Monday, September 13, 2010

193. Why I Can't Do Organized Religion

I'm in a terrible mood for a variety of reasons and I haven't posted a real "blog-type" post on this thing in a LONG time!! This one won't be as technical as most of my others!

On our Southwest flights -- both to AND from -- Chicago this weekend, was a young woman who belongs to the local Reformed congregation which Joannie and I used to belong to.

Seeing her brought back a flood of memories.

You see, in the early 90's when Sarah and Rachel were very little, I attended shul practically EVERY Friday night and rarely missed Saturday morning services and the near weekly bar or bat mitzvahs and Torah study, of course.

This young lady was once 13 -- and her Bat Mitzvah was one of the most astonishing things I'd ever seen! (of course all 3 of my girls had pretty good ones, too!)

Anyways, it got me thinking about those old days of yore when I felt comfortable and at home in a synagogue.

At one point, we went through four or five rabbis in a two-year period -- and for a time, the Temple president sought out me and the girls to help lead services or Torah study or whatever.

We participated in virtually every facet of Temple life -- from doing community service to Torah study in the park to making latkes at Channukah.

It was a good time.

The sanctuary was (is) gorgeous -- and was a place where very private things happened vis-a-vis communing with ancestors, etc.

I became pretty fluent at Biblical Hebrew and wrote out my own Torah in 54 blue machberit notebooks in script.

It was a good time.

However, the temple was broke (probably from paying off all those expensive rabbis they hired then fired!) ...

so a rich guy paid off the mortgage and the PTB hired a BIG-BUDGET rabbi who rah-rahed the congregation and everyone was happy again.

*&%*

To this day, it is extremely difficult for me to analyze the whys and wherefores of what happened between me and this new rabbi.

Things started occuring which really freaked me out. In Torah study, I would bring up some tidbit from the Mo'am Lo'ez, for example -- and he would jump down my throat telling me how wrong it all was and how I didn't understand it, but would ignore me and go on to the next thing.

[It seemed that any mention of Orthodox source commentary stuck in his craw.]

(I *LOVE* the Mo'am Lo'ez, btw. Just finished re-reading it recently.)

One day I was excitedly trying to get him to help me understand some details in the long Jacob story in Genesis, concerning various minutiae like the diacritical marks above the word VA-YEESH-SHA-KAY-HOO (he "kissed" him)...

... I mentioned how there was an old tradition of reading the word as NA-SHACH (as opposed to NA-SHAK) which means "TO BITE" !! IOW, Esau "bit" Jacob.

The Rabbi seemed potently annoyed at me for such crazy heresy -- even though the comment is mentioned right there in the GLEANINGS section of Plaut.

(Yes, it also says that Ibn Ezra "roundly condemned" the tradition!)

Nevertheless, the diacritical marks are cool to look at in the Torah! Why are they there?

My favorite parashah is NOT the one from my Bar Mitzvah (altho that one's pretty cool -- TZADIK TZADIK TEERDOF!)

... it's the penultimate parashah -- HA-AZEE-NU (Deut. 32). The Song of Moses.

I spent many many months trying to soak up every bit of commentary and writing about this magnificent Hebrew poem. The Hebrew is SO powerful and filled with puns and double entendres...

The imagery is fantastic! The second verse mentions FOUR different kinds of rain!

The poem is laid out in the actual Torah in two columns, which read from right to left -- RIGHT-HAND column first and then the LEFT-HAND column.

We had a rabbi (not this current one) who actually read the ENTIRE thing from right to left ACROSS THE PARCHMENT, forgetting that the poem ran down the right side first and THEN the left side!!!

This was a RABBI, folks !! A graduate of Cincinnati!! And he couldn't figure out what he was reading?? I couldn't believe it.

*&$%)_*(&

THE LAST STRAW

We were to get a new, kosher Torah. A VERY big deal!

One of the administrators of the Temple saw me one Shabbat and kindly asked me if I would be willing to accept the honor of drawing (tracing) a letter in the final page of the Torah - a real honor!!!

The day came and I was in my wheelchair on the bimah, waiting to hear what to do, when the Rabbi walked by and asked me what I was doing there?

He shooed me off the bimah which was apparently reserved for rich people who paid full dues.

This was the final straw because it had happened SO SO many times previously.

This was May of 2001. So it is nearly ten years since I've set foot in a shul.

I really miss it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you know, we are no longer at that shul either. Our Rachel was a wonderful Bat Mitzvah experience with the clergy up the street at the Conservative shul. His main motif was: don't worry if you make a mistake, it just proves that you're human. Kinda of different from Rabbi Rah-rah.

-- Suzanne