Sociable shabbat, part b
Shabbat morning, I went with J to a rather interesting synagogue, Darchei Noam. It's connected to the community J belongs to in Jerusalem; the philosophy is that, within the Orthodox framework, they have seriously examined which aspects of gender discrimination are actually enshrined in halacha and which are just accreted habit. This means that, for example, men and women are segregated, but with a simple barrier down the centre of the room, so that both halves can participate equally well in the service. And men lead those aspects of the service where a male leader is essential (which of course, once one actually looks to the sources, make up only a small percentage of the service) while women do the rest.
It's not my home, but this sort of intellectual honesty and genuine engagement with the tradition is something I have a great deal of respect for. The atmosphere was pleasant, too; it felt like the kind of service where everybody wanted to be there. And I found I knew most of the tunes; I think that the UK Reform movement have borrowed a lot of American tunes which aren't well known in the UK Orthodox world. The egalitarian stuff meant that they were able to give J an ofruf, calling her to read from Torah as is normally done for a groom the last shabbat before his wedding. Of course, J ended up reading the least appropriate parshe you could pick for someone about to be married if you tried: the section that deals with divorce and the fate of women captured in war!
And the service was held in the gym of a school that happens to be almost on top of Central Park, so, having arrived a little early because we'd left far too much time out of nervousness that we might not be able to find the way, we had time to wander a little in the park. Unlike earlier in the week, it was gorgeously sunny, and first thing in the morning not even ridiculously too hot.
In the afternoon, darcydodo joined us from Long Island for a rather exciting picnic, followed by a very pleasant afternoon enjoying the sunshine by the waterfront. It was fortunate that my cousin B had pointed out to me the previous evening that New York has a waterfront; in my ignorance of geography, this had come as a surprise to me! It was lovely to sit and gossip and just be quietly together for the first time in ages; pseudomonas was very much missed.
As soon as shabbat went out we had to rush around manically getting everything ready for the wedding; J went to a mikveh (ritual bath) while darcydodo and I did things like ironing and checking with the groom that all the last minute stuff was sorted out.