Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Feel A Rant Coming On....

My favorite Yom Tov as a child was Succos in general and Simchas Torah in particular. I loved the singing. I loved the dancing. I loved the candy. I loved the fact that my birthday was the following day.

I still love Simchas Torah in my neighborhood, but a lot has changed.
Let's discuss.

Simchas Torah In My Shul Then and Now:

Then - Hundreds of children 'mosh-pit close', shoulder to shoulder (some climbing over the inert, somewhat trampled bodies of those who were not aggressive enough) inching their way around shul carrying ENORMOUS bags which by the end of the evening would be hauled home, overflowing and trailing nutty chews in their wake. These children respond to every candy thrown into their bags with a bright, "Thank You!" {Full disclosure: Avram, as a child, was encouraged to choose the candy he really wanted to keep and give the rest to his great aunt who brought the stash to an orphanage on Governor's Island. I, on the other hand, in one of my greatest childhood traumas, was the only child in the whole shul [aside from my siblings] who was not allowed to "go collecting" year after year because my parents thought it was grabby and "not fine". Second full disclosure: The people who gave out the "good stuff" felt so bad for the little kids who weren't allowed to "go around" that they brought their candy over to us personally and handed it to us, so I made out probably as well as Avram, minus the stuff that went to the orphans.... it wasn't so much the lack of candy that was traumatic, it was the look of pity from my peers who, as they were busily mapping out strategy routes always took the time to look at me doe-eyed and say, "Oh, we feel so bad for you.....".}
Now - Dozens of children, most of whom daven in other shuls all year round but heard about the major candy blowout, mill freely around the shul with ENORMOUS bags that are far more optimistic than the situation calls for. Each candy thrown in to their bag will cause them to insert their entire head into their bag to examine the latest acquisition and either smile or wrinkle their nose in disappointment before ambling on to the next adult and shoving their bag out in silent demand. "Thank You"s are occasional at best. They will eat most of their candy during the course of the interminable evening (see below) leaving a blizzard of wrappers under the seats and great gobs of sour apple laffy taffy ground into the carpeting.

Then - Esteemed members of the shul, who davened there regularly, dance with the Torahs, which are resplendent in silver. The dancing is heartfelt and full of simcha. After the hakofos are completed, everyone goes home for a delicious and relaxing Yom Tov meal. The "young people", who still have energy, are invited back to participate in more dancing after dinner.
Now - Sons and sons-in-law of members of the shul, who come but one day a year and wouldn't deign to daven with the congregation even on Shemini Atzeres, heaven forbid, will descend upon the regulars and gyrate and jump in some form of something that they call "dancing" (I've studied this and it seems that whoever stamps the loudest and jumps the highest is the best 'dancer'). They will model wonderful derech eretz for their children by laughing in the face of the members of the Synagogue Committee who ask them to take a break between hakofos so that the baal tefilla can be heard singing the words of the next hakofo and the evening can continue at a reasonable pace. They will brazenly stamp louder and jump higher until the regulars (older members, many of whom were instrumental in building the shul) just get tired and go home before shul is over muttering silently to themselves, "They'll be gone after tomorrow... they'll be gone after tomorrow". There will be no hakofos after dinner for the young people, since shul is over long after those hakofos would have been.

With that all said, I still love Simchas Torah and I will be there {thanks to Costco} handing out 108 individually wrapped Twizzlers (Hint: I sometimes give doubles to the children who say "thank you" Smiley Faces ).


Michael Westen said...

Thank you! These are the types of posts that I was referring to last night.

Great, now I have to find something else to give out. Or, since you will be upstairs, I can still give out my Twizzlers downstairs?

tnspr569 said...

That type of "dancing" has become more prevalent in general, it seems...

I'm not a fan AT ALL...

G6 said...

Michael -

I'm glad you are satisfied ;)
Regarding the Twizzlers, Avram will be giving them out downstairs as well and to quote the children, "I called it! I called it!".
In all seriousness though, I think the children like them and won't complain.
Just stay away from the hard candies and the loose peanuts (what's up with that anyway??!?).

ProfK said...

Showing my age but I predate all the candy giving out. What we got for Simchas Torah when I was little was a degel with an apple skewered on top of the pole. And no child complained.

