Shul Rules

To discuss Jewish topics and issues

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
Jrosemary
Sage
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:50 pm
Location: New Jersey
Contact:

Shul Rules

Post #1

Post by Jrosemary »

Someone from my shul--that is, synagogue--sent this around via e-mail. It was too good not to post. I'm not sure who the author is, but I'll come back and credit it if I find out.

For those who aren't familiar with, er, 'shul terms,' here are a few definitions so you can understand this piece:

daven ~ pray

siddur ~ the prayerbook

shockelling ~ the swaying back and forth or side to side that many Jews do while praying.

tallit ~ a prayer shawl

A BLUFFER'S GUIDE TO GOING TO SHUL


Worried about looking like a lemon in shul?


Finding the shul service impossible to follow?


Many people suffer from what is known in religious circles as "Mainstream Judaism". No need to worry, however. Our team of spiritual healers have devised a cure and we are making it available to you exclusively today. Please pass it on to anyone you know who may be suffering in silence.

Shul Rules is your ten step guide to synagogue confidence:

1. If you arrive after the start don't sit down right away, but instead open the book near the beginning and spend 2 or 3 minutes turning slowly through the pages while mumbling under your breath.

If you recognise any of the Hebrew words, say one or two of them a little louder so those around you can hear.

2. Find a seat just behind someone who looks like they know what's going on. (You can tell this person because they are likely to be mumbling to themselves under their breath). Make sure this person is using the same prayer book as you. Keep a note of what page they are on by glancing casually over their shoulder every now and again. A pair of strong magnification glasses may help here.

3. When putting on the tallit wrap it around your head for a few seconds while mumbling under your breath.

4. Liberally sprinkle your time in shul with more barely audible mumbles as you look intently at the pages of your siddur. Again, the odd word, phrase or line spoken accurately and a little louder than the rest goes down very well.

5. Don't jump up whenever the person in front does so. They may be stretching their legs. Instead, wait a moment until a significant proportion of the congregation are standing. In this way, even if they are all stretching their legs you won't look conspicuous.

6. See those guys near the front that are wandering around with an air of assurance? These are the shammosim.

AVOID EYE CONTACT WITH THESE PEOPLE or you may find yourself being asked to do something strange like opening the doors of the Aron Kodesh or, heaven forbid, saying something in Hebrew out loud to everyone.

7. The easiest way to look the part is to shockel. I have met people who have won international shockelling competitions without having a clue about where in the service they were. Advanced shockellers will even shockel when everyone else is sitting.. (Of course, sometimes this may be a disguised leg-stretch).

Schockelling is an entire lesson in itself but there are two basic forms. The "lateral swing" is usually seen in ultra-orthodox congregations. Here the practitioner is perfectly still from the waist down (feet together, naturally), while the top half of the body repeatedly twists at speed.

The "Hammerhead" is more prevalent in mainstream orthodox shuls and, as the name suggests, the congregant looks as if they are trying to bang a nail into the floor with his head. (I say "his" because women prefer to use this time for kibitzing or kvelling over the way their grandson shockels.).

Shockelling mainly takes place during the silent Amidah. This is about 10 pages during which you have no idea where everyone else is. All you do know is that if the others were really reading all the prayers involved they would be contenders for the world speed-reading record.

You know when it starts because everyone takes three steps back, then three steps forward, then they bow. This is your cue to start shockelling while turning the pages of your prayer book approximately every 15 seconds. The end of the silent Amidah is signalled by everyone taking three short steps back, bowing to the left, the right and the centre and then looking round to see if they won.

8. Is the Rabbi speaking in English and yet you can't understand what he's on about? If so, this is the sermon and it's your job to look alive.

Paying attention to the sermon is a skill that may take many years to master rather in the way that one learns how to complete cryptic crosswords. The formula for this particular puzzle is fairly simple:

The narrative of Torah portion you have just heard plus something from local or national news equals "you should go to shul more regularly" or "your home isn't kosher enough".

9. Feel free to talk to people near you at any time. Business and football are particularly appropriate topics of conversation. Seeking kavanah and listening to the sermon will be regarded with suspicion in most communities.

