Thursday, 3 May 2007

Being a Member of a Secret Society


Some men have the freemasons, others have poker buddies or rugby teams. I have weekday shul.

Being a regular weekday shul-goer is like being a member of an exclusive men’s club. We have a meeting place, a shared uniform and a common objective. And there are usually just men.

The only difference between weekday shul and the freemasons is that in the freemasons, most lodge members know the other’s names and occasionally talk to one another. Members of the weekday shul club know each other’s faces, a bit about each other’s laning and davening skills, but not very much else.

When we weekday shul-goers pass each other on the street, we give each a knowing nod and then carry on with whatever we’re doing. The nod speaks louder than words. It says ‘Hello fellow shul-goer. I may not know your name but I respect you because you are also as crazy as me in getting up in the morning at 6am to go to selichot. Have a good day.’ The weekday shul-goer’s nod is our secret handshake.

The shul-goers’ mutual respect is strongest on the street. But when we’re at shul, that respect isn’t always so important. Two days ago, I witnessed a classic weekday shul encounter at my regular Mincha service in the Global Park Office shul. At 3pm, a few workers from each of the companies slip away for their ‘cigarette break’ and spend 15 minutes together in the privacy of the bomb shelter. There are Sephardim and Ashkenazim; Chassidim and ‘normal folk’. There might be hundreds of workers in the block, but I swear, I could meet any other the 30 Global Park shul-goers, anywhere in the world and would give them ‘the nod’.

As we got to the end of the Amida, the Lubavitcher leading the service, attempted to skip the Tachanun prayer, and move straight to Kaddish.
‘What are you doing?!”, yelled a Moroccan.
“It’s Pesach Sheini tomorrow,” replied the Lubbie.
“But we say Tachanun on Erev Pesach Sheini”.
“But I don’t, and I’m in charge today!”
Cue all the others, and a huge argument erupted, verging on a mass brawl… all over whether to skip a prayer (that we all hate) on the day before the Pascal Offering would have been offered in the Temple times, if we had been impure a month earlier on.

I quietly gave ‘the nod’ to one of my colleagues and we slipped out.

2 comments:

Shuli said...

Reminds me of the period when our smallish shul was undergoing a period of expansion and an early Shabbat Haskama Minyan was established.

Some members of the main shul felt that this "breakaway" was damaging to the kehilla as a whole.

When setting out protocols for Tefilla in the Hashkama Minyan, the founding members decided against the recitation of Yotsrot,a set of somewhat obscure and lengthy additional paragraphs, as the new Minyan had no precedent.

Objection was raised by dissenters on grounds that if the main shul had to recite them, why should the Haskama-goers get out of it!

Prof said...

OK. Tho'my experience is that the nod, at least in the UK is often accompanied by a wary facial expression. Maybe I DO look like a suicide bomber ... but is that the way to treat them???!!!
S/what amusing.