Friday, September 28, 2012

Sukkot primer

The Festival of Sukkot begins this coming Sunday (for 2013, Wednesday, September 18) at sunset.  You can read the basics here.

See also my Concerning halachically-permissible ways to take a shower on a Yom Tov/major holiday

The following is copied from my (updated and reorganized) "What to say when" file in Word (with apologies for being unable to copy the original formatting):

• Amidah for Chol HaMoed

o Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv/Arvit (Nov. 2, 2011 update)—regular weekday or Shabbat version, to which one adds Yaaleh V’Yavo.

o Musaf—Shalosh R’galim version (which includes additions for Shabbat).

o During the Amidah prayer of the Maariv/Arvit/Evening Services that mark the end of the first day(s) of Yom Tov and the beginning of Chol HaMoed, one recites Atah Chonantanu, after which one is permitted to do necessary work during Chol HaMoed.


• October 22, 2008 update: On Sukkot, including Chol HaMoed Sukkot, Hallel is always Full Hallel—there’s never a Half-Hallel during Sukkot.

• Aliyot

o Shabbat:

 If any of the Shalosh R’galim, including Chol HaMoed, fall on Shabbat, they always have the 7 aliyot that are standard on Shabbat.

o Weekdays:

 Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed—4;

 Shalosh R’galim and Rosh HaShanah—5;

 Yom Kippur—6.

• Readings--April 8, 2012 (post-havdalah) correction:

o For the 1st 2 days of the Shalosh R'galim Sukkot, the reading from the 1st Torah scroll is Leviticus 22:26-23:44, from Parshat Emor (leave the corners of the field for the poor; commandments re lulav and etrog, sukkah, etc.).

o For Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the reading from the 1st Torah scroll is Sh'mot/Exodus 33:12-34:26, from Parshat Ki Tisa.

o For Hoshana Rabbah, the reading is B'midbar/Numbers 29:26-34, from Parshat Pinchas (the source of all maftir readings for Shalosh R'galim and the Yamim Noraim).

Birkat HaMazon/Grace After Meals

• October 18, 2011 update: When reciting Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals on Chol HaMoed, one does *not* recite the HaRachaman for Yom Tov.

• November 2, 2011 update re Birkat HaMazon from the comments to this post:

Larry Lennhoff said...

Also we say 'Sukkah David HaNofelet' both during YT and Chol Hamoed Sukkot, even if we aren't eating in the sukkah because of rain or other factors.

WED OCT 19, 01:43:00 PM 2011

Where and what to eat

October 22, 2008 update: Rabbi __ says that one is forbidden to eat only bread and mezonot (including rice, I’ve heard) outside of a sukkah during Sukkot. That sounds reasonable to me. (Note to self: Stock up on corn (fresh or frozen), corn thins, corn chips/and/or mezonot-free corn tortillas, and on potatoes and/or potato chips.) He also says that one is permitted to eat outside of a sukkah if one’s health would be harmed by eating therein. This is of particular relevance for seniors during cold weather. I think he said that one may eat indoors in rainy weather.

September 28, 2012 update:  Buckwheat and quinoa, not to mention corn and/or quinoa pasta, should be on the "permissible" list, too, unless one accepts the tradition, held by some, that one is only permitted to eat "sheh-hakol" foods outside of the sukkah (see below).

Halachic head-scratcher (as in, "Huh?!")
From: [me]

To: [deleted]

Subject: Halachic head-scratcher (as in, "Huh?!")

Date: Friday, October 17, 2003 3:00 PM

According to one of my co-workers, it's assur (prohibited) for Jews (in her community, this probably refers to men only) to eat any foods requiring a blessing "fancier" (higher in halachic status?) than "shehakol" during Sukkot unless they're eating in a sukkah, which would pretty much limit me to tuna and chocolate for lunch. (Any excuse for chocolate will do :).) [My husband] tells me that one of his frummer colleagues from his [former full-time job from which he retired] days would simply not eat at all if there were no sukkah available. Talk about conflicting halachot,

a.. how on earth can you possible "rejoice in your festival" ("v'samachta b'chagecha") when you're fasting,

b.. and isn't it assur/forbidden to fast on a Yom Tov?

