Tuesday, September 28, 2004

So what about that list? (continued from the previous post)

I've been promising to list the Jewish rituals I first encountered after reaching adulthood.

By way of introduction, let me say that discovering these rituals was not pleasant. You see, I went to a good Jewish day-school, where I paid attention and studied hard. My grandfather, zl, was a pulpit Rabbi, ordained by one of the best rabbinical seminaries in North America (mayvin yavin.) His father, zl, was the sexton at a small American shul. My father is observant and religious.

I entered adulthood, the fourth male in this line, thinking I had a good understanding of what it means to practice Orthodoxy and I don't think it was ignorance informed by pride: I had been raised Jewishly and educated Jewishly. So imagine, if you can, my surprise when I cam upon whole communities of Jews performing rituals I wasn't taught. It was a blow to my religious self-esteem. In some ways, perhaps I felt like those ancient Jews I described in the previous post. My Judaism hadn't aquired the new practices.

I've grown up a bit since then, I hope. I've had the chance to do some research and to put these practices in their proper context. Still, it's sometimes a struggle to remember that these extra rituals are cultural and matters of style. It's a struggle sometimes not to snap at people who imagine that these practices are essentail when, in my estimation, they are not. It's your midos, your learning and your attention to the details of halalcha, that matter, of course. Not the mishigas. So with all that in mind, here they are: The Religious Rituals I First Encountered After Reaching Adulthood

1- Did you know that (according to some, but by no means all) a woman who has had a baby is not permitted to be seen in public until she hears kedusha or barchu? She has to hide in private until a minyan (ten men) can be convened so that she can complete the obligation. This was news to me, so when a well-meaning man at MMC attempted to accomodate this ritual by arranging a prayer group outside my wife's hospital room after the birth of my second child, I thought he was nuts, which, I suppose is fair: He thought I was indifferent to religion.

2 - It was Erev Yom Kippur, and I was talking to L. "What time are you leaving work," he asked. "I don't know," I told him, "maybe at 2:30"

"Two-thirty!?!" he exclaimed, "how will you eat twice, if you leave at 2:30?" Excuse me, eat twice?

3 - I always knew that some Jews beleive in demons, though I, following the Ramban and the Rambam, do not. However, I was surprised to learn, at the ripe old age of 30, that the demons other Jews believe in are less intelligent than your average loaf of bread. To wit: It's fobidden to seal or otherwise cover a window. Why? Because demons, it is supposed, use windows to enter and exit your house. If you block the window, the demon won't find a new route and quietly get on with his travels. No, instead the demon will revenge himself by wracking havoc upon your house and home. They aren't bright, these demons, and they don't like to be inconvinienced. It's all right there in the writings of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid. Therefore, most Jews I know don't mess with their windows when they expand or otherwise rework their houses, and everyone has a story about a sister or a cousin or a neighbor who sealed a window, and was the prompt recipient of untold troubles. (It's much more reasuring if it's the demons and not our deeds causing the pain.)

4 - Shabbos ends 50 minutes after sunset, or so I was taught. There is no shame ending things on time. (Those are the few drops of Yeki blood in my vein making themselves heard) Later I found Jews who keep shabbos for an additional 22 minutes. Small beer, I know, and, now that I live among them, I don't mind extending shabbos. In the begining, though, I imagined these 72-minutes Jews were smugly judging me and my shabbos inferior because I stopped at 50. Often, I would wonder how they would feel if they suddenly landed in a neighborhood where shabbos was kept for 90 or 120 minutes after sunset. It would chaff and snide comments like, "what's your hurry?" would be no balm. I'm reconciled to this practice, finally, though grand rebbes who extend their third meal deep into Saturday night and Sunday morning are, for me, best avoided.
I could go on. In time, I am sure I will, but I think you get the idea. I hope you don't think less of me.

Comments:

Gevalt. What's a kalta Litvak like you doing in a shteeble.

