Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Chadesh Yomaynu K'kedem / Renew our Days as of Old or bring me back to some of that old time religion.

Ever wonder what it would be like to live as a Jew in antiquity? Sure, there were real troubles around like pagans and parasites, but religiously-speaking it had to have been a breeze.

Are you already worn out from the orgy of eating and endless praying that is Tishrei? Well, Jews of the year zero had none of that. They weren't afflicted with three-day yom-tovs; heck, aside from Rosh Hashana there weren't even any two day yom tovs. Your Rosh Hashana service was watching an animal get slaughtered, and listening to some blasts on the horn. Your Yom Kippur service was a pageant acted by the chief priest. Both smashing entertainment, I'm sure, in the age before television. Don't forget: neither service was mandatory. Even Sabbath services were optional. Back in the day, God only asked for a visit on the the three pilgrimage festivals, and all that meant was a you got to stand in the good, fresh air with your buddies, while somewhere up front another animal bit it. I bet you could even talk to your buddies all you wanted, with no gabbai to shush you as the bulls and rams were slaughtered.

There were no hats, no shtreimels, no kreplach, no kugel, no liturgy, no hakafos, no piyutim, no hosofos, no chazonus, no nigunim, no tables, no pews - none of the detritus that just accumulates and accumulates as Judaism marches through time. There was no mishigas. There were hardly any minhagim. It was simple. It was easy. Wasn't it?

The Jews who merited the Temple were the best Jews of all, I might argue, and most all the details of our modern religious life (and by modern I suppose I mean anything initiated after about 200 CE) would have to them seemed bizarre. Even the Jews who lived after the destruction, in the period just after the rules were changed and liturgy replaced sacrifice, would not recognize us. Ponder that, if you will.

Comments:

You forgot about all the secterianism? There was definetly minhag & mishigas. Although it was probably called something else. Remember the part of the avodah where they ask the kohain gadol to do it right (not like the tzadukim).
This also happens at the bikkurim ceremony.
You are right that the religion changed radically after the destruction.  

It all sounded good until the "no kugel" part; what's the point without kugel? What about chicken soup? Was there chicken soup? If there was chicken soup I would reconsider even without kugel.  

You wrote: "There were no hats, no shtreimels, no kreplach, no kugel, no liturgy, no hakafos, no piyutim, no hosofos, no chazonus, no nigunim, no tables, no pews - none of the detritus that just accumulates and accumulates as Judaism marches through time. There was no mishigas. There were hardly any minhagim. It was simple. It was easy. Wasn't it?"

Really? No minhag? Not to be too cheeky, but how do you know? Every culture/society has minhags. Heck, every family has minhags. Maybe theirs were just as complicated and contentious as ours. Certainly all the infighting within Judaism over time would seem to support that. No niguns? They never sang? The new group in town never introduced a new melody? No one ever argued about which one to use? I wonder if you're waxing just a bit too nostalgic...  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

Saul and Golda, you're both right and I am not oblivious to the points you raised. I was deliberately romanticizing the past for the purpose of making the point that everything is always, always in flux.

You're right, we romanticize the past at our own peril. Change is a sign of life.

From his comment, I gather MoChassid understands this.  

Cookie gets it, too. If you're mystefied, read what she says here: http://heimishtown.blogspot.com/2004/09/umeirov-chataeinu.html. On the most basic, most elemental level she's right: We've been fractured into a million and one pieces, we can't stand each other - can't even recognize each other as being authentically Jewish - and it sucks.

(However Cookie, "detritus" is not a negative. It means, simply, accumulated material")  

They did have a lot of singing and music during the services. With instruments. My guitar player is a Levite. He rocks.  

Yes, but likely nothing we'd recognize as "chazonus" or "nigunnim."  

Only a couple of downsides to pre-Temple Judaism:

1) Not a lot of rules- but if you did violate them, death penalty (or maybe flogging if you were REAL lucky).

2) Always risk of land being invaded, causing siege with months of starvation, followed by massacre, followed by enslavement for whoever was left.

But I suppose no time was perfect. For most of Jewish history you got stuck with all the minhagim etc PLUS something resembling (2).  