(My perception is that Yom Kippur is the exception that confirms both rules.)

Hoshanot question

• October 18, 2011: I think I overhead [my husband] confirming with Cantor __ that the Hoshanot of Sukkot and Hoshana Rabbah can only be recited if one has a minyan. (Is this true?).  Hoshanot explanations:  Page-length, full of fascinating detailsFour paragraphsThree paragraphs.

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Sameach/Happy Holiday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Post-Yom-Kippur notes and report

Here's what I learned this year, and will add to my notes:

  • Spotted in Selichot (and Neilah?)--Avraham Avinu/Abraham Our Father is also known as Eitan (alef, tav, yod, nun?).  Why?  What does Eitan mean?  I'd certainly appreciate it if some of my more learned readers could enlighten me.
  • Do not davven Minchah (pray the Afternoon Service) before Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement on the subway ride home--Minchah on Erev Yom Kippur includes the "Long" Vidui/Confessional "Al Chet sheh-chatanu l'fanecha/"For the sin that we have sinned before You . . . "!  Davven as soon as possible after arriving home (but before eating your pre-fast meal/seder ha-mafseket!).
  • Minchah on Yom Kippur also includes Avinu Malkenu, as does every Shacharit/Morning Service and every Minchah during the Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah/Ten Days of Repentence between Rosh HaShanah/New Year and Yom Kippur.  The jury's still out on this--my cantor and High Holiday rabbi say that Avinu Malkenu should only be said with a minyan, but two of my colleagues (one Ashkenazi, one Sefardi) say that they always pray this prayer, even when davvening bi-y'chidut/praying alone.  Is this a question of halachah/Jewish religious law or of minhag/custom?
  • The Thirteen Attributes of G-d (HaShem, HaShem, Kel rachum v'chanun) appear twice during the Neilah Service.  To the best of my recollection, this is the only time that this quote (Sh'mot/Exodus 34:6 and part of 7) is recited twice in one service.
Just out of curiousity, I timed the silent Amidah prayer of Musaf on Yom Kippur, and found that we took roughly 15 minutes.  Is that typical?

This wasn't one of my easier fasts--I was sufficiently off-balance by the end of the Musaf Service that I didn't think I'd be able to continue the fast if I walked home and back during the afternoon break, so I stayed in shul for the first time in years.  I also thought it wise not to stand for the entire Neilah Service, a first for me.  Oh, well, at least I made it through the fast.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 update:

I sent my questions via e-mail to my "G-d Squad" list of rabbis, rabbinical students, cantors, cantorial students, and Torah scholars, and received one reply, thus far.

""Eitan" means "foundation" which is poetically applied to Abraham as the foundation/founder of Monotheism and the Jewish people.

My personal/family custom is not to say Avinu Malkeinu when davening in private. Additionally, I don't say the long tachnun for Monday/Thursday mornings, or tachnun in mincha at all, without a minyan either.
I believe these minhagim are of "nusach sefard" (chassidic) origin, although they may be just personal family practices. Unfortunately there is nobody for me to confirm this with anymore, but "minhag avoseynu biyadeynu" (our ancestors customs are in our hands).

Be well and g'mar tov!

Elie" (formerly [?] of Elie's Expositions)

Rav todot/many thanks, Elie!  Avraham Avinu certainly is a fine foundation for the Jewish People.

As for Avinu Malkeinu, I don't what the minhag of my ancestors was, unfortunately, since neither of my parents (l'shalom) ever davvened bi-y'chidut,  but this answer may work for some of my readers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

G'mar Chatimah Tovah

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sunset this evening.  I apologize for any offense that I might have caused in my writing here, and hope my readers have an easy and meaningful fast and are all sealed in the Book of Life for a good, healthy, happy (and preferably prosperous) year.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Another one gone :(

With all the people in our congregation who are suffering from serious illnesses, this was one death that we didn't see coming.  There'll be no Israeli folk dancing for me tonight--I have a shiva call to pay.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Holiday posts, Fall 5773/2012, thus far