Go to R. Tzvi Meir's 3rd meal in Yerushalayim and you'll understand why people stay into the middle of the night.  

Mah zeh kalta? Litvak is a badge I wear proudly (though I sence you were disparaging me)

What does Rav Tzvi know that eluded the great rabbis who thought the third shabbos meal (and shaboos itself) could end on time? The Mishna Berurah, in his discussion of the requirment of "adding to shabbos" suggests that we should START shabbos earlier; he says nothing about ending it later. Why?

I am sure that stopping shabbos at midnight is fun for those who enjoy it. Rav Tzvi does not need my approbation. However, those who do not stay at the table into the night (and this is my point!) those who do not aren't wrong, and shouldn't be made to feel inferior.  

Wait one cotton picking second.
Shabbos ends 42 minutes after shkia.
Actually, I was taught the Halachos of Tosefes Shabbos in High School. Why you weren't probably had to do with which mesechtos you were learning, although it's altogether possible that my H.s. teacher was just very good about those things. Alright, so what if he turned out to be the most famous Orthodox Rabbi who was also an abuser of his students who almost toppled the OU. Nobody's perfect.  

Adam Ragil,
Have you seen the great tradition highlighted in TTC?
Check out the comments and tell me what you think.
http://atowncrier.blogspot.com/2004_09_26_atowncrier_archive.html#109634867284186434  

Velv, I commented there.
Thanks.
Chag Someach  

Gevalt! What is a heliga, heimish, Choosid like MoChassid doing on the Internet? Go to YU (or any real Bes Medrash) and you'll understand that Judaism is about ideas not emotions.  

Visit Ben Chorin and see how that GEVALT(!) heliga haylicha mooochasid talks.  

skeptic

I see a lot of things at YU. Not everyone is in the bais medrash.  

Now you are insulting YU? I suppose in your fanatsy hasidic universe all the boys are 100 percent perfect? You need to grow up man, or at least maybe to be a little honest with your eyes.  

Tosfos Shabbos here in Milwaukee runs up to an hour after shabbos is over by my reckoning (including the 72 minutes, plus extended shalos seudos, plus shlepped out maariv).
Which is why for years I haven't gone to maariv at the shul. This year I've decided to commit to going to maariv at the shteeble, which finishes at a more reasonable time.  

You're shteeble sounds like my shul, and vice versa.

The shul finishes on time, and is precise about everything: time, minhag, nusach, etc. The chairs are neat, the floor is swept, the books are organized. In the shul maariv starts on MSK at 45 minutes

In the shteeble, nothing is on time and everything else is the very opposite of what I described above. In the shteeble maariv starts - if we are lucky - at 72 minutes, and often later.

It's a difference of priorities and personalities, and each is supremely convinced there way is best, when really its just a matter of style.  

skeptic

your problem is that you take me seriously. Get a sense of humor transplant and lighten up. You are too easy a target. It's not even fun anymore to get you and Dope annoyed.  

I'm surprised that you were an adult before you heard about ending Shabbos at 72 minutes. It's a very famous opinion, associated with Rabbeinu Tam, and endorsed by the Shulchan Aruch (though the corollary, that one can begin Shabbos later, isn't practiced).

The oddball opinion that I only learned of in adulthood is that of the Briskers, who end Shabbos at an achtel, Yiddish for an eighth. This means that Shabbos extends for an eighth of the night, so that at the equinox they would end Shabbos 1 1/2 hours after sunset. I know of only one person who follows this practice.  

It's a famous opinion where you grew up. It never came up, when I was a kid. Incidently, some people do use Rabenu Taam to start shabbos later. I've seen it. Also, though I have no objection to the RT minhag, I do object to the idea that it's a chumra, in the traditional sense. First, as you've noted, on erev shabbos, RT is a kula. Second, RT and the Geonim did not look at the same set of facts, and come to different opinions. RT and the Geonim use fundementally different approaches (each based on a different opinion in the Gemera) to figuring time. Their FACTs, not just their opinions are different.  

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