...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Praise him with tambourine and dancing

A funny moment from Shabbat services this morning at P'nai Or, the Jewish Renewal congregation down the hill from campus:

[a debate breaks out between a couple people about the proper translation of a Hebrew verb in Psalm 148]
Woman: "Well, I think it's saying [whatever], but my Hebrew is a little rusty, so don't take that as Gospel..."
Reb Aryah: "Hey, we're not going to take anything as Gospel here!"

I really liked the service. I wasn't sure what to expect, because the only other time I've been to P'nai Or (and my only other Jewish liturgical experience) was when Chris and I went there for Simchat Torah. Today was a lay-led service, and although the rabbi was there, the service itself was led by two women members of the congregation. There were about twenty people there, mostly around my parents' age, although there was actually another LC student there (Helana). I noticed that all the men wore kippot, of course, but the majority of the women did, as well. Almost everyone wore tallit; I think in more Orthodox or conservative congregations, it's typical for only men to wear the prayer shawls. We all sat on folding chairs arranged in a circle and sang songs and prayers in Hebrew for the majority of the service, accompanied by the rabbi's guitar and tambourines and drums and using a prayer/song book with the Hebrew text, the Hebrew transliteration, and an English translation. I could mostly follow along with the transliteration, but when I got lost the kindly woman sitting next to me would point out where we were. Everyone, like at Simchat Torah, was extremely friendly and welcoming. I loved how debates and discussions about the text and its interpretation would spontaneously break out. Anecdotes and examples were drawn from sources as wide-ranging as the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, the Sefer Yetzirah, one of the two main texts of Kabbalah, and Hindu/Yogic breathing disciplines. For some prayers we would all stand; sometimes some of the women would be so moved that they would begin to dance and twirl.

The service lasted about two hours. I got back to campus a little before 1pm--normally the time that I'm waking up and dragging myself towards functionality on a Saturday. Sleep is always nice, but I'm glad I went to services: "Shabbat shalom" indeed.