Here we go again :(

Our regular cantor is having some necessary medical testing done after Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement on one of the upcoming holidays, so the president of our synagogue, in his infinite wisdom (quoth she sarcastically) is bringing back our would-be High Holiday cantor to replace him temporarily.  He thinks it doesn't matter because "it's the same as Shabbos."  Uh, no.  It does matter, because the nusach for the Shalosh R'galim/Pilgrimage Festivals is not the same as the nusach for Shabbos/Shabbat/Sabbath, and because this under-trained Sefardi cantor, never having led a Shalosh R'galim service in an Ashkenazi congregation before (to the best of my knowledge), is probably no better qualified to lead an Ashkenazi Shalosh R'galim service than he was to lead an Ashkenazi Yamim Noraim/High Holiday service.  If our thinks-he-knows-it-all president had had the good sense to, ya know, ask someone who actually knows something about leading services, he might have concluded that the smart thing would have been to to hire someone else to lein and let my husband lead, rather that the other way around.  Instead, my poor husband is going to have to sweat bullets learning to lein the entire Torah reading for that holiday morning in less than three weeks, whereas he probably could have led a reasonably-respectable and "nusach-ically correct" Shacharit/Morning Service and Musaf/Additional Service with some practice.  (Remember that my husband, while a faster Hebrew reader and learner than I am and, unlike me, perfectly capable of chanting a haftarah without practice, is still, like me, a Hebrew School grad, not a yeshiva grad, and is not fluent in Hebrew, and therefore, is not much faster than I am at learning a no-vowels, no-punctuation, no-cantillation-marks Torah reading.  On the other hand, as a regular attendee of our Ashkenazi synagogue services, he can probably sing the Ashkenazi Shalosh R'galim nusach in his sleep, as can I.)   But the president doesn't care--he just wants someone cheap who's had some formal cantorial and voice training.  (He loves chazzanut.)  Sigh.  The president's a stubborn and incorrigible egocentric who rarely asks for help and/or advice unless he thinks he has no choice, but I suppose that, come Yom Kippur, I'll have to forgive him anyway.

And now, for something completely different.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trying to see my actions thru others' eyes, 2

Part one is here.

When I first began wearing a tallit, it was considered unusual, but not offensive--after all, I belonged to an egalitarian congregation full of feminists.  Even when we moved to "outer borough" and, for lack of a better local alternative, joined a non-egalitarian Conservative synagogue, the other congregants, while quite taken aback, never tried to stop me from donning a tallit and never asked me to remove it.  I'm embarrassed to say that I've never been as tolerant of their preference as they've been of mine.  For years, I tried to push the congregation to become egalitarian.  I've "mellowed out" enough after 28 years of membership to realize that the shul is likely to close its doors (for lack of members, as many of our figurative and literal old-timers pass away) before becoming egalitarian.  It doesn't hurt, either, that one or two of my regular commenters have taken me to task for trying to impose my practice on others and/or expecting them to accommodate me even when they find my practice offensive.  Point taken.  Even though my current thinking is that it's highly unlikely that I'll ever become Orthodox, if I changed my mind, I'd pray the Shacharit/Morning Service up to the Torah reading at home, then remove my tallit and go to shul, rather than worrying about finding one of the three and a half Orthodox synagogues on earth in which my tallit-wearing wouldn't be offensive.

Another change that I'm trying to making in my attitude and actions is to tone down my tendency to appear and/or act "holier than thou."  Who am I to criticize someone else's observance level?  Working on becoming more tolerant and less judgmental is another goal of mine for 5773.

Yet another goal of mine for this new year is to become less self-centered and more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.  I've developed a bad habit of thinking less about how difficult situations affect  the people who are actually dealing with them and more about how they affect me.  This is truly unconscionable, and I'm bound and determined to change my actions and attitudes.

