Sunday, September 10, 2006

Very familiar (almost)

The more Jews change the more they stay the same, but there are some important differences as we see from Tractate Rosh Hashana 32A:

When the Sanhedrin went to Usha, R. Yochanan b. Beruka was the chazan [on Rosh Hashana] in front [of the Nasi] Shimon b. Gamliel and he followed the liturgy of R. Yochanan b. Nuri.

R. Shimon b. Gamliel said to him "That's not how we did it in Yavneh."

On the second day, R. Chanina b. R. Yosi Hagelili was the chazan and he followed the liturgy of R. Akiva

R. Shimon b. Gamliel said to him "Ah! That's how we did it in Yavneh."
Much of this is familiar. Twenty-first century Jews will recognize the fetishization of customs, and the holiday sense of longing for the alter heim. (Yavneh, in this case.)

But that's where the similarities end.

In our day, no self-respecting Rabbi would ever allow a competing liturgy to be used in his shul. In our day, R. Shimon permits R. Yochanan to lead the services about ten seconds after hell freezes over. Anyway, the moment R. Yochanan departed from the house custom, the 21st century congregation would have started yelling "Neee! Neee!" and making faces at the gabbai.

Moreover, there's no way R. Yochanan b. Beruka sets foot in R. Shimon b. Gamliel's shul in the first place. In our day, someone with a minority custom wouldn't support R. Shimon, the acknowledged community leader, and continue to pray in his shul. Instead, he'd open up a shteible around the corner and use the promise of a weekly cholent to steal R. Shimon's members.

[My famous post against breakway minyanim]

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