6/28/08

Velveteen Rabbi on the Joys of Davening in Jerusalem

Just a lovely diary entry = blog post from the Velveteen Rabbi capturing the essence of the Jewish spirit that abides in only one city in the world.
...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....

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.
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?]

Kinda shows you a contrast. Not that, G-d F-rbid, there is anything wrong with Judaism in the diaspora.

3 comments:

John D. Enright said...

It sounds a bit like the scene in the movie the "Blues Brothers" where Belushi and Akroid attend a fundamentalist Baptist service with James Brown as the Preacher. (I don't intend to disparage the writer's obvious reverence for the real thing. I only mean that it sounds very festive; almost otherworldly.) It's more proof of the daily social and religious intercourse between G-d and mankind.

bryce said...

"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. "

Really, that's a New York and I guess New Jersey problem. Perhaps you haven't travelled the rest of the Galut recently...

rbarenblat said...

Thanks for the signal boost; I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

And John, the Blues Brothers reference made me laugh. I love that movie. My first Jewish Renewal Shabbat services -- under a tent, in a field, with singing and dancing and tambourines and a lot of joy -- definitely had that kind of feel. (That was in the Catskills, for what it's worth. Elat Chayyim is its own kind of holy land.)