Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Not Invited

My wife had yahrtzeit for each of her parents this week, each passing away at approximately the same week on the Hebrew calendar though many years apart.  Our synagogue struggles to get the ten men needed for a minyan twice daily, so as a symbiotic approach to create the minyan they offered to announce by list-serve who will be coming for kaddish on a particular day, so that their friends might have an incentive to pitch in and secure the minyan.  It has been reasonably successful, though the only times I have gone for anyone else has been when somebody personally came over to me and asked for my presence.  And I never turned the request down if I could physically get there at the assigned time.

Our Cantor took ill so AKSE is scrambling to get capable volunteers to read Torah.  If an invitation comes my way and it is within my realistic capacity to learn the portion, I never turn the invitation down.  However, for broadcasts of "we need Torah readers" it's not really directed at me personally.  Haftarah invitations come, Shacharit invitations come, all accepted unless there is a barrier to helping out.  They asked me to conduct a class this winter.  I did that too.

For every personal invitation, though, there are multiple which read we would like to have people attend, it could be you, it could be somebody else, we just count the money from the tickets and keep score.  Much like a giant trough to immerse one's snout to relieve hunger of some type.  They want participation but who participates matters less than how many.  In the last seven years, the Rabbi has never personally invited me to do anything.  Even the invitations to shabbos dinner in his sukkah are directed to my wife.  The last two Presidents have never asked me to do anything.  No doubt each has an A-list since there are people who give guest divrei Torah or who get assigned to direct a fundraiser.  But other than some bimah activity the individual invitations to me are either zero or not much above that.

So we perhaps do a head count on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.  A lot of people attend.  Scanning the pews and the folding chairs behind them, there are people of all ages, or certainly a younger average age than would be found on any other occasion.  Women attend in large numbers, men in even larger numbers.  For every Ark opening two adult men are called up by name, each receiving a personal invitation a few weeks earlier from our High Holy Day chairman.  I do not know what fraction of the men accept or how many follow through with an implicitly expected minor contribution but I do know it is the only time of the year in which people in large numbers are individually asked to participate in a specific task.  Most then disappear until next High Holy Days when their Peticha usually gets recycled to them.  The reality of so many men responding to the invitation from one year to the next with minimal attrition supports the value of the personal invitation while the absence of any other invitation suggests an opportunity to grow congregational participation that was just not appreciated.  They might just need another invitation before the next New Year arrives.  And their wives too.

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