There have been so much quality blogging about YK.

In addition to all the YK audio visual effects there is the goat and believe it or not a dance by virgins. As described in Mishna 15 of AV and YK where the happiest days when daughters of Israel would dance in white dresses, men would watch and chose their “basherts”. Correct this joyous aspect of the holidays have been lost.

Unlike many bloggers I like the fast. One day fasting is really nothing. I know people who fast routinely. In India it is part of the religion. The fast allows me personally to reach an unmatched high right before the Neila. I also like the day of YK because it is a day that unites the Jews like no other. And in this regard it does not matter what we do in Shule. It is a time that becomes space. You enter that space and you feel liberated from mundane. But I grief about our inability to share this joy with other Jews, about inaccessibly of the holiday for many. I grief about boisterous joy that this holiday supposed to be. We have two thousand years of preservationist religion behind us. Change was sin. We have to keep on blogging about our true feelings.  

I have to admit, I was one of those Jews stuck in the "somber solemn, sad" mode of Yom Kippur for years. I'd never known anything different. When our new rabbi brough up the fact that YK is a joyous holiday, it was a new idea to me! (I grew up attending mostly soul-less Conservative High Holiday services. You could sleep through it and be better off for it.) This year was the first year I felt the joy, the spirit, the real awesomeness of the day. It's about time!

GoldaLeah
www.westernjew.blogspot.com  

Sid Rosenberg is a radio personality in NYC. He's a shlub. Irriligious and with a (radio) personality that panders to the worst sterotypes. He lies. He cheats. He slanders. And he brags about in on the air.

Davening Dov Kramer is his producer. Dov is frum (I know his sister) and says very little on the air. Weeks will go by with no peep from Dov.

Last year, before Yom Kippur, Sid said, "Could you explain to me why YK is a holiday? What's so great about fasting and praying all day?"

Dov answered, "For you it should be the greatest happiest day of the year."

"And why is that," asked Sid.

Replied dov: "All your sins are forgiven."

Selach l'chol ha'am hazeh, v'lager hagar b'socham, kee l'chol ha'am b'shgoga  

A great post here http://ontheface.blogspot.com/2004/09/retrospective-on-day-of-repentance.html  

One thing to bear in mind: the laws of purity and the agricultural laws, i.e., seder zeraim and seder taharos, which don't affect us much today, were a big deal in Temple times. Most of us don't even study seder taharos--the laws are just too complex. Yet people in Temple times had to remember which objects, people, and foods were pure and which were impure, without any physical sign to distinguish them. They also had to understand how impurity was transmitted. For Kohanim, this was essential, since they ate terumah and visted the Temple often. For non-Kohanim it was less essential, but still important for their visits to the Temple or if they had pledged to eat even ordinary food in a state of purity. As for the agricultural laws, farmers had to devote a large percentage of their gross yields, more than 20%, to the Kohanim, Levi'im, poor, or to eat in Jerusalem.  

Up to 90 percent of Jews today ignore the laws; why do you think Jews in Temple time were any better. As for the kohanim, please recal that the mishna (in Yom Kippur, and elsewhere) takes it for granted that the kohen gadol was unlearned, and please further recall, that from the book of Kings, we learn of the corruption of the kings and the priests and of the widespread idol-worship in the countryside.

It doesn't sound to me like most people were worrying over Zaraim or Taharot. Do you disagree?  

Your point is well taken, but not necessarily relevant to Adam's original post. Adam pointed out that Jews of old, if they wished to obey the existing rules, would have fewer obligations than we do. My response is that they would lack some duties that we have, but also have some significant duties that we lack. All that is left to us of the laws of purity is hilchos niddah (which today is a matter of marital law) and the avoidance by Kohanim of tumat met. For them, again assuming they wished to follow the law, purity was of great importance. What percentage of Jews actually lived up to the rules in the Mishnah is a separate question. But I would assume that some did, given the presence of mikva'ot at Masada and in other excavations.  

Mikva at Masada doesn't nec. mean the whole tuma story, just that maybe nida was an issue there.  

Hi,

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Melissa K. W.
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