Sunday, October 30, 2011

Coming soon: TCFS tours?

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with an old friend of mine who has been living in New York for the past several years and is now back in town for grad school. The guy's mother is Protestant, his father is Catholic, and he was confirmed in the Church, though AFAIK has not attended services or received sacraments in quite a few years.

Lapsed-Catholic Friend: Hey, we should check out some of the synagogues in town!
Me, a bit confused: Um, ok, but... why?
LCF (who has a substantial architecture background and is getting a degree in urban planning): I really want to see what some of those places look like on the inside!
Me: Hey, anytime you want to go, just let us know. We're happy to show you around.

Apparently the first place he wants to see is Beth Halfpipe.

This should be fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hey, we're trying

I doubt that Mrs. Yid or I will ever be nominated to be Chief Sephardic Rabbi of anything. Granted, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for that. But one definite strike against us is that while traditionally it's considered very important to engage in hiddur mitzvah, or "pretty up the mitzvah," around here we apply our shabby-cheap aesthetic to pretty much anything.

Case in point: our first sukkah, courtesy of Mrs. Yid, bless her heart, who, upon being kicked out of jury duty last week and having some time to kill (and knowing what day it was), decided to surprise yours truly with this in our backyard.
On Sukkot, we remember what it was like living in the desert as we sit on folding chairs of old.

It may not be much to look at, and if we're being sticklers about that whole s'chach thing then only that one teeny corner of it with the weeds on it was kosher, but darn it, it reminded me of why I love my wife. These aren't her traditions (heck, they're barely mine), but she's trying. It was also very sweet that she had used the chuppah poles from our wedding that her brother carved himself and lugged across several states. I look forward to getting many uses from those over the years.

After Mrs. Yid finished the sukkah, I went out for Thai food and we sat in the sukkah and ate a lovely, if slightly cramped, dinner. Then we cracked out some chumashim and studied the parsha for Sukkot (I found them incredibly dull; Mrs. Yid was entertained that they all seem to involve God demanding tons of food like a pregnant Queen Bee), and then we both giggled at the crazy prophecies of the Hatfarah portion in Zechariah (my favorite part is when he talks about the mountain splitting open; I couldn't help but think of this).

Anyway, yes, it's only the third Jewish holiday of 5772 and already the gravitas around here has dropped way down. But something's better than nothing. And besides, ours is a highly understanding God. We hope.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

High Holidays Debrief

Mrs. Yid and I went to Temple GLBT for High Holidays for the second time-- the only time since college where we've gone back somewhere. A few minor issues aside, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. These last few years I've been unable for fast for health reasons, so this was the first time in a while that I fasted, and I have to say, this may have been the easiest time I've ever had of it.

One issue I've had over and over again at High Holiday services has been liturgy and transliteration-- while I prefer Hebrew to English, most place's machzorim tend to lack adequate transliteration, which means that people like me get stuck out in the cold. This has probably been one of the biggest problems I've had in trying to have engaging High Holiday experiences.

So, in keeping with the spirit of diving into things a little more, I bought my own transliterated machzor, courtesy of Joe Rosenstein at It didn't come until after Rosh Hashanah, but I marked it up ahead of time with sticky flags so that by the time Yom Kippur rolled around, I was set and ready to go.

I started the day by putting on Zayde's tefillin. I've been feeling slightly guilty about having them and not using them, but frequently the only days I actually get around to davening are Saturdays, when you're not supposed to use the darn things. Oh, irony. And it turns out you're not supposed to wear them on major holidays, either. So, a double-no-no-whammy for me. Oh well.

Because I was in a spiritual mood I put on Zayde's tefillin anyway, but I didn't say the brachot-- A because I knew I wasn't supposed to be davening with them on Shabbat or Yom Tov, and also because I hadn't remembered to write them down and I was trying not to use the computer. So instead I used them as a sort of mental focus for a short prayer asking for the joy and faith of my grandfather to be in my heart and mind for the day and to help center me during the fast. Halachic, perhaps not, but it felt good to have a physical connection to Zayde.

Once we were at shul, I found that being able to follow the service made a huge difference in my experience, and it was nice to be able to proceed more at my own pace as opposed to taking all my cues from the service leaders. Temple GLBT's machzor was made before I was born, so its transliteration is quite minimal (and my impression is that some pieces of the amidah are significantly abridged), so I wasn't always able to get through everything, but it was nice to have the option to continue if I wanted to. It was also fascinating to observe that for the most part, Temple GLBT was following a pretty traditional prayer structure. Not everything was in there, but people who would expect crazy liberal gay-friendly Reformies to have replaced everything with one long drum circle would have been pretty surprised.

Ever the critic, I have a few gripes. But in keeping with my resolution to try to be less of a bastard, I'm keeping it brief:

- There was no mincha service. It was entirely replaced by break-out sessions. There was a little bit of text study offered but for the most part it was meditation, arts & crafts, or social activism discussion group (the day's topic was "Racism: Bad?") It wound up being ok because we took the opportunity to take a much needed break and dose of sunlight. On the one hand, I kind of like having a break, but it was also a bit of a bummer that with all the alternative options being offered, no one thought to just offer a traditional-ish prayer service for the afternoon. Given how most of the rest of the day more or less stuck to the usual script, it seemed odd to me.

- No Leviticus 18. I was particularly miffed about this because Mrs. Yid and I had studied the parsha the night before and found a lot to debate in it, and I had been particularly interested in how a GLBT-focused shul would tackle it. Apparently, they tackle it by avoiding it entirely and switching it with the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19. I suppose I get it but it felt a little disappointing. Also, the Holiness Code is, IMO, fairly uninteresting. At least Lev 18 has some meaty things people can dig into and discuss.

- Teeny, teeny yizkor service. Lots of niggunim and build-up about how this is "one of the most meaningful services of the year," juxtaposed with very little time letting us actually pray the darn thing. This was particularly irksome to me as I am unfamiliar with the structure of yizkor and was trying to modify the blessings for my three grandparents.

- On a related note, I really wanted to say Mishiberach for my increasingly-ill grandmother, and am rather perturbed that none of her kids have the slightest idea of what her Hebrew name is. (I asked my great-aunt but all she could give was a wild guess.) I guess we're the only ones spending anytime in shuls that call people up for aliyot using both their parents' names.

All in all, I had a very good time. I may still be working on this community thing, but at least I'm feeling comfortable and "competent" when it comes with the actual prayers for the holiday.


Me: I got a new siddur and a new machzor, which is great, because it made it a lot easier to follow along in shul.

Abbot Yid: Um... all I caught out of that was "shul."