Saturday, August 07, 2004

Another Baynonim List

Why I like the shteeble vs Why I like the shul

At the shteeble we finish before 11:30, and often before 11; at the shul we sing all the the old songs, and psuke d'zimra isn't rushed.

At the shteeble, the rav rarely speaks and when he does his words seldom make me feel uncomfortable or introspective; at the shul the rabbi speaks every week but often with power, charisma and polish.

At the shteeble the guys are my age, and often a cholent follows; at the shul there's very little talking and the room in which we daven isn't treated like a restaurant.

At the shteeble the davening often has fervor and joy; at the shul the nusach is ashkenaz.

At the shteeble my kids play with kids who dress like they do and who go to the same sort of schools as they do; at the shul there are structured educational activities for the kids.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The girl's event is on. And I get to run it.

The Rabbi himself called me with the good news. He said, "Myself, I never had a problem with it, but I wanted to be sure the oylam(1) was comfortable with the idea."

The complainers, about whom I've been blogging all week, appear to be a minority. Like all good minorities, they are loud, but also out of step with the majority. My dislike for them, like my appreciation for the rabbi, is growing. In retrospect, who but a very insecure person would raise such a ruckus about a girl's arts and crafts project? Let's hope they really are a minority.

The girls will gather, in two weeks time, on Sunday, 22 August, for pizza, ice cream and an afternoon of arts and crafts. My responsibilities are limited to ordering the food, which is easy; a local woman will lead the project.

I expect that most of the shul will be pleased when they hear the news. Only a very few will be unhappy, but their daughters can stay home, I suppose. I just hope they don't lose respect for the Rabbi because of his decision.

Perhaps I'll go to the shteeble, and not the shul, this weekend after all.

1 - Congregation


What's next a woman's minyan?

An RN who heard me plumping for a girl's event asked me this question today. For real. I hope he didn't miss the incredulity on my face

Then again, someone who imagines that a group of girls playing together leads irreversibly to woman in talitot(1) might not have a talent for spotting details. Then again, too, this is the same clever chap who asked me why I wasn't giving my son an upshurin, "after all," said he,"your wife covers her hair."

I must remember that morons are like mushrooms. Even the best lawns have them.

N.B: Officially, this blog has no objection to woman davening together, and will cast no aspersions on their motives. Spiritual crises, like midlife crises, strike us all, and we cope in different ways: Some get tattoos, some buy fast cars, some purchase beckeshas and begin mispronouncing Hebrew (2) and some form davening groups for women. The middle-aged man in the brand-new beckesha is not maligned. No one suggests that he has ulterior motives. Instead, he's congratulated for finding a way to bring himself closer to God. Women who daven together deserve the same courtesy.

That said, women in talitot, swaying like men, creep me out, but still: Zeh ne'ehneh v'zeh lo chash-ser.(3)

Updated, note to self: No more editorial ramblings. They distract from the story line.

(1) I write and say "talitot" because "talaysim" is not good Hebrew, and "talitos" sounds stupid. Updated: Jah tells us it is good yiddish. The Ayshes Chayil says it surely began as an error before becoming accepted.

(2) Yes, yes: Some of us also join shteebles, or in my case, yo-yo indecisively between a shteeble and a shul and blog about it.

(3) This one benefits, this one loses nothing.

From the Comment Bag
Mochassid said: There is nothing wrong with saying talaysim. Unless you're sfardi, you're father said it; your grandfather said it, your greatgrandfather said it..... and, on your substantive point, I totally disagree with your premise that no one loses from women's tefilah groups. And with you analogy which is 180 degrees off. But I don't have time right now.

Can't wait to read about it on MOChassid. :) Note: If anything not halachic occurs at a woman's prayer group I withdraw my official agnosticism on the subject. But if it is halachicly parve, why care?

As for talitot/s vs talaysim... I rather doubt the holy ancestors said "talaysim" -- or "shabbosim" for that matter. They knew hebrew, or if not hebrew, they at least knew the liturgy: "... shabbasos l'mnucha, changim u'zemanim l'soson..."

For the record, not all of my own personal holy ancestors spoke Yiddish. Many did. Not all. Western Europe had Jews, too, Once upon a time, so did Germany. And the city Jews in places like Vienna and Budapest and Prague didn't speak Yiddish either. And what about the holy ancestors own holy ancestors? Rashi, and the Ramban certainly said "talitos." It's right there in their books.

As my entry itself tries to suggest, we all have little affectations (talitot might be mine; objecting to talitot might be yours.) They are just that - affectations, and not charecter flaws, and certainly not betrayals of those who came before us.

Updated 8/9

A reader said: Hi - Interesting blog. In a recent posting you implied that Jews outside Eastern Europe didn't speak Yiddish. FYI, there was a Western dialect of Yiddish, spoken in places like Germany, the Netherlands, etc., in the past (although it became almost or totally extinct at some point). So Yiddish wasn't only an Eastern European thing. Please mention it to your readers. Thanks.

