I've been laboring over a long, long post about how now that George Bush has made his big speech promising to eliminate racism and poverty while simultaneously enriching Haliburton, the biggest problem in my life is choosing a place to daven for the High Holidays. You may have even seen the first part of the post. It was up for about 6 seconds, before I realized how shallow it sounded.
You see, all I really want for the High Holidays is a superbly-talented chazzan, in a magnificent room, leading a congregation of hundreds in prayer and song. And I want to be done by 1:30 pm on Rosh Hashana. And I want a long break on Yom Kippur (I'm willing to start as early as 7:30 am on all three days.)
Shallow, right? Fine, but no flour no Torah. And for me, the flour are the atmosphere and the aesthetics. Without the flour, my own prayers fall flat, and I leave shul dejected and bitter.
So where do I find these the beautiful room and the brilliant chazan and the fast service, together with a large congregation, a congregation that numbers in the hundreds and loves to sing? Not in my neighborhood, unfortunately.
Each of the three shuls, I frequent over the course of the year offers part of the package. The Hasidic shteeble, for example, sings everything, but the congregation is tiny, the room is ugly and their chazan doesn't know the nusach. His Neilla Kaddish sounds just like his Musaf Kaddish, for example, and his Kol Nidrei puts me in mind of a suffering cat. And the other set pieces, including Avos and Unesana Tokef, are like nothing I've ever heard. I'm not a traditionalists in all things, but I like latkes at Chanuka and I like to hear the universal melodies on the High Holidays. Oh, and the fact that they daven sfard is much more annoying on the Yomim Noaraim than it is during the rest of the year. I don't like having my Amidah inturrupted by the shofar.
At the MO shul, the sanctuary isn't that much prettier, but the service is tighter, and guided by a chazaan who knows what he's doing. Unfortunately, the congregation is more like an audience. They listen, when they should be singing.
The third option is the yeshivish minyan, which is essentially an Ashkenaz shteeble. True, they do start early, finish before 2 pm, and provide a nice long break on Yom Kippur, but the congregation isn't large enough, or loud enough, to carry me. Unlike the Hasidim, the yeshivish aren't much for singing.
So where does that leave me? No place, I guess.