Tag Archives: shul

Baby Naming

This past Shabbat was the first time I attended a baby naming in shul. It wasn’t intentional – I just happened to be there as we went to shul with my in-laws. I love this shul – Modern Orthodox, the women get to see everything, they carry the sefer torah through the women’s side at the appropriate time, etc. I am not saying MO is better just different, and it is refreshing to experience “different” from time to time, so long as one’s principles are not compromised.

One of the congregants had given birth in the past week to a baby girl. It’s actually a lovely story. Two people, with children from first marriages, had met and married, and now had a baby girl together. (Yes, that was a tear I wiped away just now.) So the mom and the baby were there in shul, as were their other six assorted children.

The father was called up to the Torah, and on his way he was handed the newborn. There was a collective sigh as the baby snuggled up to her Abba. The rabbi said a few words before the father named her, and everyone present truly felt the joy this baby’s birth had brought. Her parents gave her a name that was longer than she is – but was beautiful nevertheless. In the mix of the names was Batsheva – I thought that was lovely touch. (Bat means daughter, sheva means seven).

Once she was named the father handed the baby over to the Rabbi who gave her a bracha (a blessing) and a kiss on the forehead. Everybody sang Mazel Tov veSiman Tov and the baby was passed back to her mother. The baby was quiet through this whole thing.

In the shuls that I have attended in the past the baby girl naming has not been a big deal. The father was called up to the Torah, gave the baby her name and got some mazel tovs. This was awesome – naming a baby who was actually present. What a concept!! I feel blessed to have been a part of this, even as a bystander.

How did you name your baby girl? How were you named? Do you think there should be just as much pomp and circumstance around the birth of a girl baby, as there is with the birth of a boy baby?

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Dressing for shul

I try hard not to demand too much from the boys, especially in the summer where they are supposed to be able to chill out. However, yesterday, as they were getting ready to go to shul for maariv at the end of the fast, I insisted that my son change his shorts for long trousers. There was much eye rolling. Apparently “God doesn’t really care what you wear to shul so long as you show up”. Um. No. I believe it is inherently disrespectful to show up to a place of worship looking like you just stepped off a basketball court. The night before he had ridden his bike for an hour before maariv and I insisted he showered before going – I am apparently a very demanding mom. Seriously, to me, when you go to shul, you must show more respect than when you are just hanging out at home with your friends. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite – it’s not pretending that you are different, it’s just dressing appropriately for the occasion.

While there was eye rolling going on, his friend who was hanging out with him told him that he was going home to change before shul as his mother also doesn’t let him go to shul in shorts. Score one for the mommies.

Demanding? Or justified?

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Friday Night Mikvah

I think going to mikvah on a Friday night (or a Yom Tov night) has to be the most difficult night to go. Especially if you have young children. Especially if you have older children. Whether it is right or wrong (and we have had this discussion a time or two) we don’t really want our children knowing when we are going to mikvah, when we are Niddah, when we are not. It just is not modest and not something to share with children.

On Friday night the time to dunk is usually around the time the men start to daven maariv in shul. When one has little kids, and needs to go, from what I have learned, it is incumbent on the husband to stay home from shul and watch his children while his wife performs this mitzvah. It’s easy when the children are small to tell them mommy has to go help a friend. But what do you tell them when they are teens and they notice that their father is not in shul and won’t buy the “friend” story? Or they come home from shul and they notice that mommy isn’t there?

I have heard a time or two that many women push off mikvah if it falls on Friday night. They will just go Saturday night instead. This bothers me so much. Yes it’s annoying to have to make arrangements to go on a Friday night, but the annoyance is far outweighed by the joy of being able to reunite with one’s husband – and on Shabbat too, a double mitzvah.

So, help me help other women – what works for you for Friday night mikvah? How do you manage to get it done without the children being any the wiser? What about if you are staying at friends for Shabbat, or if you have a simcha, or company staying with you? How have you managed it then? Do you think it’s fair to the husband to push off mikvah for a night, just for convenience sake?

Edited to Add (thanks MG) – what do you do when the mikvah is not within walking distance?

