Friday, October 24, 2008

Simchat Tora Review

It's wonderful to rejoice in Torah!
My community in Rehovot had just the right balance (for me) for Simchat Tora. In the morning we had the seven hakafot each lasting about 10 minutes. A Tora was passed into the women's section so we could dance with the tora. This worked well as we were able to keep the mechitza closed and could dance without being self-conscious. Our shul has two women's sections, one on the ground floor next to the men's section with made of wood half the height and a heavy lace curtain above that about as tall as me (almost 6 feet) and one balcony. In many shuls I have been to the women move the curtains so they can get a better view of the 'action' in the men's section. At our shul you can go upstairs if you want to be a spectator.
After the dancing it was time for the Tora reading when all the men and boys are called up for an aliya. Hadassah gives a lovely description of this. The flip side of this (see also Ilana-Davita) is that women and girls don't really have a part in this. Add to that that in most shuls the hakafot are also spectator activities for us and the result is boredom, gossip or just not coming to participate. In an effort to express our connection to Tora in a special way on this special day at our shul we came up with the following idea: In Elul we asked women to prepare short divrei tora and then after hearing the Tora reading once in shul all the women were invited to another area where women then said their divrei tora to the other women. This is the third year we did it. For many of us who grew up in Orthodox homes of a very different era it is very emotional. It is a public declaration of our unique connection to Tora. We try (and for the most part have succeeded) to have different women speak each year, so it is always a fresh experience. We try to time it carefully (the first year we took to long but we are getting better at it) so that we come back to the main minyan in time for birkat habanim where the little children are all gathered under a huge tallit (specially sewn together) and held over them like a giant chuppa while they recite the tora brachot with an adult. Then everyone sang 'Hamalach hagoel oti'. Then of course there was the chatan Tora and chatan B'reshit. (At our shul nothing is auctioned and this year the honors went to people who worked very hard to set up the extra minyan for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.) It was lovely, as though each and every member of our community had their chance to rejoice in Tora.
Our solution is not the only way for women to go. RivkA celebrated at a unique women's service which sounds really special. Of course, that's in Jerusalem. In Shilo, Batya and her neighbors also found ways to add meaning to the day - I'm impressed!
Here in Israel, Simchat Tora - Shmini Atseret hands us another challenge. Yizkor. It's like a roller coaster. After all that uplift, we then move on to mourning. At our shul prayers are recited for the six million murdered in the Holocaust, soldiers and civilians who fell in battle, in the underground and in terrorist attacks as well as members of the community only after that do the people who are fortunate enough to have two live parents leave the shul and the rest remember their personal losses.
Add to all that hallel and the prayer for rain, it's a long emotional day building up like a crescendo at the end of the holiday period.
Wow. Happy after the chagim everyone!

6 comments:

ilanadavita said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, leaving a comment and linking to it now. Thanks also for presenting an interesting alternative. I like the idea of women presentng a d'var Torah.

Melissa said...

Hi!

I just found your blog. It's filled with such intersting topics.

I am learning about my jewish heritage, so it's nice to visit a place where I can continue to learn.

Thank you.

Melissa

s(b.) said...

neat; thanks for sharing. :)

Batya said...

Risa, it sounds like you found yourself a very good shul. I like the idea of the divrei Torah.

Anonymous said...

Separate but equal - oh, well I suppose in this case it must be God's will that women can learn insights from men but not vica versa.

Anyway, interesting question as to mechitza heights -should they be a function of the posek's height, the generation's average height or the tallest person's height? (or why should your brother be tempted to look over the mechitza while others are spared)

Amerbro

Risa said...

Thanks everyone for visiting.
Amerbro, there actually was one man who came to listen and we did not object (lo michu bo).
As for my brother, doesn't it say somewhere that the bigger the talmid chacham the bigger the temptation of the yetzer hara? (Does this also apply to height?)

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