Monday, July 30, 2012

New experiences, some conversations, and choices

Since Mrs. Yid and I have joined Beth Elderly there have been a bunch of developments:

  • I successfully attended morning minyan (next one will be this week) and davened with Zayde's tefillin. Between the tefillin and my Moses-eqsue beard (hooray for summers off!) I am definitely rocking some impressive Ortho-vibes. 

  • For our one-year-anniversary, I got Mrs. Yid a new siddur and she got me my own tallis. In related news, we are huge Jew-nerds. 

  • I have slowly gotten more comfortable attending Young Guard Havdalah stag. The most recent one was held on top of a fountain and included the rabbi's candle burning through his kiddush cup. I think this will be the last time we use a beer pong cup for this purpose. 

  • I have started using Ayn Keloheynu as a basic Hebrew primer. It's slow going, but has been very satisfying to finally see some progress with my reading ability. I'm actually able to sound some words out-- and was sort-of able to follow along with the chanting of Lamentations at Tisha B'Av in the Hebrew.

  • I ordered some knit kippot and have started wearing them more. This one is my favorite. I told Abbot Yid I was contemplating wearing one when I start my new job-- if Mrs. Yid can cover her hair it seems only fair I do something, too-- and not surprisingly, he's really, really not a fan. I also got a tallis katan but have concluded that even in San Francisco, that stuff is too darn hot for the summers. Maybe I'll try again come winter.

Also in the mix have been several "community events" bringing together multiple liberal congregations in the city. The first one was Shavuot, which included Temple Burning Bush, Beth Elderly, Temple Old Faithful, and B'nai Hippy. Rabbis from each community led study sessions on different topics and people chose from a programming "menu" to decide where they wanted to go. Mrs. Yid and I attended a session on Hasidic storytelling and a discussion of whether the Torah can be considered true by rational Jews. The second session, led by the rabbi from Burning Bush, was quite fascinating. The rabbi is from an Orthodox background and has a major axe to grind with literalist interpretations of Torah. Funnily enough, much of the talk involved more liberal congregants arguing with him that he was treating the text super-literally in order to set up a straw man. The Reform and Renewal people were actually arguing for the integrity of the Torah against a Conservative rabbi! Very fun. (It made me think a little of the Oven of Akhnai, actually.)

The second community event was Tisha B'Av, which, like Shavuot, neither Mrs. Yid nor I had ever celebrated. Apparently the liberal community in the city had been abuzz by how many people came to Shavuot, because this time in addition to the four original congregations, there was Beth Halfpipe as well as three or four indie minyanim and kehillot. This time the rabbis opted for a whole-group approach. After dinner we had short drashot alternating with some singing. When we were moving into the sanctuary to read Lamentations, one of the singers came up to me.

"I liked your singing."

"Yes, I could see that it moved you."

"So, are you, like, an Orthodox guy?"


"Ah, I thought that you might be Orthodox because of your beard."

"No, but my grandfather was Hasidic."

"Ah, so you have some Hasidic DNA in you."

"A pintele!" (This got a chuckle.)

Then Mrs. Yid came up and said hi. Looking at both of us, the guy remarked, "You both look very Hasidish." We shrugged.

Turning to Mrs. Yid, he asked, "Do you also have Hasidic ancestors?"

She replied, "No, but I have very venerable Protestant ones!"

"Ah," he said. "So you're a Jew-by-choice?"

I looked at her for a minute.

"Yes," she said, taking my hand. "And honestly, so is he."

Later I went home and Googled the guy. Turns out he's an old friend of Shlomo Carlebach. Zayde would be so proud. (Abbot Yid, not surprisingly, had never heard of Shlomo.)