(inspired by IR)

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Shul Membership Continued

To continue from yesterdays theme about letting a sex offender into one’s shul or not. When there is a risk to the children, the problem does need to be looked at in depth. But I was curious – how would you deal with a convicted felon? Who had served his time – perhaps for murder, manslaughter, or robbery? What about if they are out on bail and have yet to prove their guilt / innocence? What about if it was white collar crime and this person embezzled money or perpetrated a fraud on the government? How about someone who served time, but still maintains his innocence? What about someone who is a known Kofer / Apikores (heretic) and has been vocal about it? Should he be allowed into shul to daven (pray), when you know he doesn’t believe a word he is saying? Someone who entered the country illegally and plans to stay? Someone know for low morals?

Where on earth does one draw the line? Are we not all guilty of some sin to some extent? Have there been any teshuvot (answers) written on the subject?

(I remember when I was dating. I was talking on the phone to someone I had been set up with. Sixth sense made me ask him if he had ever been in prison. After he recovered from his absolute shock that I had thought to ask that, he told me that he had been incarcerated for 5 years, it was ONLY white collar crime, he took the fall for someone else, and that his community backed him up 100%. Needless to say I was not interested in dating a convicted felon especially one who obviously didn’t think he had done anything wrong. But that phrase stuck with me. “Only white collar crime”.)

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Be Quiet, for God’s Sake!

I don’t know about you but I like the whole davening in shul thing. I like the liturgy, a touch of chazanut, a shtickle Carlebach niggun, a good speech from the rabbi, and I am uplifted. Add in a decent kiddush after services, and I am good to go. I usually only get to shul Shabbat morning, so I really cherish my shul time.

Every shul is different with what level of background noise it will tolerate. I have heard of men being bodily ejected from shul because they were flapping their gums too much. Some shuls insist on silence only during Torah reading and the rabbi’s speech, other shuls there is a constant hum of conversation.

I can socialize after shul. Catch up on the latest gossip or shoe sales or sports stats or what-have-you. To me, that’s what a Kiddush is for. Why do people find it necessary to talk during shul? That is your time to pray to God.

“Sorry, God. Hold on a minute, God, Jay has to tell me what happened on the ninth hole erev Shabbat, I wouldn’t disrupt this one way conversation unless it was important”.

Seriously, have we become so jaded that talking in shul is normal? Look, I am not perfect, and have been known to talk in shul, but I really do try not to. There are some people, though, that spend the entire davening deep in conversation with their neighbour, barely pausing to daven the swiftest Amidah ever before they resume their discussion on the healthcare system, how they think Tiger Woods scored that hole in one, or that cute blonde that just walked in, or the rebbetzin who is looking a little heavy around the middle again, and her baby is only 11 months old!!

People! You are standing in a house of worship! You have come there to daven, to pray to God, to thank him for your abundant blessings and ask him to cure your aunt Millie and put more money in your bank account. Yet, in the middle of all that praising and supplication you press PAUSE so you can chit chat? Who do you think you are? No one tells God to wait. No one, not even Moses, can get away with that.

What if, in the middle of you talking to your neighbour, God decides He wants to talk to you? You won’t pick up on that because you have closed your spiritual pathways to talk to your friend. Hey, maybe God wants to tell you what lottery numbers to play this week but you are too busy talking about the Yankees that you won’t get the message. He wanted to answer your prayers but you let Him go to voice mail.

How hard is it to stop talking in shul, except to God? In a courtroom no one dares to speak. No one, or they are in contempt which means a fine. Or prison time. Or both. And the Judge is a human being, yet no one would dare make a cellphone call in the midst of a legal argument. The idea of talking in shul should be just as terrifying if not more.

We are standing there in front of God, and communally we are showing Him major disrespect. I would like to be able to daven in peace in shul, not be disturbed by inane chatter, whispering and giggling. Not have to hear the Gabbai pound on the Bima and say “we shall only continue when there is silence” – there should be silence as a matter of course.

We are coming up on Rosh Hashannah, and of course everyone will be silent in shul, as they will on Yom Kippur. We are being judged, of course we are going to be quiet. Come on, what a crock! God knows that we talked in shul last week and missed all the leining. God knows that we are going to talk next week in shul and the week after, and that we have no intention of shutting up in shul. Except the Day of Judgment. Because, you know, maybe we can pull the wool over His eyes. Give me a break. Stop talking now and stick to it, and concentrate on your prayers. Maybe, just maybe, you will reconnect with your inner spirituality. It won’t bring you the Maserati you have been dreaming of, but maybe you will sleep better at night.

