...Then the davenen reconvened. The Torah was brought into the women's section, where we kissed it and touched it reverently (though rather sedately); then it went into the men's section, where they hoisted it and danced with it with abandon. The whole Torah portion was read aloud (I can't remember the last time I attended a service where that was the custom), and meanwhile little kids ran around like crazy, babies cried, people talked -- it was a real balagan, a kind of comfortable chaos that didn't in any way detract from the intentionality or heart of the service. That's a thing I love about traditional davenen: the joyful lack of decorum....Meanwhile - abrupt interruption to a journey of the spirit - we were trapped again for Shabbat in the galut in a synagogue where the main greeting amongst the members is, "What are you doing here?" and the main concern in shul is making sure nobody takes your seat and one topic of the Noon conversation at lunch was whether it could be remotely true that our Rabbi so-and-so earns $400,000 a year. [We remarked: Who cares?]
So: that was my first Shabbat morning in Jerusalem. Four hours of really fantastic davenen (with a nice schmoozing break midway through) at the Leader Minyan. I'm trying to think of what I can compare it to. There are things about it that remind me of Renewal: the participation, the singing, the ruach (energy/spirit.) There are things about it that remind of the Brookline Havurah Minyan where I used to go for Yom Kippur with my sister: that it's lay-led, that participation is so universal, that everyone there clearly takes davenen seriously and knows the service inside and out.
The liturgy was quite traditional, similar to a million other services in a million other shuls (at least five thousand of which are here in Jerusalem. Seriously -- I learned yesterday that there are 5,000 shuls here, plus an uncounted number of independent minyanim. Of those five thousand shuls, apparently 8 are Conservative and 5 are Reform.) But this particular kind of deep-rooted traditional davenen, done with joy and with a certain kind of egalitarian spirit, wasn't quite like anything else I've ever experienced.
Thanks, Leader Minyan, for a really sweet first Jerusalem Shabbat morning.
Kinda shows you a contrast. Not that, G-d F-rbid, there is anything wrong with Judaism in the diaspora.