Thursday, October 07, 2004

(Not so) Simchat Torah....

I believe the correct term is "bah - humbug!" Maybe I'm a little too old to truly appreciate Simchat Torah; I think of it as being first and foremost a festival for the kids to enjoy themselves, but Purim, which seems to be in the same classification, translates well for the older crowd. The past few years have seen me increasingly withdrawing from an imposed day of happiness and spending the time in bed with a book.

This year saw me with my fiancee and a few good friends in a lovely place just outside of Jerusalem. The quality of the friends promised that even if the dancing proved as much a turn off as usual that at least I'd be in good company. In the event however, I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying the evening's celebrations, dancing and singing with a mixed bunch of people in a small minyan where, had we not taken responsibility for singing, there would have been precious little in the way of simcha. A delightful meal, in good company, with a decent single malt, and then jelly and vodka shots with other friends rounded off a most pleasant evening.

The day was a different story - I really wasn't feeling much like dancing and can't stand being cajoled towards taking part when I'm really not in the mood. More irritating however was a very typical piece of Jewish shul politics which almost came to blows. Due to the size of the place in which we were based, a mixed Ashkenazi (Jews of largely Eastern European descent) and Sephardi (Jews of Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern descent) minyan was formed for the chag. Although the order of service and the wording is slightly different, it is very possible for a harmonious compromise to be reached, providing a united prayer style which all can live with. Unfortunately in this case, the old timers, all of one background were not particularly interested in what anyone else wanted and proceeded to bully their way through the service, trampling roughshod over other members of the community who, despite being happy to compromise, were decidedly miffed to be ignored, cut off and told to be be quiet. At the end of the service things came to a head and fortunately heads were just about cool enough to avoid violence.

The upshot of this is that the united minyan will now be two separate minyanim, struggling to find quite enough members to make up the numbers, but able to pray without compromise. Our tiny nation is divided along so many different lines but the divides within the religious camp, often amongst the most keenly felt, are often ignored. Surely the time has come for the religious leadership to attempt reconciliation so that we can all pray together? There are many beautiful aspects of all different prayer styles. There must be some way to incorporate the different styles into one, all-encompassing style (nusach) so that at least one of the splits can start to heal - if not in this generation, then the next.


1 comment:

Jack's Shack said...

Politics in shul is something that follows the shul regardless of location. Not our finest trait.