Discussion point

A friend was out today, talking with another woman. The other woman happens to be a long time BT (returnee to Judaism). They were talking about Tehillim (Psalms) groups. A bunch of women (or men) will get together to recite Tehillim for specific people, and in the zchut (merit) of their prayers, this person will hopefully be healed, get pregnant, have a positive change in life circumstance- whatever it is that is being prayed for.

So this BT was saying that she will NEVER attend one such group, because as a BT and not having been exposed to Hebrew from a young age, her Hebrew reading is slow and halting. If other women hear her read, she said, it would ruin her children’s shidduch (marriage) chances.

What do you think?

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27 responses to “Discussion point

  1. I think she should attend, I don’t think God cares if her reading isn’t perfect; it’s the kavanah (intention, concentration) that counts. I think those other women in the group should applaud her courage in going and overcoming her fear of reading Hebrew in public. As far as her children’s potential shidduchim – that’s a whole other discussion!

    • discuss away, Jess – I want to know YOUR thoughts.

    • Jess,

      Absolutely right. G-d understands English, too (I originally read that in an article regarding High Holy Day prayers). I would have a problem with such a group if they indeed criticized her for not being able to read Hebrew adequately–it sounds as if that would reflect on the group rather than her.

  2. The criteria for shidduchim has gotten way out of hand. I’ve heard some crazy ones. For example, does the girl wear a seat belt in the front seat. (The answer should be no, as it will accentuate her breasts and thus not tznius (modest) ). How wide are the mother’s hips – so the guy can know what his potential bride will look like after bearing all his children. Does she serve salmon or gefilte fish as an appetizer, apparently gefilte fish as “pas nisht” or passe. I am not making these things up. There are a million other absurd questions on these shidduch questionnaires. Not one mention of menschlechkeit. And yes, the issue of whether a parent is a BT or convert comes up. And it shouldn’t. What should matter is that the parents are good people and raised good children. I don’t know how these questionnaires came about, but somehow along the way, personality and being a good person has gone the way of gefilte fish!
    Excuse my rant, but you did want to know my thoughts! As one not in the charedi shidduch world, it doesn’t affect me, but as a Jew it makes me wonder how things got this far.

    • Jess,

      Some time ago, there was a posting that began with the subject of obtaining enough chicken to satisfy every member of the family. Somehow, the thread drifted to the subject of shidduchim (remember this?) and the idiotic criteria some people use for shidduchim. We had a lot of fun discussing the topic, but underneath I think we all felt the same as you that things have gotten out of hand.

      Does the girl wear a seat belt in the front seat because it will accentuate her breasts? Maybe the person could say that dina d’malchuta dina (the law of the land is the law) trumps that (and the fact that the girl may not want to pay the traffic fine…).

      From what I read, Jess is indeed not making this stuff up. What are people thinking?

  3. I’ve been to tehillim/psalm groups & i don’t understand why the woman would shy away from these b/c everyone reads at their own pace silently & therefore no one would even hear her reading out loud. also, the way it works it that the group divides up a bunch of little pamphlets which make up the entire book of psalms when combined. when a woman finishes reading from one pamphlet she then starts another one & continues until she completes the second pamphlet. i would encourage this lady to go to the group with the goal of finishing just one of the pamphlets even if the other women will complete more pamphlets that she. also, she can try to practice her Hebrew reading at home which should help b/c practice makes perfect…i think she is being too self-conscious about her Hebrew reading & instead she should focus on improving it & not be concerned with such trivialities. any family that isn’t interested in her children b/c she reads Hebrew too slowly doesn’t deserve to marry into her family anyhow!

  4. One would hope that someone in the group would take her under their wing and help her. She should go, I think people in group will be more forgiving than she thinks.

  5. Here are my thoughts, which don’t necessarily address your questions:

    I live in a community that tilts RW but has a lot of BTs. I often hear women say they can’t read Hebrew (or can hardly read at all) at tehilim groups. It surprises me. Personally, I became shomer shabbos at age 14, but I had received a decent amount of Jewish education up until that point, so reading Hebrew wasn’t a problem. (My pre-frum education was inconsistent and sketchy: I knew a fair amount of davening, I knew about Shabbos, havdala, and kashrus, but I had never heard of netilas yadayim or hair covering).

