Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Simchat Torah

I went to the Simchat Torah evening service last night1. Beth Shalom is the sort of community that tend to be pretty sensible and serious, so we couldn't have the dancing and celebration without a short address on the religious significance of being commanded to rejoice. But we managed a credible celebration all the same.

The only dance everybody reliably knows is the hora, and even that quite a few people were muddling up with the hokey cokey (they are kind of similar!) So after a while we decided that the dancing was getting too repetitive, and Diana suggested we should pretend to be frogs for a while.

There may be some people who don't know that Samuel Pepys visited a synagogue in 1663, and didn't know what he was letting himself in for, as it happened to be Simchat Torah. His reaction is really hilarious, and I'm sure he would have felt the same about our service yesterday:
Thence home and after dinner my wife and I, by Mr. Rawlinson's conduct, to the Jewish Synagogue: where the men and boys in their vayles, and the women behind a lattice out of sight; and some things stand up, which I believe is their Law, in a press to which all coming in do bow; and at the putting on their vayles do say something, to which others that hear him do cry Amen, and the party do kiss his vayle. Their service all in a singing way, and in Hebrew. And anon their Laws that they take out of the press are carried by several men, four or five several burthens in all, and they do relieve one another; and whether it is that every one desires to have the carrying of it, I cannot tell, thus they carried it round about the room while such a service is singing. And in the end they had a prayer for the King, which they pronounced his name in Portugall; but the prayer, like the rest, in Hebrew. But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this. Away thence with my mind strongly disturbed with them...
On a more serious note, they decided to call up a lot of young people for the readings. The bridegroom of Torah and the bride of Bereshit were two teenagers who were bar mitzvah within the last couple of years. And I think I was the oldest person to get an aliyah (the third day of creation), most of the others being students. There is a really strong Progressive Society in Cambridge at the moment, which is great for me, especially as they seem to be happy to accept me as an honorary student at their events.

1] It's not Simchat Torah yet by the Orthodox calendar, but there you go.
Tags: jewish

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