I know that I am making a commitment to be quiet in shul from now on. I want to connect with God. I don’t want to just say words, I want to mean them and reflect on them. Don’t you be the one in shul to ruin my kavannah. God has a lot more up His proverbial sleeve that I have.

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Squiggy’s Barmitzvah

I am sitting here at the computer, the day after Squiggy’s barmitzvah, the house is quiet for the first time in a while.

How does one encapsulate 25 hours of awesomeness into a few lines of prose? No clue, but I will try.

Before Shabbat we got all dressed up, I had my makeup professionally done, and we trooped out to pose for professional pictures at Pratt Park. Perfect! The boys had a blast while I worried about them ruining their spiffy new suits and shoes. We have worked with this photographer before – which added a level of comfort to the whole proceedings, Usually Squiggy gives me a hard time with photographs, so I gave him a choice this time, whether to do professional ones or not. His barmitzvah, his choice. Initially he said no. then he changed his mind – Ok, Ima, I know it will make you happy, so let’s do them. It was great doing family shots – with the KoD!! What a difference a year can make….

We came home, relaxed for a little bit, and then headed out for the barmitzvah Shabbat. We dropped the boys off at their father’s house and headed close by to where we were staying, the Green Hotel (lol).

We got to the shul and greeted our guests and family, introduced the KoD to everyone (gosh, I was so proud to do this) and us womenfolk went to light Shabbat candles. I love it when a whole bunch of women get together and light Shabbat candles. The glow seems to be extra special.

Looking out over the shul at Kaballat Shabbat services, my heart swelled with pride. This shul was a modern shul, which had separate ladies seating, but with no curtains or view obstructions. This I liked. I got to observe my boys davening alongside their father and stepfather, cousins and friends, and it was very touching indeed.

After services we adjourned to the hall for Friday night dinner. This was a small family affair, low key – just perfect. Squiggy made kiddush for the first time ever, and did a phenomenal job, and I must admit to wiping a tear or two from my eye. The food was good, the wine was flowing, conversation was animated – everyone had a good time. For my boys, they were so surrounded with love – what a bracha for a child to feel so much love from so many people.

We went back to our lodgings to have a peaceful sleep…well, that was the intent. I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was nervous for my boy. Wondering how he was sleeping. Wondering if he might have an attack of the nerves. Hoping he was fine and snoring away.

Morning came, and it was time to get back to the shul. (yes, I did have my coffee before I left for shul, priorities you know!!) By this time the butterflies in my tummy had multiplied and I just needed to see Squiggy to make sure he was ok. I saw him sitting next to his father in the front row, with his brothers and step brothers and step father all sitting together in the same row. Squiggy was told I had arrived so he turned around, and walked up to the ladies section to say hello. He shook my hand, I blew him a kiss, caressed his face, and let him go. As the service progressed he got paler and paler, and my hands shook more and more.

Soon it was time for the Torah reading and the shul had filled up considerably. By this time, my mouth was dry and my girlfriend was sitting next to me holding my hand. On the other side was my aunt being equally encouraging. Squiggy appeared outwardly calm, but a mother knows when her child is nervous.

Torah reading started – he was to read the maftir and the haftarah. His stepfather and his father were both called up to the Torah – a big honour. Then it was time. Just prior to this little Prince ChatterBox had been going around the shul with a huge basket full of candy handing a couple out to everyone, to throw at the barmitzvah boy at the appropriate time. 7 lbs of candy! The chazzan called Squiggy up with such wonderful pomp and circumstance. His father had already helped him put on his tallit, and he mounted the stairs to the Bima with confidence. At this point for me the tears started to flow and didn’t stop for a while.

He made the requisite brachot, his sweet clear voice filling all corners of the shul. The rabbi asked for quiet so that the barmitzvah boy could read the maftir without disruption. He read it perfectly. His voice strong and sure, his pace steady. He did a couple more brachot, and then the men started to sing “Siman Tov uMazel Tov” – our cue to throw candies (so he should enjoy the sweetness of Torah). The little kids ran around collecting the sweets, stuffing pockets and mouths. All the men tried to squeeze up on the Bima to dance with Squiggy – they couldn’t move there were so many people up there. It was so heart warming.