I have my work cut out for me in 5773.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My 5773 resolution: To work on my health

For years, I've suffered from a mild tendency to dizziness, which has caused me to "rechoreograph" a lot of Israeli and international folk dances rather than giving up one of my favorite hobbies--it's possible to skip most of the turns in a circle dance, provided that one ends up on the same foot and moving in the same direction as everyone else.  But about a year ago, I began to notice that not only was I prone to dizziness, I was also beginning to feel frequently slightly off-balance for no discernible reason, even when off the dance floor.  So the first change I made was to cut my salt intake, mostly by reducing my tortilla-chip consumption, in case I had a mild case of Meuniere's Disease.  These days, my biggest salt dose comes in the form of the Salty Dog Rag.  :)

Then there was my successful experiment to see whether I could end my chest pains by eating fewer nuts.  I'm now very careful to restrict the quantity of nuts and seeds that I eat per day.

Several weeks later, I pigged out on chocolate at a fancy kiddush and got the worst case of heartburn that I've had in years.  So I added chocolate to my "consume with caution" list.  White potatoes have already been on that list for a while, which is why I ended up munching tortilla chips in the first place.

Speaking of tortilla chips, that brings me back to the original topic--Ms. Dizzy Dame is now concerned about being frequently off-balance, as well, even when walking rather than dancing.  I finally decided that it was time for some investigation.  So I went to my otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), who sent me to a neurologist, who prescribed testing by an audiologist, as well as an MRI.  Ugh.  I'd already had that particular audiological test twice before, and while it's painless and non-invasive, it certainly makes me nauseous--at the end of the test, the audiologist deliberately induces vertigo by using some gadget to blow air into each of the patient's ears for at least a minute straight.  Round three wasn't much better than the previous two.  Better yet (quoth she sarcastically) was the MRI--I lasted all of 10 minutes in that claustrophobic contraption before begging the technician to get me out of there.  The technician and the neurologist's staff suggested that I try an open MRI and/or an MRI under valium.  But I figured that an open MRI wouldn't help the claustrophobia, since there would be a plastic shield over my eyes blocking my view anyway, and as for valium, I wasn't about to enter that claustrophobic tube under the influence of a drug that I've never taken in my life.  So I begged for, and got, an MRI under anesthesia.  Bless the fine folks at Roosevelt Hospital, and bless my husband for his medical insurance, since I'm sure the bills will be sky-high. 

The good news is that all the MRI showed was arthritis in the cervical spine (the neck part), which explains why I can't nap on my husband's shoulder in the subway anymore without getting a stiff neck (sigh).  No cancer, nothing requiring surgery and/or other radical measures.

The bad news is that the audiologist's test showed that my inner-ear balance center is stronger in one ear than in the other, which accounts for me feeling off-balance.  I'm now awaiting a referral for vestibular therapy.

In the meantime, I've decided to get a little exercise daily by walking up the stairs both at home and at the office.  I'm hoping that the addition of a little exercise, combined with the substraction of large quantities of tortilla chips, nuts, seeds, and chocolate from my diet, will help me keep my weight within a reasonable limit.  I'm also trying to increase my vitamin intake by bringing an entire sliced bell pepper to work every day, though where I'm going to get decent-tasting bell peppers in the middle of the winter is a good question.

Wish me luck with my 5773 resolution.  I wish all my readers a G'mar Chatimah Tovah--may you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good (and healthy) year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trying to see my actions thru the eyes of others

One or two of my regular commenters have been on my case for a couple of years or so regarding my habit of expecting my largely-non-observant congregation to support my increasing level of observance.  I think this conversation started a few years ago, when I complained that my shul's sukkah was inaccessible on chol hamoed ("intermediate" days of a holiday, on which one is permitted to work) due to the fact that the synagogue rented so much of its space.  His/her/their response was that, since the mitzvah/commandment of (at least) eating (if not sleeping) in a sukkah devolves upon the individual, not the community, it was my own responsibility to find a sukkah in which to eat, not the synagogue's responsibility to provide me with one.  Further conversations involved my complaint that the Ritual Committee had voted to allow the synagogue to buy dairy baked goods from a bakery that's not under rabbinic supervision (though we still buy parve baked goods from a kosher bakery).  The response was that, there being only one other congregant who won't eat the baked goods from the non-kosher bakery, I couldn't expect a non-observant congregation to accommodate my level of kashrut observance.  There were probably a few more conversations of that sort that I've forgotten.