In the olden days the White Shul in Far Rockaway had similar to your Simchas Torah dancing. People went home to eat and then came back to shul to dance, to sing and to feel real "simcha."

And yes, I hate what passes for dancing today, and the lack of inclusion on the part of far too many younger men when it comes to shoving the older mispalalim aside.

Yehuda said...

I can't stand Simchas Torah at Breuer's anymore and I blame those members of the kehillah who could stop it if they really wanted to.

I was absolutely shocked when I spent Simchas Torah in Breuers a few years ago. It was painful for me to see.

If the kehillah really wanted to stop it, it could. Where there's a determined will, there's a way.

Yitz said...

Yehuda -

I agree with you that the dancing at KAJ has been hijacked by rude young people, but who do you think can do something about it?

It's clear that the 'powers that be' have TREMENDOUS chips on their shoulders about making the shul look "Yeshivish" for these guys. They bend over backwards at the expense of the older members. Even worse, they say nothing when these people get chutzpadik.

Do you blame the Rabbinate? The President? At whose feet do you lay this responsibility??

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear more description about how the Hakafos used to be...(I'm only used to Yeshiva and typical 'non yeshiva' hakafos). Also, how many hakafos were there? About how long did each hakafa last (the first time around)? What typically was sung? etc...

Staying Afloat said...

Growing up, we got apples and Hershey bars. The full size ones, not those miniatures. Yes- NOT chalav yisrael, and almost everyone ate them. I had never heard the word "pekalech". Each set of hakafos started with really long ones, and they got progressively shorter.

(BTW, this is OOT.)
I remember a year when many new bachurim, with their friends, made the shul extra leibedik and extended everything. They also changed most of the traditional niggunim sung during and around leining, and one son-in-law shouted at the women behind the mechitzah not to open their mouths in any song whatsoever.

Yeah- the rav took things in hand. The dancing stayed like that, but everything else was put back to normal the next year.

I second wanting to hear more about hakafos, back in the day.

Yehuda said...


I'm not familiar with exactly who makes the rules in Breuers. But yes, I definitely blame the rabbinate and the other "powers that be" as you call them. Again, I don't know who makes these decisions -- the board, the shul committee etc. -- but whoever does deserves the full blame for the devestation at Breuers.

Anonymous and Staying Afloat,

G6 can definitely tell you more, but from my memories as a child which wasn't that terribly long ago, each hakafah meant one circle of the shul, which takes some time since there are about 20 or 30 sifrei Torah to hand out and the shul is fairly large. (You know you have a hakafah when a gabai hands you a card with the number hakafa on it.) There was no wild dancing; there was almost no dancing period.

Kids go around collecting candy and at the end there is a beautiful dance with the chazzan, choson bereishis, and a third fellow on the bima. In addition, the choir sings some special pieces for Simchas Torah.

Hakafos used to be proper, orderly, and dignified, and truly beautiful. It used to have a distinctive yekkish flavor. Today, you can barely distinguish it from a chassidish shtiebel. It's a zoo. The very same shul that all year round inspires awe and kavod turns into a free-for-all. Like I said, it's painful to see.

Anonymous said...

stop complaining and whining, all of you. focus on the fact that people are b'simcha and dancing. EVERY generation always remembers things the way they used to be. At least you have bochrim dancing. As far as the candy goes, this is the kind of nash people now give out. I remember sitting in shul and the adults walking around dropping things in our bags- boxes of barton's, whole packages of certain candies, toys, etc. Guess what? I am older, life is different. Boys are different, niggunin are different, people are different. Change is not always bad.
You'd have a valid complaint if boys were drinking and smoking and not dancing. And to be honest, we remember having to go through some of the candy and throw it out, because of the questionable, or lack of, hechsher. From "that" generation.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll need to begin using my name (or something of the sort) so I'm not confused with any other anonymous out there. I love hearing the complaints and how it used to be. You are all helping me get a picture of true malchus, kavod Hashem, and Simchas HaTorah as it was meant (at least from Germany), a Great Measorah that I have been deprived of growing up. (The more description I hear, the easier it will be to set the tone when I open my own Yek type shul - although somebody pointed out to me that you need 10 for a minyan - not 1 :(

FBB said...

I think that to say that one form of hakofos is more Kavod hashem than another, is unfair.

