Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Simchas Torah in the Shteeble: Marvelous Mixing

Regular readers will remember (all together now) that my neighborhood has two places to pray, a shteeble and a shul. The shteeble is a less divided than the shul, but though the shteeble has far fewer factions, the gaps between the different groups are wider, and most obvious on Simchas Torah. (Simchas Torah in the Shul is described here)

The Rabbi owns the shteeble, so during the year the liturgy follows his custom, without exceptions. Differences among the congregants, which exist, are kept invisible and largely ignored. We say yotzros, mumble the haftarah, daven sefard, and of course, the Young Israel tunes, (1) , are not sung, even though only the hard-core hasidim (all 9 or 10 of them) seem to want it this way. The rest of us are, to varying degrees, unsatsified: Most of us don't say yotzros, many of us daven ashkenaz, and a few of us wouldn't mind a little bit more singing. Others wish the davening was more structured, and still others wish it were looser and even less formal. Still, we all hold our nose, so to speak, for the sake of whatever else the shteeble offers us.

On Simchas Torah, everyone gets their chance, and the differences kept undercover throughout the year, become obvious and visible. It's really quite amazing. For example:

* During shachris, the Young Israel ex-pats interrupt the Chazan to lustily sing their songs, and no one minds. (If they tried that during the year, they'd be expelled, probably)

* The Rabbi has a ridiculously long prayer that he says before hakafot, a prayer even the other hard- core Hasidim don't recognize, and no one groans, no one minds. (During the year, most of us leave the sanctuary during yotzros, another ridiculously long prayer said by almost no one on certain holidays.)

* The yeshivish people commandeer the beginning of each hakafah to sing? hum? lament? moshe emes in a singularly mournful tune, and no one minds. (Inovations(2) the Yeshivish people have suggested for the regular services have been roundly rejected)

* The group, noted anthropologist Burry Katz (3) calls black-hatters enjoy an early kiddush, and make their own, early minyan for musaf and no one minds. (Their early(4) maariv minyan was banned, and we lock the kitchen door to keep them from making kiddush during davening during the year.)

The metaphor for all of this marvelous mixing is the way the shteeble performs ha'Aderes v'ha'Emunah, a prayer-poem said or sung after the sixth hakafa. The poem lists various attributes, and the refrain assigns these atributes to God. Traditionally, part of the refrain is a Yiddish question. The leader asks: suzemetz, suzemetz / to who? to who? and the crowd answers in Hebrew l'chayeh olamim / for the sustainer of the world. There are (I think) 7 verses, and traditionally 7 different people are called to read the verse, and to lead the refrain.

I don't know how it started, but in the shteeble we call people who are capable of asking the refrain's question in different languages. The siddur is passed to a guy in a knitted kippa who asks in Hebrew (l'mee, l'mee) to a South African who asks in Afrikaans, to a Frenchman, to a Yemenite, and on and on. Everyone gets a chance. Everyone is represented. Everything we do, no matter that it's different, really is l'chayeh olamim. And for Simchas Torah, at least, all the different groups feel perfectly at home in the shteeble.

________________
1 - Young Israel tunes are mostly Western European or early-American compositions that are asigned, by tradition, to specific parts of the liturgy. Hasidim, and those who arrived in America after WWII, (along with those who've been influenced by the Hasidim and the latecomers) sing much less of the liturgy, and tend to disdain the Young Israel tunes as "modern," though some of these tunes date, at least, to the 18th century.

2 - The yeshivish people, for example, wanted to start davening earlier so that krias shma would be finished by the halachic deadline. This request was a non-starter, for the hasidic rabbi.

3 - A joke. He's not noted. He's not an anthropologist. He's just a blogger with a chip on his shoulder who often hides brilliant, inarguable points within his long-winded, slanderous rants.

4 - The shteeble ends shabbos at 72 minutes. The black-hatters, I assume, have important movies to watch on Saturday evening, and can't be bothered to wait, so they organized a maariv minyan at 50 minutes. It was banned because it disrupted the shalosh shudas, or the third shabbos meal.

Comments:

Beautiful post. Really unlike you. Since when do you do group hugs?  

suzemetz?  

re: Above

My yiddish is nonexsitant, so I am happy to be corrected if I've heard the word wrong, or transcribed it incorrectly.  

Tzu Vemen, Tzu Vemen!! ("To whom", "To whom"?)  

Thanks. Next time why don't you sign your name? (I knew what it meant, and more or less how it sounded, just no idea what the words actualy were.)  

Interesting blog about thirst for lust, keep up the good work thirst for lust  

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