Eventually the dancing stopped and the men returned to their places. Squiggy made the brachot for the Haftara, and read it out loud, clear as a bell. He has been blessed with such a beautiful voice BH! When he made the final bracha, his voice was so musical, his concentration so strong – it was the most awesome thing I have ever heard.

He finished and I was surrounded by family and friends wishing me mazel tov, he was surrounded too. There was so much love and affection for us in that shul. It was truly touching. I got to glance at his face right after he was done reading and the relief on it was huge!!

The rabbi gave a speech, and presented the barmitzvah boy with a lovely siddur, and a bracha that he should grow up to be a fine man, a mensch, who will have an honourable place amongst the Children of Israel.

After services we adjourned to the hall for a kiddush – there was cholent and cookies and all of that kind of stuff. Lots of socializing and mazel tovs. My face started to hurt from the smiling.

Soon it was the celebratory lunch for close friends and family. Some of Squiggy’s friends had walked in from our area – a walk of an hour and a quarter. We were so touched that they made the effort.

I gave a short speech – nothing fancy. Welcoming everyone and just telling everyone what an awesome kid Squiggy is, that I hope he grows up well, and uses his awesome talents, that he can be anything he wants to be. I tried not to embarrass him too much. His father spoke, remembering that when I was pregnant with Squiggy so soon after Lenny was born (they are 13 months apart) we wondered how we would ever love another child, as we loved Lenny so much. He spoke about how awesome it was that our love for Squiggy was immediately there, was just as huge as our love for all the kids. He also extolled Squiggy’s virtues. Squiggy’s paternal grandmother spoke too, briefly, but touchingly. Squiggy chose not to speak which was fine with us – he did an awesome job in shul that morning – that was enough in my book.

We got to make a few l’chaims – on single malt too!! After much eating and drinking and celebrating, it was time to bensch and conclude the meal. Lots of “we’ll see you at the next barmitzvah” – only 17 months, not that we are counting!!

This was a lovely barmitzvah Shabbat. It couldn’t have been better. When you consider the whole familial situation – divorced parents, adding in two step parents and various other additions etc there was the potential for interesting happenings. But everyone was welcoming and friendly to all – it was truly about giving our son the best barmitzvah he could possibly have had. That we did.

May we all merit to celebrate many many simchas with each other. Amen.

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Separation of Suits and Skirts

The mechitzah. Love it or hate it, it is part of the religious world. Men and women are to be separated at most events – davening, weddings, community meetings. In some communities it’s enough that the men sit on one side and the women on the other. In other communities there is one way glass, or thick wooden dividers.

 

From what I am given to understand, during prayer, it’s the men that must not look at the ladies, and not the other way around. I have been to a few shuls where the mechitzah is one way glass – so we can ogle the cute guys in the designer suits, with him having no idea that he is the centre of attention. I guess this is because men’s obligation to pray is much stronger than women’s so if we get distracted it’s not the end of the world.

 

Another shul I have been too has thick office dividers down the centre of the shul, very effectively separating the sexes. But when they do VeZot HaTorah – well, I can’t very well raise my pinkie to said Torah because I cannot see it. I cannot see who is davenning, or even if my sons are behaving, I can’t even see the rabbi when he is talking. I may as well not be there for all the spirituality I feel there.

 

Hopping on to a different shul. This one has the women’s balcony at a right angle to the men, with a very sheer net curtain that hides nothing. Bliss – I can see what’s going on in the service, who gets an aliyah, I can even see my kids put their fingers in their brothers ears……….but I can also which guys are checking out which gals, or even if someone is checking me out. Interestingly enough this shul has the least decorum – talking throughout leining, davening etc. Also in this shul they give my little guy the privilege of opening the Aron Kodesh for Anim Zemirot, and allow him and his brothers or other small boys to sing Adon Olam from the Bima. And I get to see it. They also have great kiddushim. Great mechitzah – terrible decorum. Again, no spirituality there.

 

Does being behind a mechitzah take away spirituality, or is it just the shuls I am frequenting? What is it like being a man on the other side of the mechitzah?