But the general theme seems to have registered, and it had an impact on my davvening/praying this Rosh HaShanah.  After busting my chops to try to say as much of the Musaf Amidah prayer as possible in Hebrew on the first day, I realized that I was creating a tircha d'tzibbur, a burden on the community.  The problem is that I'm stuck right in the middle.  At one extreme are the ex-yeshiva bachurim, the former yeshiva students (and yes, as the Hebrew grammar indicates, they're mostly male in our congregation), who davven at 90 miles per hour and flat-out deny that they're praying quickly because, to them, davvening at 90 miles an hour is simply normal.  At the other extreme are those who either pray in English or simply don't pray the entire Amidah.  The result for each group is exactly the same, ironically enough--both groups (complete the Amidah and) sit down long before I do.  I'm always one of the last two or three people left standing.  And that means that the congregation ends up waiting for Ms. Slowpoke.  :(  So, on the second day, I decided to read only the Malchuyot verses in Hebrew because they're the only verses that I know well enough to read quickly--I read the Zichronot and Shofarot verses almost entire in English.  I also followed my standard "in-a-hurry" procedure and skipped directly from the final b'rachah/blessing to "Yi'yu l'ratzon . . .," then "Oseh shalom," then skipped the Temple stuff and sat down.

I have complained before, and will continue to complain, that davvening b'tzibbur/praying with a community forces me to pray way too quickly for me to have much kavvanah/focus to speak of.  (See Morning Madness--on davvenning Shacharit and Near tears at morning minyan.)  I can't find it on my blog, so it's possible that I mentioned it on someone else's, but I distinctly remember having timed the length of our Rosh HaShanah "silent" Musaf Amidah one year, and having had another commenter express shock that our shul gave the silent pray so little time--in her synagogue, roughly twice as much time was alloted, if I remember correctly.  But, on the other hand, I'm still trying to resign myself to the fact that a minyan, or, certainly, our minyan, can only wait just so long for slow davveners, and to pace myself accordingly, to the best of my ability, especially on the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays.

Rosh HaShanah report

Okay, I made a pig of myself and gained three pounds--I never thought I'd be grateful for a half-day fast-- but what really upset me was the absence of so many people from synagogue.  Some were stuck at home due to health problems, others--especially the cane-and-walker brigade--didn't make it on the second day due to torrential rain and strong winds.  I hope to see all (or at least most) of them this coming Shabbat/Sabbath morning.

The good news is that our regular cantor was still in good enough health to be able to lead substantial parts of the services--he scheduled his treatment for after the holidays.  This was fortunate, since the cantor who was originally hired to replace him on the holidays had the good sense, and the good grace, to call the president after the Selichot service and say that he wasn't really well-enough acquainted with the Ashkenazi nusach for the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays to lead our services properly--he's now booked to lead us on a few Shabbatot, instead, while our regular cantor is in treatment and recovery, and was on hand to lead the Minchah/Afternoon Service before Rosh HaShanah and the Arvit/Maariv/Evening Service after RH, as well as from Ein Kelokenu through the end of the services.  (Methinks the president may be grooming him for a future role in our synagogue.)  In addition, our High Holiday rabbi was able to lend a hand by leading Shacharit/Morning Service quite nicely, and by leining/doing k'riat haTorah/chanting the Bible reading from the Torah scroll on the second day of Rosh HaShanah.  So the services went far better than anticipated.

The bad news--and it's really bad--is that one of our congregants was hospitalized shortly before Rosh HaShanah in extremely serious condition.  A few of us paid a bikur cholim visit to her/him in the hospital this past Sunday morning after Shacharit.  This particular congregant has been on my cholim/[prayers for the] sick list for at least a month, and will stay on my list until he/she gets well . . . or doesn't.  :( :( :(

Friday, September 14, 2012

Holiday special

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Parshat Nitzavim: 5772/2012 thoughts

Basics here.

More oldies:

To be continued--the boss calleth.

