Monday, September 17, 2007

Nu? What time did you finish?

Day 1 - 1:30 p.m. No break. Short speech
Day 2 - 1:15 p.m. Ditto

Fun fact to know and tell: According to Life is With People, a cultural study of Eastern European Jews, our shtetle-dwelling ancestors also spent the day after Rosh Hashana discussing the length of the service the quality of the chazan, and so on.

Annual Lament The Rosh Hashana kiddush-break is an abomination. In previous years, I've prayed at places that finished at 2 p.m and later, but only because the congregation indulged in 30 or 45 minutes of snacking and gossiping. Why is that necessary? How is that in keeping with the spirit of the day? Without the break we'd have been home for lunch shortly after 1!! This practice, like so many other pimples on the face of contemporary Judaism, was adapted from the Hasidim by pick-and-choose Jews who want to take it easy. Authentic Hasidim have a legitimate reason to break on Rosh Hashana after Torah reading. They finish after 3 p.m because they daven more slowly and because the pre-prayer preparation they make results in a later start time. Going until 3 p.m without refreshment is a hardship. If my shul went until 3 I'd also want a fast snack along the way. But those of us who begin at 8 or 8:30, daven at an ordinary pace and would otherwise finish at lunch-time have no need for it. We've adapted it, I bet, because that's what the Hasidim do, and "every one knows how holy they are."

[Note: I don't mean to suggest there's anything wrong with picking-and choosing. We all do it. The problem isn't picking-and-choosing. The problem is the failure to acknowledge it. I have no objection to the hybrid Judaism all of us practice today. What I object to is the idea that this hybrid is in any way "authentic" or superior to other expressions.]

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