At 2:30 on the first day and at 1:30 on the second.
Quality of the Chazzanut:
Mediocre. I don't like hearing Netana Tokef set to anything composed after I was born. The first day was way too shleppy, and the guy's voice was gone at the halfway point on the second day.
Quality of the reading material:
For the very first time, after years of denouncing the practice, I read in shul. My text was the Vilna Shas --BT Brachos -- and it occupied me during the auction services and the aforementioned shleppy parts of the service. (I put my book down and participated when the congregation was reciting) I'm not proud, but the experience justifies my earlier criticism. Reading in shul really does degrade the prayer experience. Also, I was powerless to object when my son tried to stave off his own boredom with some silly child's tract. Memo to Self: Must write a post on how joining the Daf Yomi is detrimental to davening (Its also detrimental to emuunah, but that's another story). At home I read most of Arguably, the collection of essays Christopher Hitchens published before Mortality. It's not good. Chris can certainly write, but the topics of the essays in this collection aren't topics that interest me; also, I like Hitchens the polemicist much better than Hitchens the serious reviewer of books. Arguably has too much of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.
Quality of the food
Outstanding as always. Once again, we started the year with duck slathered in honey. Chicken paprikash was planned for lunch the next afternoon but, having been invited out for second dinner and warned by our hostess to expect dairy, we put the chicken aside. (That tells you how shleppy the chazan was. Had we eaten meat for lunch, we would not have been dairy again in time for dinner). Instead, we lunched on soup, salad and side dishes and were rewarded for our forehandedness a few hours later with a delicious dairy meal: cheese soup, fish, Mac and Cheese (done correctly) and too many salads to count. The last lunch was chicken paprikash. The soups we had at home were chicken and vegetable. The best side dish, of the many we enjoyed, was rice salad.
Anecdote I wish to share
Because of the dinner invitation. I went to a new shul on the second night, far from my regular haunts. This place is Litvish/Yeckish to its core. They start on time, no one eats in the sanctuary - ever, and the nusach is Ashkenaz. In the back sat two lost souls wearing shtrimels. After services I went to shake the Rabbi's hand and found myself on line behind the two shtrimeils. "We're glad to see you" said the Rabbi, when he greeted the shtreimels, "We need some of the hasidic warmth." I was gobsmacked. Sure, the Rabbi was only trying to be friendly and welcoming, but look at HOW he chose to do it: with a backhanded swipe at what his core congregants probably like best about the place. Moreover, has any Hasidic Rabbi in the history of Judaism welcomed two non-Shtrimels to his shteeble on the grounds that the place needed some "Litvish brainpower", or "Yekish organization"? Of course not. He gives a polite welcome, or makes a crack about how nice it is to see you in a "real" shul. So why are the non-Hasidim so insecure, and why have they bought so completely into the myth the there is something warm about beards and outdated clothing?
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