Friday, December 3, 2010

Bimah Me Up

Many years ago a number of teachers guided me through some skills that would enable me to contribute to worship services, though the activities lay dormant and unrefined for many decades.  As a senior resident I accepted a haftarah invitation, then some invitations came along for Torah reading.  Functioning as shliach tzibbur never garnered an invitation, other than maybe maariv at a house of shiva or a Kabbalat shabbat when the hazzan was away.  A couple of years ago, the gabbai got desperate enough to recruit me for Shabbat morning, which takes a little more preparation than the others.  It went OK, though with far less proficiency than I had acquired with Torah and Haftarah reading.  Time lapsed, then another invitation a few months ago, then they needed to scrape a little farther into the cadre of skilled men who get up that early on a shabbos morning so another invitation came.  Unfortunately, the gabbai also botched the schedule, putting his son in the slot that had been set aside for me.  I accepted a rain check for two weeks hence, which is tomorrow.  I forgot at the time that this shabbat coincides with Hanukkah, so there are two additions that I had never done before:  Hallel and Al Hanisim, which I had to learn.  Most of Hallel I already knew as the tuneful parts are publicly recited.  I just needed to learn a basic nusach for the brachot and chatimot, which was readily available from a number of audio sites online.  Al Hanisim I was on my own.  Last evening I went through the dry run for the first time.  Not elegant, but not tircha d'tzibburah either.

For a congregation that either prides itself or deludes itself into thinking it has a monopoly on serious Jewish talent in our community, the evidence is that AKSE has not done an Ace job in expanding the proficiency that its members bring to the sanctuary.  There are a handful of Bar Mitzvah boys who perform capably, though in a limited way, recycling what they learned for their bar mitzvah when convenient, though for all practical purposes never learning a new Haftarah or Torah portion.  When the hazzan goes on vacation, he has to hire a Torah reader, one from the Conservative shul, setting aside all his semi-public contempt for inferior conservatives, whose alumni like myself allow AKSE to function from one week to the next.  And the unwillingness of the women to advance their skill beyond a Junior Congregation level and the complicity of the Rabbi with this classifies as an institutional shonda from my perspective.

So while those who come early enough to hear what occurs prior to Torah reading will not exactly experience an audio treat, they will have a relatively rare opportunity to listen to an effort to advance skill, one performance that did not derive from the Davening Recycling Center.

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