Sunday, September 5, 2010

Slichot and stuff

Hey World,

So I come to you after a shabbat filled with thinking (for better or for worse). This time of year in the Jewish calendar is really about looking inside and doing some internal reflection. We call it heshbon nefesh (or checking the soul). I definitely think this is important, but it is difficult. There are things I have done in the past year that I am very proud of, and I really think I have accomplished a lot...BUT I definitely tripped up a few times, or to use the Jewish metaphor I missed the mark. I don't want to get too dramatic on this blog so I'll stop there, but I will tell you my brain is very full from all the events of the past year/past few months here in Israel.

Ok, back to chronological order, kinda. Friday night I went to services at navah tehillah, a renewal minyan. I had gone once before right after I arrived in Israel, so it was interesting to go again now. The one major difference was that the services were outside this friday, and I actually didn't enjoy them as much because of that. Why? I think it was the microphones. The service felt more like a performance this time than a participatory experience. When it was inside we were all in a circle and there were still instruments but no microphones, so everyone could be heard. I am very much into prayer that encourages participation. When I go to pray I want to pray, not sit and watch other people pray/ have other people pray for me.

This issue is something I run into a lot. Especially around the high holidays. At my home synagogue during the high holidays they hire a quartet to sing. Yeah they sound nice, but I really dislike when they do these long solo pieces, or rather make the prayers into long solo pieces. If I want to go to a concert, I will go to a concert NOT to synagogue. Also while I'm at it, I do not dig the organ at services. We are not a church. I said it.

Anyways I had a great conversation last night about services with a classmate (shout out). I was basically talking about why I don't like Reform services and I came to a good conclusion that I think is important to say here. I DO NOT have a problem with choosing which prayers you want to say and shortening the prayers. While I would not (at least not now) personally choose this option if it is more meaningful for others I FULLY support this decision. I am all about the whole choice through knowledge, but that means there must be knowledge so that people can make an informed choice.

So here is where my annoyance comes in. Reform services bug me because I feel like generally, although not all the time,( I have on occasion enjoyed reform services, and I had my first really meaningful prayer experience during a reform service), these services cut out things and the choice has been made in a haphazard way, or at least the reason for these choices are not revealed. It bothers me that many times there is no recognition that a choice was made to change some wording or to cut something out. I think it's important to know what is traditionally there, acknowledge it in some way and move on. At least give a few seconds of pause in certain places where you skip things so people know things are being skipped and at least start to say these prayers or parts of prayers if they want to.

On a personal level I choose to say more prayers and use the more traditional liturgy because that is what is more meaningful to me. I do not think it is better or more right than other ways of praying, but for ME right now it is the best way. Some people don't connect that way, and I understand that. I just think it is important that everyone knows what is out there, and I feel like at many reform services/reform synagogues this is not the case and it drives me crazy. This is part of the reason why I want to be a reform rabbi. I could go on forever, this is one of my issues I am very passionate about, but I will end here and sum it up. I just want people to have the knowledge and the varied experience to make their own informed choices (and as a rab student/future rabbi I want to figure out how to help others accomplish this in a productive and meaningful way).

This morning I went to services at shira hadasha. They were great, I'm still a fan. Then I basically hung out all day. Did some reading, took a nap. I didn't really make plans before shabbat started so I got pretty bored, but it was still very restful and I enjoyed it. I just need to start having shabbat lunches every now and then to get some people over to the apartment and some company to celebrate shabbat with.

So the saturday night before Rosh hashana there is a custom (? tradition?) of doing slichot at around midnight. This is kind of starting off the whole repentance/asking for forgiveness process, and by kind of I mean I'm not sure because you are supposed to be getting ready all of the month before rosh hashanah. Whatever, slichot...SO last year I went to slichot for the first time and I had an amazing experience. I went to this minyan called hadar in NYC and it was so lovely. There was just lots of beautiful singing and it was a powerful prayer experience. So this year I was psyched for slichot, but unfortunately the services I went to (even at shira hadasha) did not live up to the expectations. So lame. I hope everyone who went to hadar enjoyed it, and if you are in NYC you should def check them out.

I think that is enough reflection/ranting for one blog entry. Rosh hashana is so soon ahhhh



  1. I think it a little ponderous to explain during services why each prayer was or was not chosen. Some choices are late overs from the tradition of the original congregation members.

    At the Reform Biennial this May I took part in a discussion led by Rabbi Meir Azari about this exact subject - very interesting.
    He mentioned that when he had been in the US, visiting other congregations, the freedom of prayer choice had led to a feeling of confusion and strangeness not the familiarity that is part of the Jewish prayer service for so many.
    I think most Israeli congregations are more conservative than those in the US but I do agree with you in preferring a more traditional service with less ad libbing.

  2. Thanks for your comment...

    Yeah I definitely agree that explaining each choice made during each service would be a bit ridiculous, I don't know exactly how I would want this to be initiated (I still have a few years of rabbinical school to figure that out haha).

    In my liturgy class today we were talking about that exact problem that when you give choice to the individual how do you have continuity within the congregation and within the movement. There is definitely a struggle with this. It's something I definitely think about...

  3. Hadar was also disappointing this year :-( Too few people in too big a room led by a chazan who didn't daven loudly enough to make up for it.