Wednesday, April 9, 2014

No Shir HaShirim

My two monthly shabbatot for April at my home congregation include Shabbat Pesach, where I agreed to serve as ba-al shacharit.  It can be a long service, extended further by a very pretty but lengthy chanting of Song of Songs which many congregations do on that day.  The Torah portion is brief by shabbos standards so the morning has some reasonable though late conclusion while the Rabbi should have the saichel to keep his remarks brief to allow for this.  For AKSE, this event has been contentious, a dispute over whether women may chant part of it in public, complete with some activity that I would classify as dishonest on the part of some to get what they wanted on this issue and one in which my respect for the Rabbi as mara d'atra took a hit.  But it got read.  The string ends this year, in a way that probably illustrates AKSE's soft underbelly as well as any other happening in the last couple of years, though it would surprise me if any of the many Somebodies would care to address the fundamental weakness which has other expressions that infiltrate what will probably be the congregation's closing chapters.

It's easy to to identify the core business of my hospital, which is usually given pretty high priority.  We take care of patients.  The money and the loyalty ultimately derive from how well we do that, though at times it may seem that financial or process concerns dominate the management mindset, only to return to the core activity for which the medical center exists.  The core business of the synagogue, its central mission, may be more elusive.  It needs to be a Beit Tfilah, a Beit Knesset, a Beit Midrash.  It also needs to be self-perpetuating and highly dependent on volunteers, unlike the hospital that hires the people they need to fulfill the various tasks.

So how might Shir HaShirim or BINGO or Board Meeting or fundraiser fit the congregation's mission?  They really don't.  They are expressions of the mission, but not the mission itself.  The goal should be to create a kehillah of people dedicated to doing these things and acquiring the learning needed to advance one's participation in Judaism.  The sad reality is that virtually none of the current Bimah participants learned their skills at AKSE.  A few kids did, most now departed, but only one that I can think of who acquired a level of proficiency to that would make him a peer with the skilled people AKSE once imported but no longer does.  People did make the effort to run a BINGO program.  The Board, and in particular the officers, are highly inbred with the recessive genes that come with institutional incest.  If your mission is really to advance people Jewishly and create community while you do it, which is what I think I would put on a yellow pad if asked to outline why a synagogue exists, you need to put people in place with the skills and vision to do this.  There need to be mavens, salesmen, visionaries, explorers.  You need a few Marco Polo's who've been elsewhere who can disrupt the Not The AKSE way.  And you need a few people to look at outcome devoid of the emotional attachment to rationalize as OK what really is not OK.

So when will Shir HaShirim be chanted from AKSE's Bimah again?

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