The yekkish way of serving God is very reserved and rules oriented. The litvishe is really like that too, but the Chasidishe way of serving God through joy, and whatever you are feeling has seeped in to even the most yeshivish places.

The same way people view the dancing and jumping as not properly serving God, people see the reserved nature of the yekkish style the same way.

That said, how and why Simchas Torah has become a pseudo Purim is beyond me, and there are instances where it gets out of hand. But if people (not where it isn't wanted of course) dance by stomping, and feel they are showing Kavod Hatorah that way, I think, it should be respected as another way to serve, though I don't think it needs to be condoned in a yekkish shul.

I'm always amazed at how the yekkish way is often considered the only "right way," and people get beyond offended when the tables are turned and someone comments on the nature of a certain yekkish minhag.

Eloo V'Eloo

Unknown said...

In answer to those who asked what hakofos used to be like at KAJ the following are my own personal recollections and feelings on the subject.
T here always were seven hakofos. The first hakofoh both in the evening and the morning were given out to the rabbonim, Chassanei Breishis and Torah (the latter always being one of the senior rabbonim), members of the Board of Trustees, Chevra Kadisha, Yeshiva Board of Directors and various other members of the kehilla who were active during the year as baalei tefillah, baalei keriah, baalei tokeiah and maggidei shiurim. One or two were always reserved for regular baalei baatim as well. Letters were sent out in advance informing these people of their kibbud. This practice is still done today. The other six hakofos were distributed among the men in shul usually row by row with specially printed cards stating Hakofoh Bais, Gimmel, etc.. In the early days when shul was full it was not a given that one would get a hakofoh. Today most people can be assured of getting one, perhaps even two. The only requirement for receiving a hakofoh was proper attire i.e. jacket, tie , hat and, in the morning, tallis. The first hakofoh lines up in front of the oron hakodesh with the chazan in the center flanked by the rav and the Chosson Bereishis. Ato Horeisoh is recited verse by verse alternating with the chazan and kohol. At Vayehi Binsoa the oron is opened and those lined up turn and face the oron. Before "Gadlu" all the seforim (approximately 16 or 17) are handed out of the oron resplendent in their silver klei kodesh and matching green covers (the Yom Tov paroches is green). There are one or two small ones for the older people. The chazan then continues the recitation and at Ono Hashem he descends the steps sing the traditional Simchas Torah melody followed by the rav, Chosson Bereishis and others. The procession went around the bimah (or almemor as it was referred to) in a dignified yet joyous and stately manner. When the procession returned to the front of the shul the seforim were handed one by one to the next hakofoh which, in the meantime, had lined up in front of the oron. There was no wild dancing and singing. And yet everyone participated and was in good spirits. After the seventh hakofoh the three seforim that were needed for leining were placed on the shulchan while the rest of the seforim were returned to the oron. The chazan then sang Al Hakol in the traditional melody with the choir. In the evening one of the official baalei kerioh quickly and in an undertone leined from each one of the seforim in order to check for mistakes before the next day's kerias hatorah. This leining has now been done away with due to the late hour after the long hakofos. Hagboh and Geliloh were given out for each sefer. When that was done the three seforim were again placed on the shulchan and the chazan , standing in the middle with two of the gaboim, one on either side, would recite Sisu Vegilu. At Ogil V'esmach the Chazan and the two gaboim were given a sefer and they danced in a very joyous and slightly choreographed fashion accompanied by the choir and kohol singing the traditional melodies. This dancing is still done today both in the evening and in the morning after krias hatorah.

Unknown said...

