Thence home and after dinner my wife and I, by Mr. Rawlinson's conduct, to the Jewish Synagogue: where the men and boys in their vayles, and the women behind a lattice out of sight; and some things stand up, which I believe is their Law, in a press to which all coming in do bow; and at the putting on their vayles do say something, to which others that hear him do cry Amen, and the party do kiss his vayle. Their service all in a singing way, and in Hebrew. And anon their Laws that they take out of the press are carried by several men, four or five several burthens in all, and they do relieve one another; and whether it is that every one desires to have the carrying of it, I cannot tell, thus they carried it round about the room while such a service is singing. And in the end they had a prayer for the King, which they pronounced his name in Portugall; but the prayer, like the rest, in Hebrew. But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this. Away thence with my mind strongly disturbed with them, by coach and set down my wife in Westminster Hall, and I to White Hall...Worth keeping in mind in 2004....
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
My father's post on Simchat Torah, and a similar post by Joe Schick, reminded me that Samuel Pepys, the famous 17th century English diarist, describes visiting a shul (I think perhaps a Portugese one?) in one of his entries. It was, of course, Simchat Torah, but he had no way of knowing that what he saw was not typical. Here is his horrified description of the goings-on on Simchat Torah in a shul in London in 1663 -- I've italed the bits specific to the chag, and bolded his conclusions:
Posted by Miriam at 7:41 PM