Monday, September 20, 2004

This week, the Lord of Hosts sits in judgment, so why not baynonim?

What follows is a list of pet peeves, complaints I know are small, though they irritate me like an eyeful of sand. I've recorded them during this season of forgiveness and introspection, hoping that writing them down might free me to begin the new year serenely and with too high a spirit to be further encumbered with this old nonsense.

1 - Selling aliyos: Why is the shul transformed to a shuk on the holiest day of the year? Why are the services interrupted to let a huckster take the amud to cajole us into reaching for our wallets to purchase honor? The first time I saw this carnival, my father-in-law called it "taking care of business" and he's right. The modern shul is a business; it must sell something to survive. But must we do the selling in the sanctuary on Yom Kippur? It always reminds me of Jesus driving out the moneylenders and who wants to be reminded of Jesus on Yom Kippur?

I've brought this complaint to the shul powers. They respond: we need the money. Isn't that a prostitute's argument? Does money answer everything? And what's next? Will we allow the local pizza place to put an ad on the paroches? The Rabbi is a broad man. Quite a large ad indeed could be made to fit across his back. Inapprorpaite? I agree. But so is selling aliyos.

2 - Starting kiddush before davening is over: Kiddush is a sacrement in the shteeble. Food begins to appear the moment the moment the chazan finishes kedusha, though if the Rabbi is strong it might wait until after chazeres hashatz. At the signal, the young boys throw down their siddurim, rush to the kitchen, and return with plates of fish and cake, and bottles of soda and single malt. Meanwhile the chazzan is struggling through a communal prayer like kaddish or the last part of shemona esray. I suppose we adults are supposed to sit quietly as the food is distributed, without breaking our concentration, but of course this is impossible. The end of davening is always a disaster. Why is this tolerated? And why is it tolerated by people who look down on people who leave shul for kiddush during maftir?

3 - Throwing candy at an open torah: I grew up in a shul where the custom was to wait until the end of the haftarah before pelting the groom or bar mitzvah boy with bags of candy. By this point, the torah is wrapped and to the side. You can hit the celebrant, without worrying about hitting the Torah. In the shteeble, the candy is thrown immidtaley after the groom or bar mitzvah boy has had his aliya. The Torah is still open and on the table, which absolutely drives me wild.

Am I becoming a grumpy old man? Possibly, though I have years to go before I'm even middle aged. Perhaps now that I've transcribed these complaints, they'll belong to the ether, and not to me. Kesiva v'chasim tova.


Maybe your new board will also institute the membership program and you can stop selling aliyot altogether. We don't need to raise funds by selling aliyot, and I imagine myself running very quickly the other way if I ever saw the practice.

(For the record, money does have something to do with High Holiday honors at our synagogue. The honors go to "donors" and "doers" -- those who donate time and effort. But not everyone in the synagogue knows who is who.)

I understand why you see red, Adam. I do hope your post and this discussion help you let it go.

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