(continued... too long for 1 post)
In the evening as the hakofos did not take terribly long and davening was finished at a reasonable hour there was a scheduled hakofos at 10:00 in the social hall where many people, mostly younger but some of the older generation as well, came back and danced and sang with the seforim in a more relaxed and free manner than in shul. These second hakofos were always very much enjoyed by everyone. Unfortunately today as the davening only finishes at about 9:30 these hakofos have been disbanded. The main difference today in the hakofos is that they take much, much longer and are in no way as dignified and majestic (something one would expect at KAJ) as they once were. A proof of this is the fact that after the first hakofoh all the silver is removed from the seforim in order to spare them from getting banged or dropped. The hakofos take so long and are so strenuous that it is impossible for the official chazan to lead all seven. Some of the younger baale batim are given the honor of leading them, something that would have been unheard of in former times. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that these new type of hakofos are geared solely to the younger, yeshivish crowd, most of whom never step foot in KAJ the rest of the year. This in turn forces most of the older and less yeshivish crowd to either leave shul early or not come at all. It is amazing when one contrasts the solemn dignity of the Yomim Noroim davening which took place just a few days before with wild abandon and seemingly total disregard for the kedushah of this same bais haknesses. Just a few days before would there be yelling, screaming and joking around in this same place? Would one let ones little children run wild, eating and drinking and littering these same floors? What has changed? This is something I have never been able to understand. If this is how they behave in other places, that's fine for them. But let those of us who still appreciate what kedushas Bais Haknesses means celebrate in our own way , the way we were used to doing for so many years . Don't ridicule us to change and "get with the times". Do I go to Williamsburg and tell them to get rid of there Shtreimels and Bekeshes and dress like everyone else? Of course not. So don't ask me to do the equivalent. I know that unfortunately things will not go back to where they were, but don't make fun of those of us who still appreciate and cherish the memories of our beautiful heritage and way of life.

To conclude, I have nothing against appropriate and understandable changes and additions which do not undermine the basic character of our tefilloh b'tzibbur in particular and way of life in general. But change just for change's sake, under the already worn out excuse that it will attract younger people to the shul, is wrong. Not only does it not attract younger people to the shul but it detracts the many more people who used to respect and admire us for maintaining our age old traditions.. Instead of looking over our shoulders with huge inferiority complexes to see what everyone else is doing and trying to emulate them (something at which we are not very good at, I might add) let us be proud of our own way which probably outdates these other traditions by hundreds of years. We don't have to feel embarrassed or offer any excuses and explanations for what we do just as we wouldn't expect this from our brethren who have a different way of doing things. Let us finally throw those chips off our stooped shoulders and stand proud as we uphold our beautiful minhogim and hanhogos which have been handed down to us from our parents and grandparents and which we should feel not only obligated but honored to pass on to the next generation.

I wish every one a good Yom Tov. May we all be truly mesameach this coming Simchas Torah, each in his or her own way, until the coming of Moshiach when we will all be able to celebrate together as one unified people with the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh bimheiro biyomeinyu.

Staying Afloat said...

Thank you so much for the pictures you've drawn for us. Having spent some time davening in Breurs but never on Yom Tov, I can begin to see it now.

Chag sameach!

efrex said...

My child/adolescent memories of simchat torah in the Heights are from the Soloveichik minyan, where the overwhelmingly elderly minyan adhered to the "one song per hakafah" rule (they also had hakafot on Leil Shmini Atzeret for reasons that are probably lost to antiquity). I was a fully-dues-paid member of the "faster and louder" school of simcha dancing, but I was always moved by the simplistic elegance of the hakafot, in which everybody participated (no wallflowers allowed).

There were a few years where I went to the late hakafot at 90 Bennett, back when I was young and had the energy to run & jump around. I always felt that that was an excellent compromise, and am sorry to hear that it's been disbanded. (Where in the main shul do people have space to jump around, anyway? With the tightly-packed fixed pews, I'm lucky when I can take a few steps forward & back for the Amidah)

I've certainly enjoyed some of the shtick pieces in simchat torah: Rabbis Hilewitz and Bloch (Mt. Sinai and Washington Heights Congregation, respectively) have had a lot of fun with ha'aderet ve'haemuna, but the chag has certainly taken on more a free-for-all aspect than I'm comfortable with.

Personally, I'd lose the whole candy collection nonsense. It smacks far too much of "trick-or-treating," and winds up causing a half-gazillion hashkafic and personal headaches ("is this a reliable hechsher?" "Does this have nuts?"). Let each child get a treat from the rav and/or chazzan, and call it a day.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank Avram for the detailed response. I have saved it for my personal notes.


“I think that to say that one form of hakofos is more Kavod hashem than another, is unfair.”

Who is saying so? Please read carefully, I wrote: “You are all helping me get a picture of true malchus, kavod Hashem, and Simchas HaTorah as it was meant (at least from Germany).” I believe the caveat ‘at least from Germany’ addresses your point.