A few hours later:  Now that I've completed my assignments and earned my pay, I can add this link to the Conservadox Nitzavim post, which I find very insightful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Awkward situations

Two Jews, three opinions, and/or grammatically incorrect?
A few months ago, an Israeli-American acquaintance corrected my Hebrew--he said that the correct term for Jews of Middle Eastern/West Asian origin is B'nei Adot haMizrach, not B'nei Edot haMizrach.  Okay, apparently this is a classic case of "two Jews, three opinions."  :)

He later informed me that the correct Hebrew translation of "tradition" is "masoret," not "mesorah."  Maybe, maybe not.  Just about every complaint I've read on various blogs about women violating "tradition" even when we're not violating halachah (Jewish religious law) by, for example, leading the Kabbalat Shabbat service, has used the word "mesorah."  My Hebrew-English dictionary translates "tradition" as "masorah"--note the change in vowel--but, on the Hebrew side, translates the word "masoret" as tradition.  Go figure.

Most recently, though, my Israeli-American acquaintance startled me by stating that the correct Hebrew for Pilgrimage Festivals is Sh'loshah R'galim.  Folks, I returned to regular synagogue attendance almost 40 years ago, and in almost 40 years of being a "shul regular," I've never heard the Pilgrimage Festivals called anything but Shalosh R'galim.  When I told this to my husband, he replied that Sh'loshah R'galim is grammatically incorrect because "r'galim" is an exception to the rule--it's a feminine noun that takes a masculine ending.  Um, how does one tell an ex-Israeli that his Hebrew may be a bit rusty?

Sad :(
Our High Holiday chazzan/cantor, who stayed in our neighborhood for Shabbat/Sabbath in order to lead the Selichot service, is sufficiently strict in his kashrut observance that he asked to be served his imported-from-a-glatt-kosher-caterer Shabbat dinner in the synagogue because he didn't trust the kashrut of our kitchen--presumably, he thinks that my husband and I don't keep our oven sufficiently kosher to be "eligible" to reheat his food.  That wasn't a problem.  The problem was that the attendees of the Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv/Arvit/Evening Services on Erev Shabbat/Sabbath Eve (Friday evening) generally enjoy a small Oneg Shabbat of tea and cookies after the services, and the dinner was being served in the usual Oneg Shabbat room.  An elderly congregant suffering from senile dementia simply couldn't understand that only a few congregants had been invited to keep the chazzan company and that there wasn't a place at the dinner table for him.  I found a pretext to go to the kitchen, and told the employee charged with serving dinner that I'd rather share my meal than put the poor old man in such a position, but she said (and showed me) that the president had purchased exactly enough food for the invited guests, and that she was under strict orders not to serve dinner to anyone else.  The best that she could do was to bring some tea and cookies for the other service attendees, which she did.  I wish we could avoid such situations.

All the wrong tunes
Our synagogue's president, having already hired a High Holiday rabbi, took the unusual step of also hiring a High Holiday cantor because our regular chazan is experiencing some health problems.  Unfortunately, limited funding forced him to hire someone with very limited experience.  Even more unfortunately, our Sefardi High Holiday cantor, judging by the way he led our Selichot service, has only a limited knowledge of the traditional Ashkenazi nusach for the Yamim Noraim/High Holidays.  Our regular cantor and my husband ended up leading some of the prayers that we usually sing, even though neither was, technically, the baal tefillah/prayer leader for Selichot and both were singing from wherever they were sitting or standing.  I expect this to be a memorable Yamim Noraim, but not in a good way.  To me, it isn't the Yamim Noraim unless I hear at least some of the High Holiday tunes that I've known for decades.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Parshat Ki Tavo: 5772/2012 thoughts

Basics here.

I can't think of anything new to say at the moment, so I'll refer you to my old posts:
Parshat Ki Tavo leads Woodrow/Conservadox to consider the experience level of U.S. politicians.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Arrested For Wearing A Tallit While Female*

"Four women were taken into custody by the police on August 19 (Rosh Hodesh Elul) for wearing a tallit (ritual fringes) at the Western Wall, making Israel the only country in the world where wearing a tallit can be illegal, and the only country where there is a proposed law — submitted by ultra-Orthodox politicians — to make Jewish women’s religious practice punishable by a seven-year prison sentence."

