Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yom Kippur puzzles

Apparently, in the weeks before Yom Kippur in Israel, there's been a dramatic rise in sales of... puzzles. Yes, puzzles are the new YK trend, particularly amongst religious families, so their kids will have something to do on Yom Kippur (when they're not davening, of course). You will all be relieved to hear that sales of bikes in the secular sector are still going strong, too.
Talking of the secular sector, Ha'aretz is running an opinion piece complaining about an initiative, sponsored by the government and by the excellent moderate-religious organisation Tzohar, to encourage Israelis (but mostly secular Israelis who otherwise wouldn't go to shul) to go to 'prayer gatherings' organized on Yom Kippur by Tzohar. The gatherings, which are now in their sixth year, are a big success (as is practically everything Tzohar puts its hands to):
Rabbi Hagai Gross, the director of Tzohar, boasted about the effect of these prayer gatherings on the secular participants: "One of the questions we got over and over was whether there would also be a minyan like this on the other holidays. A few even showed up at the entrance to the auditorium on Friday night and on Passover eve. We explained to them that they could go up to the synagogue and pray there, but that was not what they were looking for."
The op-ed piece writer's beef is that these secular people really should just be going to their regular local shul, as many secular people used to do way back in the '80s:
There are very few places left where the religious and secular still mingle of their own accord (as opposed to the forced encounters with the religious establishment in matters of personal status). Now it seems that even on the High Holy Days we are to pray separately.
There is definitely something to this -- people should pray together, the secular should feel comfortable in regular synagogues, the orthodox should realize that synagogues are not their exclusive preserve. However, that's all in an ideal world, and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since the 1980s. The answer isn't simply to order secular people into 'regular' minyanim, which for whatever reasons -- probably mainly political -- they don't want to go to; which -- because they are geared towards people who 'know what they're doing,' they feel excluded from; and which, for the same reason, simply do not inspire them. What the Tzohar minyanim show is that there are lots of secular people out there who would go to shul on a more regular basis, if there was a synagogue that was right for them; the answer is either for regular synagogues to adjust to this (which most of them won't) -- or to run those Tzohar-type minyanim which do appeal to them more often, not less often.

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