Thursday, October 23, 2008

So, How Does Your Shul Rate On Simchas Torah?

Lakewood Falling Down posted a list of things that he doesn't like about his shul's services on Simchas Torah. Here's his list and how my shul fared:

Bidding wars. The first issue is the silly grins the gabboim get on their faces when the bidding on aliayas starts. You also can’t really judge how bad the economy is when some Hocker bids $15,000. 00 on Chosson Torah. Many shuls have tried different approaches to stop the madness, but to no avail. And why should they when a large chunk of change will be coming the shul’s way and you get a Kiddush sponsored to boot!

In my shul, we don't sell aliyos, or any other honor. There are only a few times that money is even mentioned in the shul at all. One is before the Yomim Noraim. Another is after an aliya, a person has the option of giving something to the shul (but it's by no means obligatory). And, lastly, sometimes, when Yizkor is said, the rav will work a sentence into his speech about giving in memory of those who have departed (but there is no public announcements of donations). So, to get back to the point, Ata Horaisa is not sold. In fact, the rav says Ata Horaisa and then various other members of the congration get to say the following pesukim.

Next is the “cool guys” who go out for a smoke with all of the kids milling around. Way to set an example you Hockers.

No one in my shul goes out to smoke.

The orchestration. This is a time of year when shul board members and hockers come into their full prime. From telling you where you can dance (or even worse, that you have to dance), to what kind of candy you are allowed to even give your own kids, these guys are in their element on Simchas Torah. Heaven forbid you want to sing a different song after singing the same “Anah, anah anah…” 200 times.

In our shul, there are pretty much no set rules. While there are certain piyutim/mizmorim that are sung with some hakafos (such as Ain Adir, HaAderes V'haEmunah, etc.), and a somewhat rigid time limit on hakafos, there are no other real rules. No one tells anyone where to dance, no one polices the candy and there is no official list of "approved songs."

The dancing. I don’t really know what non Jews call dancing, but endlessly marching around in circles and occasionally stomping one foot seems a lot more like an ancient druid ritual than dancing. This is what Jews call dancing. Why can’t I stand on the side if I feel like it without some board member or hocker trying to pull me into a circle just so I can get my foot stomped on?

Yeah, well here's one where we fall fail on LFD's list. We also do the "dance in a circle" bit, but I think that's pretty much universal.

The time. There should be a Kol Korei on Hakafos that last more than 15 minutes, and that’s stretching it. I always get so mad, some hocker/board member has stretched the Hakafa out really long and had been holding the heaviest torah, and sweating all over it. They come over and practically dump the darned thing in your lap and go on to more pointless foot stomping. It’s really annoying.

Actually our hakafos are rarely longer than 10 minutes. I think there was one that got extended to fifteen this year because the dancers didn't want to end it, but that was it.

No real food in most shuls on Simchas Torah night. I need to have something more that cake if I’m going to be held hostage until 11:00 at night. BTW, I’ve offered to co-sponsor some food along with two other friends, but the “board” doesn’t want it so it will not be happening. And for the record, I’m not davening with my shul on Simchas Torah.

Since we do limit the amount of time for hakafos, we don't have this issue. We were done shortly after 9:00. As such, we didn't need "real food" in shul. By day, the rebetzzin provides stuffed cabbage (yum!).

The drinking. This is not Purim, get a life people!

We have a few drinks out, but I have yet, in my five Simchas Torahs there, to see anyone even tipsy, let alone drunk.

The sugar factories. When I was a kid, we got peanuts, chick peas, sponge cake and a lollypop. Last year there was so much candy I thought my kids would go into sugar shock. Certain shul members noticed that the gross lollipops that the shul picked out. They looked like a male’s privates with a hole in the center that squirts up goo when squeezed. Thank you Pazkes. I can’t imagine a more obscene candy, yet the Cahreidim haven’t banned it yet.

We're guilty of this one too. Sure the kids have candy, it's almost as big a tradition as dancing with the Torah. :)

So, we fail on two of LFD's points -- and those are the two least worrisome in my book. How did your shul do?

The Wolf


Pesky Settler said...

The shul my parents go to and the one I went to growing up gives out apples.. and of course you'd then get some smart kids who would impale it on the wooden flag dowel, go to the corner and launch apples into the street for the cars to turn into applesauce.

This year, our first in the new community was nice. The morning kiddush was a 'full service' with kugel, deli, chicken, rice and peas and carrots. And Crembo for dessert.

Man that is nasty stuff.

Anonymous said...

One shul I go to has a Kiddush at night because the Kakofos last almost until 11PM. It many years of pushing before the Rav agreed to it.

By day they finish davening by 11AM and then pickup hakafos at 1:30PM which then last for 4 hours. Instead of this endurance test, I go somewhere else which has both davening, kissush, aliyos and hakofos from 8:30 thru 1:45PM.

I think anything more than 15 minutes for a hakofo is wrong. Yes some like it, but most are turned off from what I see.

The Hedyot said...

He's contradicting himself. First he complains about people who dictate what kind of candy other people can have ("the hockers who tell you what kind of candy you are allowed to even give your own kids"), then he himself goes on to gripe about the candy situation - "When I was a kid, we got peanuts, chick peas, sponge cake and a lollypop. Last year there was so much candy I thought my kids would go into sugar shock."

Sounds a bit hypocritical to me.

Anonymous said...

If LFD hates his shul so much, why doesn't he just find another shul ;-)

Anonymous said...

What, and miss out on all that kvetching??? Are you kidding?

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Wolf, I know we don't live anywhere near each other ;), but our shuls sound similar. We acutioned off Ata Haraisa, and wine and candy for the year, but that's it. No aliyot auction. We also had a ten minute time limit for night hakafos, and were done by nine sharp. Fifteen for the day hakafos. We had a little scotch out, but no one getting blasted. And come to think of it, I didn't see anyone giving out candy. They gave out flags, and funky hats and sunglasses to the kids. We were done by 1:30 and enjoying a kiddush of chicken, cholent, kugel, salads, and kokosh.

No hocking. One guy recently from Brooklyn cut the aliyah line (I'll be dan l'kaf schus and say it wasn't intentional). The guy he cut said good-naturedly, "hey, are you cutting the line?" I said, "Hey, he's from Brooklyn, he doesn't know how we do things here yet. Give him a break."