I appreciate your comments, but I can't say I'm familiar with this Western dialect of Yiddish. There's no mention of it here, where Yiddish is described as an Easten European phenomenon from the 13th century onward. Many of my own relatives came from Germany. They spoke no Yiddish. If you can tell me more about this, please write again.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I've begun to notice an essential difference between the OMJs and RNs. The RNs care more about how things look. The OMJ's worry about how things are.

The flap over the girl's event fuels this theory. I am told the RNs who oppose letting the girls gather object on these grounds: It's not something a shteeble does. Or as one put it: We're not a Young Israel.

I'm trying very hard to understand the RN point of view, but I keep returning to this question: Are we really worried that a new person might somehow fail to notice the tables, the sfard nusach, and the hasidic rabbi at the front of the room. You think he'll miss all of that - but the girl's event he will notice and from that he'll conclude that we're a Young Israel? Is this really keeping you up at night? That some lone random visitor might think that you belong to a Young Israel, and not a shteeble?

But of course it doesn't end there. I can just see the dominos falling in their minds.

Well, the new visitor will tell his friends all about our girl's event, and then the word will spread that we are not a real shteeble, and our sons will be expelled from school, and our daughters will die old maids, and the chulent will be too watery and the kishka will spoil.

You're laughing, but the RNs in the audience are nodding their heads.

Meanwhile, I am stuck wondering why the old RNs are so worried about how things look. Why can't we just do what's right for our kids, and stand on that? I will listen if anyone wants to tell me that it might be bad for the girls to develop a relationship with the shul and with each other by participating in a shul sponsored event. But no one seems to care about the girls. No one is using that argument.

There's a long post building inside me about the self-destructive unfairness of this behavior, but I keep reminding myself that my blog isn't angry essays, rants, diatribes or even whatever ben chorin is attempting. My blog is a comic strip, a collection of short stories. Maybe one day I'll break form and go all George Orwell on you. But not yet.

Ab fab commentary at Hemishtown this morning, but why am I compared to the Shaygetz?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The nearest neighbors are OMJ all the way, Israeli in fact. Knitted kippot, Hebrew in the house, the works. So it was no small surprise, at last shabbos lunch, when I discovered their oldest son attended a Chunyuki Chaim yeshiva. This has been the source of more than one mirthful moment, as his parents revealed over the shnitzle and cold-cuts:

1. The boy's name is Netanayle. The teachers insisted on calling him Nesonayle (See 1 for the reason.) Parental intervention was required after the boy came home in tears. The compromise was "Tani."

2. At bar mitzvah this yeshiva requires a hat for davening. On the evidence, the school does not require a minyan for davening. More than once, Tani forgot his hat, and was sent home from school, and thus forced to miss minyan.

3. When he is not in school Tani wears a knitted kippa, like his father. One afternoon, he was spotted by school authorities at Sunday mincha wearing his knitted kippa, and again parentel intervention was needed. "We don't want the school to aquire a bad name," said the principal. "Let me understand this," replied the neighbor,"You're worried your school's repuation will suffer if a student is seen at mincha davening?" (when I heard this story I was reminded of a great riff by Dave Barry. See 2)

4. When the time finally came for Tani to say good-bye to this yeshiva, and go on to Israel for his year of post-high-school study, the yeshiva thought he should go to Mercaz Hatorah or Torah Mee Sinai. The former was disqualified after his mother saw it ("If they tore the place down, it would still be a dump.") the latter was disqualified after his father met the recruiter ("The first words out of his mouth were 'our students get good shiduchim'") The family finally settled on Har Etziyon. The yeshiva was most displeased. "He should go to an American-style yeshiva," they sniffed.

Said my neighbor: I've had quite enough of American-style yeshivot, thank you very much.


1 - The consonent Tav, which is always pronounced as "t" by Israelis is pronounced "s" when it does not have a dot in the Ashkenazic pronunciation favored at American yeshivot.

2- I can't find it on-line, but it involved Dave getting a parking ticket, while gangsters sped by in their stolen, unregistered cars, laundering money, with one hand on their illigal machine guns, the other on their pit bulls, and piles of cocaine on the passenger seats. Not that he was bitter.

Baynonim honors Tu B'av

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

No reply as yet regarding the girl's event. The Rabbi is "thinking about it."

I won't be a pest. I won't ask the gabbaim for an update more than once per day. I will be optimistic. I should be optimistic. The Rabbi is a good egg, and a torah scholar. In the past, he's proven himself quite resistant to foolish RN demands. When they wanted to move Shachris (Saturday morning prayers) to 9:30, for instance, the Rabbi dug in his heels and won. When they wanted the shteeble to pay for a weekly chulent, he said no, not before we're solvent.

In each case the RN's insisted that proper shteebles had both. In each case the Rabbi argued that proper Jews required neither.

So I have every confidence that it is the RNs, and not the Rabbi, who fear that their shteeble will be damaged if the girls are permitted to assemble under the shteeble's aegis. Superstitions come in all forms.