”The yekkish way of serving God is very reserved and rules oriented. The litvishe is really like that too, but the Chasidishe way of serving God through joy, and whatever you are feeling has seeped in to even the most yeshivish places.”

I have no idea how you came to the conclusion that the simcha shel mitzvah felt by Yekkes or Litvaks is somehow of Chasidishe origin...Do you think the Gr”a, Nodeh Beyehuda, Chasam Sofer, R’ Hirsch, R’ Breuer, etc. etc. somehow got their simcha shel Mitzvah from Chasidim? Besides, unfettered joy is not considered simcha shel mitzvah. It is considered holilus. In regard to ”The yekkish way of serving God is very reserved and rules oriented” – Every Jew’s life SHOULD be rule oriented. Everything I do from morning until night (even at night) is governed by very strict rules – which give me my freedom in life! Asher Kidishanu b’Mitzvosav V’TZIVANU. All of torah is v’tzivanu – commanded and rule oriented.

”The same way people view the dancing and jumping as not properly serving God, people see the reserved nature of the yekkish style the same way.”

Are you sure it’s mutar to jump on Shabbos and Yom Tov? According to the Chachmei Ashkenaz it is assur, although heteirim do exist.

”That said, how and why Simchas Torah has become a pseudo Purim is beyond me, and there are instances where it gets out of hand.”
We can agree on that.

"But if people (not where it isn't wanted of course) dance by stomping, and feel they are showing Kavod Hatorah that way, I think, it should be respected as another way to serve, though I don't think it needs to be condoned in a yekkish shul.

I'm always amazed at how the yekkish way is often considered the only "right way," and people get beyond offended when the tables are turned and someone comments on the nature of a certain yekkish minhag."

The “Yekkish” way is ancient and proud – yet often stomped upon. It is not popular and surely not Yeshivish. We stand upon our holy father’s shoulder’s when we follow our Minhagim. I will copy just two quotes for you:
“Rabbi Isaac of Vienna the 'Ohr Zarua' exclaimed nearly eight hundred years ago, "Do you not know what towering geniuses and men of holiness are the Rabbis of Mainz, Worms, and Speier? From them has the Torah gone forth to all of Israel!" After Rabbenu Asher (the 'Rosh') was forced to flee Germany for Spain, he wrote, "I keep to our tradition as we received it from our ancestors of blessed memory, the Sages of Ashkenaz. Their Torah was a legacy from their fathers from the time of the Temple's destruction." (

Unknown said...

Efrex -

A number of years ago, in order to facilitate the dancing, the front row was reconstructed so that it could be temporarily removed for Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah.

FBB said...

I do not condone people coming into the shul and changing things, but I will answer your points, anonymous.

I never said the Chasiddishe ways have seeped into the yekkish ways, but the litvishe/yeshivishe standard has always been more serious, reverential, and a lot of that has changed as Chasidus has exploded in this country. Show of hands- how many of you know people (not yekkes) who have NO chassidishe blood anywhere who grow their boys' hair until 3? They've definitely had an influence on alot of teh Jewish world.

I LOVE IT! when people point to halacha as a reason the yekkes are right and everyone else is wrong in doing things, because you know, all those shuls and yeshivas and communities have no Rabbonim who know halacha. Nope. Only the yekkes get that right, everyone else is just bumbling along with their unlearned leaders allowing chilul shem shamayim, and transgression of shabbos/yom tov in the interest of keeping the masses happy.

Yekkes are rules oriented in that it sometimes feel that it's more about the process then the Avodah. If a person will sit and stew during davening because someone sang the wrong tune, then they've lost the point of the Mesorah. It's to serve God, not seve yekkeshkiet. The mesorah is beautiful, and long lasting and should not be stomped upon, but too often the forest is lost for the trees. If the minhagim are just a process that causes Sinah, and a means to keep a mesorah as opposed to actual serve Hashem then there's a problem.

I've never been amongst Yekkes who don't put down other people's minhagim, and state their own as being the right way, and derides the others as not being shtark enough to each's own mesorah.

By the way, how many yekkes take their hats OFF when they daven Shacharis in a non yekkish shul?

MK said...


The yeshivish and chassidish worlds are just as arrogant, if not more so, about its minhagim as the yekkish world is.