Read the rest of Elana Sztokman's Jewish Daily Forward article here.

*For those (probably including me, in future years) who don't understand the reference, see " Driving While Black."

There's no vacation from observance . . .

. . . which is why I've concluded that I'll probably never be an observant Jew, even by non-Orthodox standards.

No, I wasn't willing to leave Vieux Montreal, Old Montreal, the oldest section of the city, which I was thoroughly enjoying walking around, and travel halfway across the city to eat in a kosher restaurant, though the Conservative rabbinate does not condone the frequently-observed custom of eating dairy and (finned-and-scaled) fish in non-kosher restaurants.

No, I wasn't willing to get up at the same time during our recent vacation that I wake up every workday in order to davven Shacharit (pray the Morning Service) before leaving the hotel.

No, I wasn't willing to avoid entering a church and give up the opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous architecture.  (Whatever else, pro and con, can be said about our Christian neighborhoods, they sure know how to build beautiful houses of worship.  On the other hand, I've prayed in gorgeous synagogues and have found the stunning architecture a distraction--for me personally, cathedral-style architecture is incompatable with kavvanah/focus.)

And given the choice between a hotel in a noisy commercial neighborhood that was within walking distance of a synagogue and a hotel in a more pleasant neighborhood that was about a mile and a half from the nearest synagogue, we chose the more pleasant Toronto location and drove to shul on Shabbos.  (I concluded some time ago that I would never be observant enough to be willing to forego praying with a minyan in order to avoid violating the halachic [Jewish religious law] prohibition against traveling on Shabbat/ Sabbath] and major holidays.  Even though it's been years since I was a member of a Reconstructionist synagogue, one of Recontructionist Judaism founder Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan's teachings, namely, that the Jewish People is at the heart of the Jewish Religious Civilization, continues to influence my haskafah/religious perspective and my manner of observance to such a point that I think I would find it impossible to sustain my Jewish practice for the long term if isolated from a Jewish community.  Theory aside, there's also the practical fact that I was raised in what I think is probably a fairly typical synagogue-oriented Conservative home--my parents, aside from lighting candles, making kiddush, and saying motzi every Erev Shabbat and Yom Tov [Sabbath and Major Holiday Eve] and frequently leading Sedarim in our home, never prayed except in shul.  The consequence of my childhood experience and adult background is that I'd rather take a taxi to synagogue than davven bi-y'chidut [pray by myself] on Shabbos and Yom Tov.)

Sigh.  For all my protestations about wishing that I could be part of a more observant community, I'm not doing so well with my own observance.  Part of my t'shuvah (repentance) for the upcoming Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) will be to work seriously on becoming less judgmental.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Echoes of my family's Orthodox past?

On this night, perhaps we didn't dip at all
My late grandmother used to bake a cake for Pesach/Passover that had an exceedingly short list of ingredients--it contained nothing but ground walnuts, eggs, and sugar. Decades later, I learned about the minhag/custom of not eating gebrokts.  Even more recently, it occurred to me that my non-observant grandmother may have learned to bake a matzah-meal-free cake for Pesach because some member of the family was "non-gebrokts." A lesson to take from a piece of cake.

The origin of the pre-wedding "shmorg"?
It was the minhag of my family that one could attend a wedding ceremony to which one had not been invited on the strict condition that one attended only the ceremony, not the reception thereafter--costing the hosts money was absolutely forbidden. I was well into adulthood when I became aware that, on the one hand, this custom was far from universally accepted, with many people considering it rude to "crash" a wedding ceremony, and that, on the other hand, my family's minhag may not have originated with my family--if I understand correctly, this minhag seems to be accepted in certain Orthodox communities. I wonder whether the relatively-recent minhag of serving a smorgasbord/buffet before the wedding ceremony first developed in communities in which wedding-crashers were expected, as a way to give the non-invited guests a bite to eat.
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