Thursday, September 16, 2004

I seem to be in a Yom Kippur state of mind.

The Yom Kippur service is like gas; it expands to fill the space allotted. To wit:

On Yom Kippur 2004, the stars will come out (per Rabbenu Taam*) in my neighborhood at about 8:00 pm. If 2004 is like last year and every year before it, we'll start services on Yom Kipppur morning at 8 am, break for about 25 minutes at around 11 to sell the aliyos**, break again for about 90 minutes at around 3 pm, and then, from around 4:30pm, go straight on till shofar.

In other words, we'll be actively davening (or listening to kriah or maftir) for about 10 hours.

Was it any different in the old country? Let's look at one European city at random.

This year, Yom Kippur in Krakow ends (per Rabbenu Tam) at 7:43. Rav Moshe writes than many in 19 th century Europe had the custom of considering the day as having ended at 90 minutes after sunset, which is 18 minutes later than Rabbenu Tam. If we presume this custom was kept, this year, Yom Kippur in Krakow would end at 8:01

Can we assume that the good people of 19th centruy Poland started their prayers before 8 am? I think we can, with some confidence say, yes. Anecdotal evidence suggests they were praying at 6 am, if not earlier, though they could not have said the Amida before (sunrise) hanetz, which is at about 7am

So did the Krakow services expand to fill an unthinkable 14 hours? Did they break for an hour or two like we do, and pray for 12 hours? Or did their prayers take the same 10 hours as ours, meaning the men and women of the blessed old country enjoyed a delicious 4 hour break?

* One day soon perhaps will discuss how Rabbenu Taam and the Geonim could possibly disagree on something as empirical as the appearence of stars.
** Perhaps we'll also discuss the approriateness of turning the shul into a shuk on the holiest day of the year.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Bullies for Bush?

Note: I am not pro-Kerry. I'm not pro-Bush. My politics aren't relevant to the blog. I just share stories that catch my eye.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

What color shirt do you wear to shul?

If you are one of my RNs, you probably don't understand the question. For the RNs, shabbos shirts come in one color, and one color only: White.

The OMJs, on the other hand, permit themselves some variety. White is prevalent, of course, but blue is common. I've also seen grey and beige and even pink or green.

And the local Chasidim? This may surprise you, but there is some color in the Hasidic wardrobe. They don't wear ties, and their shirts are always white, but the long coats and shtreimels come in different colors. I've seen red shtreimels. I've seen blue coats, and I've seen black coats with blue (or green!) velvet trim. And the coats, themselves, come in all sorts of patterns.

Some questions:
1 - Why does a proper RN insist on a black hat, when a proper hasid might wear a red or brown shtreimel?
2 - Why do both RNs and hasidim disdain colored shirts? What's frightning them?
3 - Why do the hasidim who disdain colored shirts, often wear brightly colored coats?

And what do I wear to shul on shabbos? A white shirt usually, but occasionally I'll wear a blue shirt to mincha just to mix things up a little.


Monday, September 13, 2004

I've updated this post

A few weeks ago, one of the rolly-polly characters in the shul said the shteeble was, in his opinion, "too Jewy." I smiled and nodded my head, and did nothing to challenge his opinion.

Last night, F, one of the boys from the shteeble called the shul "modernish" and the Beast Within was unleashed. I went on for five whole minutes, pointing out that much of what he considered "modern" were in fact, long-standing Ashkenazic customs.

Why did I defend the shul, and not the shteeble? Perhaps bad history bothers me more than ordinary insults.

In the shteeble we sit at tables, as in a library or study hall. (The photo isn't our shteeble, but it will help you visulize the seating arrangment. In our shteeble, the tables are narrower and everything is tighter and more crowded.)

The argument with F began when I suggested removing the tables to reduce some of the crowding. Without tables, we'd have room for more chairs and for our legs. F said that without the tables, "it wouldn't be a shul anymore." I objected that plenty of perfectly good shuls have no tables, he said those shuls were all "modernish" and we were off to the races.

F likes having the tables, he said, because he doesn't like holding his siddur. It's more comfortable to put it on the table, along with his chumash and talis bag. F also like having the tables because they suggest that he is praying in a study hall. Never mind, that F, himself, rarely studies. He just likes having the tables. They make him feel good.

In this way, he's like the city-slicker who owns a pick-up truck, or the suburban fellow who wants an SUV with four wheel drive and tremedous hauling capabilities, though he lives in the Sun Belt, on a cule-de-sac and never hauls anything heavier than his gorceries. (In fact F is an SUV-owning suburbanite who lives on a flat, fequently-plowed street, and never carries anything heavier than his golf clubs. )

It's the triumph of style over substance.

NB: The mishna brurah says that it's preferable to daven in a shul, and not in a study hall (the exception being a study hall where you, yourself, study regulalry.) The style today is to pray in a room (like our shteeble) that has been decorated in the manner of a study hall, with rows of bookshelves and tables, though they aren't often used. City people drive SUVs, loaded with features no urban-dweller needs, for similar reasons, I suspect.

NBB: Above, I very much wanted to write "never carries anything heavier than his wife."

I don't mean to pick, but...

Attention radio personalities, television reporters, and all other well-meaning NY gentiles, including the charming people with whom I work: The "o" in Yom Kippur is a long "o" as in "tome," not a short "o" as in "bomb."



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