Why can't it change to what it used to be (or close to it)? Like you said, the wild dancing is in complete disregard of the kavod beis hakneses. I would say that this is important enough to make a huge issue out of. Where there's a will, there's a way.

(If I'm not mistaken, the membership of the kehillah is still largely old-school. A campaign to stop this wildness would, I think, win enough votes to be successful. In my humble opinion, it's an issue worth fighting for.)

FBB said...

If you take a very hard line (not saying do nothing), do you not risk alienating the sons and sons in law who come for this yom tov, and by extension their children who also have a part in this mesorah?

Not to say you have to change minhagim, but not dancing at all, is that really a minhag? If a request was made that the gabbaim be heeded when it is time to change hakofos, and people are not told to refrain from dancing, only wild dancing, would that not be a better way to ensure that the sons and sons in law WANT to transmit this mesorah to their children, who are at least partly yekkish?

Unknown said...


You are perfectly correct. If it was just a matter of introducing some extra, spirited dancing for a few minutes between hakofos I don't think anyone would object. In fact that was probably what those people who introduced it had in mind. Unfortunately most of the yeshivish sons and sons - in - law have taken advantage of the situation and have used this as an opportunity to show those "stiff yekkes" how it should really be done. And, as the saying goes, 'Vayeitzei Hoeigel Hazeh". I will never forget the first year this was introduced and one such gentleman danced by me with a huge smile on his face and said "Your grandfather must be turning in his grave." Need I say more? These young men have no desire or intention of passing along their own heritage to their children. Most of them have become so brain washed against their own mesorah that they bend over backwards to show their disdain for it. Why else would all these young men have little boys with long pony tails? Since when does one's minhag go after one's wife? Either the husbands are all terribly henpecked or, more likely, they are more than happy to show how "mainstream" they've become and no longer associate themselves with their own minhogim. Again, if I thought for one minute that introducing the dancing as described above would encourage our sons and sons-in-law to daven in our shul (and not only on Simchas Torah) then I would be the first one to support it.However, this situation has gotten completely out of hand and people like myself are ridiculed and looked down upon by these young men like we were the Grinch Who Stole Xmas! Sad but true.

By the way, perhaps you should inquire into what the Maharil says about Chazonim who change the tradional niggunim, especially on the Yomim Noroim. It's quite frightening and I, for one, would not want to risk it. It's a matter of disturbing one's kavonoh, which these niggunim are an intrinsic part of, not just a reason to get upset. That is really a very immature and stereotyped attitude.

Simchas Olam said...

I will probably never agree with taking the hakafos back to the way they used to be, although I respect where we came from. I happen to enjoy Simchas Torah in Breuers thoroughly. It's why I look forward to going there and why I always have true simcha on this Yom Tov. I will probably never care all that much if niggunim are sang incorrectly so long as it doesn't disturb me, though I understand how it can disturb others.

All that said,
I agree with Avram on one main point. I have seen with my own eyes the intentional disrespect of the yekkish and Breuers way. I have heard people using phrases like "The old yekkes can't stand this" and "Don't let the yekkes stop the hakofoh, just keep going!" I have seen people rip sifrei torah away from gabboim and literally run away with them. I enjoy the Yom Tov too much to start a confrontation but I often wonder if they remember that it was Yom Kippur just two weeks ago. That the Chazzan bowed down on the very spot that they use to intentionally aggravate their elders. If you don't believe this or you think I exaggerate, I encourage you to dance in Breuers this year and keep your ears and eyes open open. These comments and actions are unfortunately hard to miss and they make the position I believe in - that these longer hakofos can be enjoyable and truly b'simcha for many - difficult to defend.

I wish everyone a Gut Yom Tov along with simcha, simcha and more simcha.

BLD said...

Why dont the Gabaoim and the Rov announce the rules before they get started ?

Anonymous said...

And the Maharil is one of many who comment (strongly) about not changing nigunim or using outside nigunim. Among other's are the Rama, Yosef Ometz, and R' Hirsch.

Unknown said...