Still, the Rabbi is a hassid, and hassidim, in general, don’t have the very best track record on matters of Jewish womanhood. For example, the Rabbi's own announcments will congratulate, "Moshe Piddlepop on his son's Bar Mitzvah," and never the Piddlepop family, or Mr. and Mrs. Piddlepop. When there is a chulent, the woman get fed last, sequestered as they are behind the maximum-security mechitza

I'm not so optimistic anymore.

If the Rabbi does say no, I'll go quietly. No peep of protest will be uttered from me. I hate the idea of denying girls opportunities simply because they are girls, but I respect communities, and communities must be true to their own values, Neanderthalic though they may be.

Anyway, it is high time I went back to the shul.

Yesterday was TU B'av, a fantastic holiday the mishnah calls the most joyous of days. What does it celebrate? Marriage!

Here's a thought to honor the day.

The mishna says: kasheh zivug k'krias yam suf / A successful match is as difficult as splitting the Red Sea.

Difficult, but for whom?

The Jews? All they did was enter the water and -poof!- it split.
For God? He created the word with an utterance. Why would splitting the Sea be difficult for Him?

The answer, I think, is that the Sea Splitting was difficult on the Egyptians. First, they all drowned. Not an easy day at the beach.

Second, the mishna says that the Jews had made it to dry land before the last Egyptian had entered the Sea. Because all the Egyptians died, we can deduce that the stragglers entered the Sea after the water came crashing down on their fellow soldiers. They saw their friends drowning, yet they went charging to their deaths in the churning and frothing Sea.

Kasheh zivug k'krias yam suf / A successful match is as difficult as splitting the Red Sea.

A man sees his friends getting married; nonetheless he jumps right in.

Happy Tu B'av!

Monday, August 02, 2004

slightly revised again

Very little annoys me more than when an RN who was born on third base denigrates a Jew who is still holding at first. It's even worse when the smug RN gets it backwards, when the RN is so far behind he thinks he is ahead. I'll let you decide which case is described below.

Last week, a few Jews at the Democratic National Convention observed Tisha B'av by sitting on the floor and reading Eicha (and yes, they performed these observances immediately after Bill Clinton's speech, but this blog is not about obvious jokes.) You can read about Tisha B'Av at the convention here.

My friend, the Grinch, deeemed their behavior fantastically inappropriate. He writes:
"What were they doing at the convention on Tisha B'av? And not only did they go to the convention, they held the services there. In my mind, they have desecrated Tisha B'av, and they have desecrated the service.

Two words: Dude, chill.

Let's not argue over whether or not these Jews belonged at the convention on 9 Av. Yes, the Rabbis told us to avoid festive activities on and around the day the Temple burned, (pace Yuter) but the Rabbis created exceptions. We're allowed to work on Tisha B'av if we must, for instance. Do the exceptions apply here? Ask a rav, and, because it relates to Tisha B'av, do the right thing and assume the Jewish convention delegates did, too.

The real point, however, Mr. Grinch, is this: Even if the exceptions don't apply to the Democratic National Convention, even if going to the convention was not in keeping with the spirit of 9 AV, you still can't convince me that it was disgraceful to hold an Eicha service on the convention floor.

Do the sages prohibit reading Eicha in public? No. Did the Convention band back-up the reader with show-tunes? No. Were confetti and balloons falling as the mournful, 3000 year old words of Jeremiah were read? No. Did the Jewish delegates behave in bad faith? Was there anything disrespectful about the service? Was it a mockery? No, no, and no again. They sat on the floor as Jews have for millennium and cried for Zion. So would you please cut them some slack? On the floor of a convention assembled to help decide who, for the next four years, will be the most powerful person on planet Earth, a group of Jews paused to remember Jerusalem, to honor Jewish memory and to pay respects to the Jewish God.

And unlike the RN's, the Jewish delegates, I'm betting, aren't the sort of Jews who were raised to consider Eicha non-negotiable. For them, Eicha at the convention was something extra, something that went beyond what they were taught was necessary.

Aren't these all good reasons to say ata echad v'shimcha echad u'mee k'amcha yisroel / You are one, and your name is one, and who is like your nation Israel?

Disgraceful? A few more "disgraces" of this kind and perhaps the great trumpet will finally sound.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The RNs are circulating an email. It reads "Attention Mispallalim: We are hosting for the first time ever our annual father-son softball game. It will be taking place..... Should you have for us any suggestions please...."

Suggestions? Why yes, thank you. Here's one: Grammar is g'valdik.

And what about the girls? Citing Abigail Adams ("remember the ladies") I write a light and breezy response requesting a parallel event for our daughters. The high command is not amused.

"The Rav would not be comfortable with a co-ed event," said one. (Is "parallel" a new word?)

"Let the woman run it themselves," said another.

Or as L put it: "You don't cite in a shteeble. You bring down."

Stay tuned...

The big pediatrician thinks I'm picking on the RNs, and he's right. But before long I'll tire of the shteeble and go back to the shul, and, then friends, the worm will turn.

...and a few more props to distribute.

Thanks go to Cookie, the Hasidic Musician and the lefty for noticing me and my little blog. I also thank FrumDad for putting me on his sidebar.

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