10. If you can keep your cool until the end of the service you will be rewarded. At last something that is familiar, and a chance to clear your throat and give it some as you bash out Ein Kelohaynu and Adon Olam just like you did at cheder all those years ago.

One final word of warning. If it goes well and you feel confident enough to go back for a second week running you will be classified as a regular. This means there is a very good chance you will be asked to be the next synagogue chairman.
:lol: Ever since reading this, I've been watching people shockel to determine if they're the lateral-swing type or the hammerhead type . . .

User avatar
Lioba
Student
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:15 pm
Location: Germany

Post #2

Post by Lioba »

Excellent! :clap:

Please- what are shammosim and what is kavanah ?

User avatar
Jrosemary
Sage
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:50 pm
Location: New Jersey
Contact:

Post #3

Post by Jrosemary »

Hey Lioba! Fancy seeing you here. ;)

Kavanah is the mindset for prayer, reflection and meditation--it's sometimes translated as 'intent.' The idea is to focus and reflect on the prayers of the liturgy or, in this case, the sermon, rather than just reciting by rote or absently listening.

The shammosim (singular shammash) means 'helpers.' A shammash is basically like a sexton. This can be a salaried position, but in this context the author seems to be referring to anyone who helps run the service.

(In another context, the shammash is the 'helper' candle you use to light the special Chanukah menorah, called the chanukaiah.)

Hope this helps! O:)

User avatar
Lioba
Student
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:15 pm
Location: Germany

Post #4

Post by Lioba »

:yes:

User avatar
Lioba
Student
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:15 pm
Location: Germany

Post #5

Post by Lioba »

As I do not want to open an extra- thread I ask this question here.
Why should people avoid speaking the name of God that is represented in the Tetragramm? I know, that we shall not do it, but the only argument besides the fact, that I have no idea how the unwritten vowels must sound is:
We do not so, because the Jews don´t and they must know it best, because the name of God was revealed to them in the first place.
This was always enough for me, but in the last years some people seem to take this to easy. So I would like to have real good consistent arguments against this bad habit.

User avatar
Goat
Site Supporter
Posts: 24704
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2006 6:09 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Post #6

Post by Goat »

Lioba wrote:As I do not want to open an extra- thread I ask this question here.
Why should people avoid speaking the name of God that is represented in the Tetragramm? I know, that we shall not do it, but the only argument besides the fact, that I have no idea how the unwritten vowels must sound is:
We do not so, because the Jews don´t and they must know it best, because the name of God was revealed to them in the first place.
This was always enough for me, but in the last years some people seem to take this to easy. So I would like to have real good consistent arguments against this bad habit.
Actually, the way was pronounced is lost in history. That's the result of not being allowed to say it I guess.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

User avatar
Lioba
Student
Posts: 44
Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:15 pm
Location: Germany

Post #7

Post by Lioba »

One more question about synagoges. The only time I was in a synagoge was in Prag.
It was so overwhelming that I didn´t get many details. Ever someone been in one of them?

But I know two buildings that are former synagoges and in both was a kind of small cupola painted with what I took as an image of the sky.
Is this detail to be found in every Synagoge and what is its meaning?

User avatar
Jrosemary
Sage
Posts: 627
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:50 pm
Location: New Jersey
Contact:

Post #8

Post by Jrosemary »

Lioba wrote:One more question about synagoges. The only time I was in a synagoge was in Prag.
It was so overwhelming that I didn´t get many details. Ever someone been in one of them?

But I know two buildings that are former synagoges and in both was a kind of small cupola painted with what I took as an image of the sky.
Is this detail to be found in every Synagoge and what is its meaning?
I've seen a few synagogues with star/sky motifs. I've always assumed it's a nod to the wonders of creation, but there may be a more particular answer. Anyone else have an idea?

User avatar
Jayhawker Soule
Sage
Posts: 684
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 8:43 am
Location: Midwest

Post #9

Post by Jayhawker Soule »

Lioba wrote:This was always enough for me, but in the last years some people seem to take this to easy. So I would like to have real good consistent arguments against this bad habit.
I was brought up saying "yes sir" and "yes ma'am" as a sign of respect -- I would never consider calling an adult by his or her name. As for early Hebrew terms, there is much that is enigmatic and quite possibly lost to us.

Post Reply