Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Lost Weekend?

For most Americans the weekend may have seem like a setup for the federal holiday of Columbus Day, but to the Jewish community, it was more than that. This past Friday evening was not a typical beginning of Sabbath. It was the ending of the Succot holiday and for the Reform community it was the combination of the Shemini Atzerets and Simchat Torah holidays on that one day that began at sundown and continued until Saturday evening. Like the Reform community, the more observant Jewish community observed the Shemini Atzerets holiday on Friday evening, but the holiday of Simchat Torah was not begun until Saturday night. The differences in the ways the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities observe these holidays can be startling. Most Reform Shemini Atzerets/Simchat Torah services are very quick and maintain a goodly degree of decorum. By contrast the Conservative and Orthodox services tend to be much longer and, especially with regards to Simchat Torah, tend to become more raucous and rowdy as the gift of the Torah is commemorated with lots of singing and dancing. The children really enjoy this holiday. They parade around the sanctuary with toy Torahs and flags denoting their love of learning. For adults there are opportunities for liquid libation to make the celebrations even more meaningful and, sometimes, hangovers plentiful. The truth of the matter is that in hindsight I celebrated the gift of the Torah a bit more than I should have, but what good is staying sober when a federal holiday looms so close behind? The interesting thing is that after a wild night of carrying the Torah scrolls around the sanctuary amid singing and dancing, it all started anew on the morning. It was like something out of the old Ray Milland film, only instead of the delirium tremens and pink elephants, there were lots of Torah scrolls. Thank goodness for Columbus Day on Monday.

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