    Anyway, I find it amazing that someone can be living a committed, frum, right wing life and not know how to read Hebrew. If the ability isn’t there, that’s one thing, but with groups like NJOP giving crash courses in Hebrew reading, most people can acquire the skill. It seems like a lack of commitment to take on all sorts of chumras and social affectations of the frum world, but not to learn to read the holy language.

    I’m not criticizing anyone in particular, but it’s just a strange phenomenon.

  6. As far as I know, everyone just reads quietly at their own pace.
    And I’d think, the fact that she actually attends a tehillim group can only enhance her children’s shidduch prospects!

  7. like Jess said, as long as she recites with Kavannah then its all good.

    There is a story about a man who went to Shul for the high holidays. he didn’t know the prayers nor could he read. but he did know the Aleph Beit. So recited the hebrew Aleph Beit and Hashem heard this man’s prayers.

  8. Lady Lock and Load

    I learn Tehillim with a friend once a week. She likes it when I read, so I do all the reading. The Tehillim that I say alot I know by heart and can say easily, the ones I do not know I read slowly as the words can be hard. And I went to Yeshiva my whole life and am fluent in Hebrew.
    I think a person who says it slowly may have lots of kavanah and it would “takka” be good for shidduchim!

  9. Absolutely. You just have to balance it against the shidduch chances you loose by not going…

  10. I’m a BT and I can understand how that woman feels b/c I do think I sound different / awkward when reading Hebrew aloud. However, it would not prevent me from participating.

  11. The general rule when it comes to shidduchim is that anything, anything, the slightest bit out of the ordinary or different is a negative. And I really mean anything, real or perceived, honest or dishonest (someone said she used a non-white tablecloth once on shabbos), good or bad (God forbid anyone should ever find out that her mother volunteered at the homeless shelter one Thanksgiving!). It is utter craziness.

    And in this case, being exposed openly as a BT that can’t read Hebrew properly would be a black shidduch mark. As it is, all the women are talking about her BT-ness, that would only add to it.

    • but Mark, the women in the tehillim groups read it silently to themselves so no one is going to hear her anyhow..

      • I’m talking about the ones where they take turns reading aloud.

        • that would take hours to read the whole book of tehillim out loud…

          • Who says you have to read all of tehillim?

            Usually specific tehillim are “prescribed” for various things. Such as reciting perek 20,30,32,etc for an ill person.

            • no one says you HAVE to read anything but the way it works at these weekly tehillim meetings is that a group of women will simultaneously complete the whole book while each reading different sections to themselves & the more women that attend the meeting the faster the tehillim will be completed (& less of a time commitment will be involved).

              after thinking more about this woman, i personally think she is using her “BTness” as an excuse not to attend these meetings. quite honestly they involve a time commitment which is not always easy for mothers with obligations at home (kids, homework, bedtime etc) & it is not easy to commit to these weekly meetings. i know this firsthand b/c i initially tried to attend (for a variety of ppl. in need of a refuah-cure) & found it hard to continue long-term b/c at 8pm on tuesday nights it was a bit too challenging for me to leave the house “flying” & run out to do this mitzvah…so, the more i think about, quite frankly the more i think it might just be a “convenient” excuse & like others mentioned above, attending these meetings would probably help her kids & their shidduch prospects rather than hinder them.

              • batya – but the way it works at these weekly tehillim meetings

                The post didn’t say anything about “weekly meetings” and specifically mentioned tehillim to cure illnesss and to cause pregnancy. That’s why I assumed the women would be saying the tehillim prescribed for those things.

    • Mark,

      That may be true, but it is still insane.

  12. By the way, if anyone is interested, Eichlers is having a great sale on the Artscroll Tehillim set this week (40% off!).

  13. In most tehillim groups the women says parts of tehillim quietly to themselves at their own pace to collectively say the whole tehillim- so anyone with any level of hebrew reading can join.

  14. I remember being invited to a Rosh Chodesh event. When I arrived, I realized everything was in Hebrew. They didn’t even have English translations. When one woman asked for English translations, she was shrugged off. I didn’t have a really good time.

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