Went to Chabad again for second day Pesach. The Rabbi greeted me in the corridor as I was entering. He asked me about my Seder the night before, a small family gathering that took effort on my part. I returned the question, learning that their community Seder was attended by seventy. The number surprised me, since it did not include college students who have their own center on the University of Delaware campus and were off that week for spring break. So the conversation moved to how he identified 70 people who might be in need of a Seder, mostly people who lived alone that he knew about and invited. Now for a long time, I've wanted AKSE data organized to enable that sort of thing, looking at individuals to invite to participate, but there seems no incentive beyond calculating membership by household billing statements. He assured me that in the computer age, what he did successfully to enable people to attend a traditional Seder was not that difficult but you have to want to think about people who you can serve for their benefit rather than yours, another lesson not quite grasped by medical organization either.
Worship proceeded. After Torah reading, the Rabbi cited a misheberach for the sick. Two of my electronic friends, both women, had undergone intricate surgery for potentially life threatening diseases. They had provided me their names so I went to give it to the rabbi. He stopped me, indicating that the prayer was for men, then signalled me back for their names when he gave the healing prayer for women. After the service I asked him if when he visits the hospital he sees all the men on his list first, then backtracks to the women. Of course not, he told me. The separation of men and women in the prayer, which is done in all congregations but I had never seen divided before, was done out of respect for the women in his tradition. It had to do with the grammar inherent in the prayer. The prayer is recited in a generic masculine grammatical format. Chabad believes the women are entitled to their prayer modified grammatically in a feminine format so it is repeated with a separate list but the prayer itself having wording targeted to the people on the list. When he visits the sick, it is done geographically by hospital floor with backtracking if somebody is not available for the visit when he first stops by. Not men first, then women.
If there is anything at AKSE that I think has disappeared, it is those discussions, the random moments of inquiry and exploration, those teaching moments that crop up every day in hospital rounds when you encounter something that engages your mind and use that opportunity to connect with somebody else's mind. It keeps SERMO vibrant, a forum where a physician can post a comment, clinical, political, or some other element as life as a doctor, and dozens of others will pick up on the presentation and write back. The AKSE kiddush experience of Nice Shirt, Nice Tie, Nice Kippah out of Dale Carnegie to neglect of what was said in the sermon and its implications or more substantive discussions of what is really a diminishing experience that is losing the diversity needed to keep it attractive poses a real future problem, not just an overlooked opportunity.