A Page From the Diary of Samuel Pepys
October 14, 1663
To Be Filed Under:
"Certain Things Never Change"

Samuel Pepys was a 17th century Englishmen whose diary remains once of history's best sources for the English Restoration period, while providing first person accounts of events he witnessed such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.
Here is his account of Simchas Torah:
"Thence home and after dinner my wife and I, by Mr. Rawlinson’s conduct, to the Jewish Synagogue: where the men and boys in their vayles, and the women behind a lattice out of sight; and some things stand up, which I believe is their Law, in a press to which all coming in do bow; and at the putting on their vayles do say something, to which others that hear him do cry Amen, and the party do kiss his vayle. Their service all in a singing way, and in Hebrew. And anon their Laws that they take out of the press are carried by several men, four or five several burthens in all, and they do relieve one another; and whether it is that every one desires to have the carrying of it, I cannot tell, thus they carried it round about the room while such a service is singing. And in the end they had a prayer for the King, which they pronounced his name in Portugall; but the prayer, like the rest, in Hebrew. But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this. Away thence with my mind strongly disturbed with them..."

FBB said...

Really? A Protestant from the 1630s is who were going to use as judge of our simchas Torah celebrations?

They think the Roman Catholics are too over the top!

Daniel said...

FBB - You're not a Hirschian. The Torah says the nations are supposed to see us as wise and discerning. Not as fools. This is a barometer of were we are and were we should be. It is also a great responsibility for us - we are the ohr lagoyim.

This year in Eretz Yisroel, Simchas Torah is on Shabbos. Therefore, even for those that matir dancing, this year poses a much more serious problem.

More importantly, Avram, you write that, "the Yom Tov paroches is green." I am aware that different Yekke Kehillos use different colors throughout the year. I thought that in KAJ, green was only for Shavuos. Can you please expand on what colors are used in KAJ through the year? If green is for all Yomim Tovim, white would be for RH, YK, and Hoshana Rabbah? Black for Tisha B'av? Is that correct, are there more?

Anonymous said...

With all the negativite feelings expressed about what goes on in our shul today, I feel I must comment. I personally was there in Breuers over Yom Tov and must say it was truly lovely! The dancing was "leibidig" and very full of Simcha. There was minimal "stomping" by the dancers and at least 75% of the children/collectors said "thank you" when given candy. My shul nieghbor, an elderly woman who has been davening there for years, said to me, "the children are so nice! I got so many thank yous!" Yes, the style may differ from that of years ago. Yes, there may be extra songs between Hakofos, but it wasn't shleppy or wild. Change is just that...change. That doesnt denote BAD, just somewhat different. Kids will be kids no matter where you go, many will be well mannered and others... (and no, I do not think the "lakewooders" who came for Yom Tov were privy to this blog and took note:) )

G6 said...

Anonymous -
I would have to agree with you that the dancing was improved this year (although still far too dragged out timewise) and that I did not witness any outright chutzpah. In fact, the nicest thing that I heard was of a young kehilla boy who went around and engaged the older gentlemen in dancing one on one. Props to him!
I must tell you though, that I received several comments from people saying that they felt my blog post might have made a difference with the "Powers That Be". If it did, I'm glad for that.
Regarding the thank yous, I'd have to say I had about a 5% rate on that, and that's counting Mommy thank yous on behalf of children (I'm not sure if you yourself gave out candy or if your percentage is anecdotal, but my figure is based on my personal experience.
I have much personal pride in my community but sometimes an honest, critical look at oneself is necessary to effect positive change.

FBB said...


Their way of serving God is so different from ours. Their services and rituals are one way, and ours are so much different. The most telling difference is that we do not need a Rabbi for anything, from birth to death. Any Jew who knows what he is doing can do it. What's the point? Well, it's an accessibilty issue. We have access to Hashem, and for many, the out pouring of love they feel when they dance with the Torah after completing the cycle of reading the parshios and are holding the scrolls and singing "Ashrenu Mah Tov Chelkanu," or "ashrei Haom sh'chalkolo," or "Atah Tzelchum Terachem Tzion..." cannot be suppressed, even to impress the goyim. So if they walked into a shul, and heard the shliach Tzibbur in tears while reciting Nesane Tokef on Rosh HAshsana and thought it untoward, do we tell that baal tefilah to knock it off, not let the emotion get to him, because there are those out there who may not like it?

Now if you wanna talk about Kapporos.....

YDL said...

Have I ever commented on how much I like this specific post? If not, let me say so now...

YDL said...

New article on KAJ Simchas Torah (p.64-65) might be a nice addition to one of my favorite blog post: