Sunday, October 15, 2006

Flying Stuffed Torahs

Sukkot pretty much went by without my noticing. (This year I have not-done two of my Jewish life goals, sending out yontiff cards and having a backyard sukkah. Better luck next year.) But I did make it out to Simchat Torah last night, with my mom.

When I was a kid, we belonged to a seriously German high-classical-Reform temple where the rabbis wore vestments but no yarmulkes, but for some reason they had maintained a custom of the children following the Simchat Torah hakafot around the sanctuary to collect candy from the congregation. (Trust me, this was strange and exotic old-country stuff by the standard of my day.) I do not actually remember if the hakafot involved the Torah scrolls, or how many hakafot there actually were--but the kids went around with sacks and got miniature candy bars, and Starbursts, and odd European hard candies, and it was incredibly fun. I think this must be a yeky thing--the focus on kinder and candy--since the same thing turns up at the Conservative shul in SF where I attended for years--and my heart still is. But I've only been there at Simchat Torah once. Kids. Candy.

In more recent years, we've gone to the Conservative shul down the block from my parents, not so much on candy, where the grown-ups slug whisky in Dixie cups, and the dancing runs out into the street, and goes on until the rabbi comes out and begs everyone to come back in so they can get another hakafah going. Currently, this place is out of service, since they're completely rebuilding, and the building has been razed to the foundation. They, and another couple of small shuls, had organized a Simchat Torah at another location across the park.

It was great, utterly disorganized, fun. There were a gazillion kids dancing, screaming, and throwing anthropomorphic plush Torah scrolls through the air at each other. USY's presidents got to auction off the scrolls for the first hakafah (a floppy-haired young man wearing a velveteen blazer and tzitzit begging the congregation to "Imagine Jewish teens enjoying Judaism. Then imagine those same Jewish teens running wild in the street.") Some dancing. (The Balabusta managed to get in about five minutes of circling aroung a scroll until her lungs told her it was time to stop this right now.) All the women were called for an aliyah together, then all the men, then the children. We unrolled a scroll around the room, got a lightning commentary on the high points of the Torah going backwards, and then rerolled to Bereshit. We lost a roller--it popped off the threads--I don't know who you call for that. A sofer? A Torah seamstress?

Enjoyed myself.

1 comment:

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

I'm considering moving back to the Bay Area next year and have very little knowledge of the shul scene in SF. Would be interested in your thoughts.
friaryid at