 

Really when I decide where to daven, these days it’s all about where the boys feel the most comfortable. In one shul with thick mechitzahs I know they boys will be watched by some of the men that we know, where as in the decorum-less shul they run wilder until they get a furious eagle eye from me. And there I am, stuck in parenting limbo, being that I am the opposite sex from my children. Very frustrating.

Olympic Meshugass!

I actually listened to the rabbi’s speech today in shul, and most of what he said ticked me off. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe he is usually controversial and I never listened before.

 

First he talked about being Jewish – that in order to be counted as being Jewish one has to keep the mitzvoth. What? In my understanding if your mother is Jewish, that makes you Jewish whether you keep one mitzvah, 613 mitzvoth or none. I guess his point was really that if the Jews don’t keep mitzvoth there will be no Judaism left. But saying you are not Jewish if you do not perform mitzvoth was wrong. No wonder secular Jews sometimes feel alienated from organized religion, if this is the prevailing attitude,

 

Then he decided to lambast the Olympics, calling the amazing feats of athletic prowess “meshugass”, ridiculing the respect we have for people who can jump higher, run faster, dive cleaner etc. Apparently according to the rabbi, this is totally wrong. We shouldn’t admire anyone who obviously has these talents because it has nothing to do with who we are as Jews. We should admire people because of their Jewishness, their fear of G-d, their belief in Him, and their daily struggles in order to serve Him. Surely a person who is faster, can jump higher etc is blessed by G-d, surely these are G-d given talents? Ok, maybe worshipping them is too much, but how can anyone fail to see G-d’s gift in Michael Phelps’s swimming? There is something totally unworldly and beyond the norm in that. There were many Jewish Olympians this year – should we not be proud? Is the rabbi saying we should be ashamed to put any emphasis on physical accomplishments?

 

I am guessing that this rabbi, well into his 70s, has a different mind-set than I do, and sees evil and anti-Jewishness everywhere he looks. What I really hate about rabbi’s sermons is that there is no Q and A period after, that there is no arguing with his point of view. The rabbi speaks, the service continues, and I am left to stew with my thoughts. Of course, I could have discussed it with him after mussaf, at the Kiddush, but would he have spoken to me, a mere woman? Not just a woman, but one with an opinion too. Perish the thought! This Rabbi seems to be all fire and brimstone. I hate that.

Careful what you wish for

You know the saying, careful what you wish for you just might get it? The last couple of days have sucked, I have been so tired and drained from the barmitzvah, all I wanted was some of my bounce back, some adrenalin……

 

Yeah. Thank you G-d for your cosmic joke, again! Tell me something, why is it that my kids have to get themselves in these pickles? Cant you have someone else’s kids get into trouble?

 

I very innocently sent them off to shul to daven shacharit – good mommy, right? I figured I could loll about in bed an extra half hour with only the little squeaker keeping me company. Lo and behold my phone rings. The kids are in shul – what could possibly happen?!! Oh me of little faith.

 

Guy starts telling me how wonderful my kids davened, blah blah, I am thinking ok, nice that you called me, get to the point man – umm well Son #2 somehow started bleeding, Son #1 saw the blood and promptly fainted. Hatzoloh and 911 on the scene. I am on my way, I say, yelling to #4 to get his shoes on.

 

In my panic I still have the presence of mind to dress modestly (it is a shul) and cover my hair, and the kid and I take off running pell mell down the block. Seeing that ambulance there for my kids gave me palpitations.

 

I got the story. There is a peddler who sells stuff at the shul to make a parnassah. He sells pocket knives. The child of mine who wanted one had the other make the purchase as he was too shy. He still is a kid, and the guy shouldn’t have sold him the knife. Kid wanted to look at the blade, and cut himself trying to close it. But even when the kid was bleeding all over the shul, the peddler didn’t come over and make amends. He minded his own business and slipped quietly out of shul. He had better watch his back because this momma bear is going to come after him.

 

My boys learnt a huge lesson this morning. When Ima says no its not because she is mean. Its because she does know whats best, every single time. The cut kid got glued back together, fainter kid is fine, ego a little bruised – fainting in front of your friends is so not cool.

 

Ah well, another day another saga……….