah/blessing, in the hope that the others will be able to join me (with the help of the transliteration).


    Blogger Miami Al said...

    For what it's worth, conventional Orthodox practice is that the person leading slows down and reads the last line out loud for everyone to answer amen. General practice is on the first Bracha, some do the first three, some do all four. The Artscroll bencher indicates that it should be on all four, but that's not common in practice.

    Also, is that the honor falls on who is "due" the honor... Cohen, Levi, Israelite. Within those brackets, the tie breaker is: Rabbi, Father (in order of number of children), Single man. Some also use whoever is more of a guest receives the honor.

    All of which is relatively informal, it's not like a Torah Aliyah, but it sort of is.

    OTOH, on Simchat Torah, if we need to pass honors to different people, the Cohanim may be hinted at to leave the room so we can promote someone to Cohen status... while that practice is frowned upon in the Halachic literature, it's certainly done.

    Mon May 14, 11:13:00 AM 2012  
    Blogger Shira Salamone said...

    I'm not ignoring you, I'm just crazy busy at work.

    I honestly don't know whether I came up with the idea of slowing down for the chatimot on my own, or whether I'd heard it elsewhere first. Good idea, either way.

    We're not so fussy in our shul--generally, the honor of leading Birkat HaMazon goes to the cantor, my husband, or me. 2 Leviim & 1 female. Interesting combo. :) Fussy or not, we rarely have any Cohanim present anyway, except on Rosh HaShanah & Yom Kippur.

    Tue May 15, 09:45:00 AM 2012  
    Blogger Shira Salamone said...

    The only reason why just the 3 of us take turns leading Birkat HaMazon is that the only 2 other people knowledgeable enough to lead are tone-deaf, poor souls. It hurts my ears badly enough already when they chant haftarot. :)

    Tue May 15, 10:42:00 AM 2012  

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