Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rejoicing in and about the law

After posting last year about a negative experience at an unnamed large Reform synagogue on Simchat Torah, it's only fair that I acknowledge that this experience isn't typical of all large Reform synagogues in NYC. I went to Central Synagogue on Friday night (since they were doing "Simchat Torah" that night, unlike other places that either observe two days of yom tov, or usually observe one day but have no spine at this time of year), and had no difficulty getting in. They looked through my bag, which is understandable, but didn't ask me what I was doing there, ask me whether I was a member, ask for ID (which I didn't have on me anyway), or anything else. Kudos to Central Synagogue. I didn't hear the end and beginning of the Torah there, since I had to get back to the 'hood to celebrate with the future chatan and kallah, but that's my own issue, not theirs.

Otherwise I did the usual, doing yom tov stuff on yom tov, and then celebrating afterwards with the Torah even though it wasn't yom tov. Really, if the community wants to get together and celebrate Torah ("chavurat tzedek eidah zo ha-me'usharah, zekeinim un'arim yachad bechol shurah, kevutzim poh hayom lesimchat torah"), even though it's not yom tov, who am I to argue? They're not hurting anyone. As someone said last night, this was one rocking melaveh malkah. And there is precedent for having a big party after the conclusion of yom tov.

Since today was Sunday, I didn't have to work, so I heard the end and beginning of the Torah at the dar. Just for fun, at one of the many Torah reading stations, we revived an ancient practice and did two aliyot with line-by-line translation into Aramaic! It would have been a whole round of Vezot Haberachah (or should I say, Veda Virketa), but we quickly realized that Onkelos was too verbose. The problem is that no one understands what Vezot Haberachah is talking about, so Onkelos wasn't merely translating, but taking twice as many words to explain what (he thought) it meant.

Question for the armchair posekim of the blogosphere: Everyone who wanted an aliyah this morning got one. Since I (very openly) observe one day of yom tov, would it have been appropriate for me to take one? Why or why not? To keep you unbiased, I won't say what I actually did.


  1. There is no problem taking an aliyah in your case, since you're taking part in a community whose custom is to read Torah today. The blessings you recite are entirely valid even if you do not consider this a day on which the Torah would be read (according to your custom), since they are not blessings over a mitzvah, but for the honor of the Torah (see Abudraham, Laws of Daily Prayer 12:19). As such, there can never be an issue of berachot levatalah, only of a community reading Torah on a day that it is not customary to do so (e.g., a Tuesday that is not Rosh Hodesh, chag, etc.) - but here the community seems on good ground in reading Torah today.

    And if you're worried that accepting an aliyah would make you seem to be in contradiction to your own minhag, you can trust that someone else worried about this would probably ask you, and then you'd be able to explain your reasoning, which would be a nice opportunity for explaining your custom as well as the halachot about Torah reading in general.

    If you very publicly refuse an aliyah today, that might fall under the category of lo titgodedu (the rabbinic injunction against creating divisions in a community). Presumably if you didn't want an aliyah, you could simply leave the shul during the time the Torah was being read, and then this would not be an issue. Of course, you'd miss out on hearing the Torah read with Targum, but that's the trade-off you'd be making.

    isru chag sameach!

  2. I see no reason to eschew taking an aliyah. You were in a community that was reading Torah and offering blessings, and given that situation, why not join in and have another moment of connection with Torah and with God?

    That said, if you chose not to do it, because it didn't feel authentic to you, there's nothing wrong with that either. :-)

  3. Of course, you'd miss out on hearing the Torah read with Targum, but that's the trade-off you'd be making.

    BZ was the one leyning the Targum, so the rest of us would have missed it if he'd left. :)

  4. off-topic, but seeing EAR's name/link reminded me: wanna hook me up with posting access to Two Heads of Lettuce? I have much yumminess to share :)

    (Feygele at Blogspot is still a valid account though the blog is down.)

  5. Invitation sent. Let me know if it doesn't work.