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I went to my first Egalitarian minyan and it was interesting

egal-minyanI think the last time I put on something that I would have called shabbos shorts was in the mid 1980ís, you know, those dark shorts that covered your knees that you wore to shabbos parties that gave out pekalechs filled with button candies and fizzer pops?

Well even if you didnít have those experiences, I did, and I was wearing longer then my knees-shorts and a button down shirt for my first pre-shul shul. That isnít a typo this was similar to the college party pre-game which starts in your dorm room, in shul mode.

We walked down 1st avenue in the east village towards pre-shul, we were headed to an Egal (egalitarian for all your right wingers) minyan for the cultural experience of it, that alone is enough to get those frummies with pitchforks and lanterns banging on my door in the middle of the night, whatís more is that for the first time in my life I sat in on a minyan that was saying lecha dodi and my phone was vibrating.

I walked in and stuffed my hat in my pocket and grabbed the most ďI have no idea what Iím doing hereĒ yarmulke and sat down, I didnít want to be outed as an infiltrator, I wanted to appear legit, so I kept pretending to look at my neighbor for the page number, and every few minutes my yarmulke would fall off my head and I would take a little longer than a regular frummie to realize this. Us frum folks know when the yarmulke falls off, but I have noticed that the unaffiliated and non-regular yarmulke wearers will go for about 30 seconds before their neighbor will grab their yarmulke from the floor behind them and hand it to them.

Clad in shorts and a pink silky yarmulke I davened mincha and tried not to shuckel, I also tried to bust out those BBYO ďI have never davened beforeĒ modiim bows, you know the whole knees bent and then bow which is never done in frum circles, I was sure some people could tell we were there as spectators, just as I could tell the guy sitting next to my friend was also religious – well not that religious obviously – because anyone going anywhere for the cultural value of it cant really be religious, right?

So back to this other religious infiltrator, I could tell he was religious based on several things, besides for the fact he was wearing a yarmulke in the correct, not too far behind the head position, he knew how to perfectly place his finger in the siddur as a bookmark. He also sang along with kabalas shabbos by heart, while everyone else including myself who didnít wantr to be mekabel shabbos at that time – hummed and did our oy oy oys.

Then there was this girl with flaming orange hair and a bright teal outfit that matched her sandals of all things who was doing the sit down shuckel right next to me, as many of you know, the sit down shuckel is complex and not traditionally done by anyone besides FFBís which led me to believe the girl in teal was in fact another one of the frum infiltrators present in this Egal minyan, shit we probably could have had a kosher break away minyan, separate seating and all.

The place was a big mix, the Rabbi was like one of those super friendly NCSY advisers who went to YCT and became an overzealous Rabbi, he had this perfectly groomed modern orthodox flair, knit yarmulke of perfect geometric proportions and a blue shirt, sport coat and khakis, he screamed Connecticut upper middle class and told us that Ian would be leading kabalas shabbos as they started yedid nefesh.

We were sitting on wooden chairs men and women together, but there was no microphone, they didnít need one but I always figured non-observant people did things to spite orthodoxy, you know thatís kind of how its taught in yeshiva, so I was expecting everyone to be davening through a microphone and eating ham and cheese while they talked on their cell phones about after shul movie plans, well besides for mixed seating, and a siddur that took out the morning bracha of shelo asony ish and replaced it with made me a Jew so as not to be too apolitically correct, nothing was really wrong.

Well yedid nefesh was sang from a feminist point of view, but Ian a supposed mail chazzan was going to lead kabalas shabbos, so I didnít have to hear kol isha. Well after an aleinu which leads me to believe that non-affiliated Jews all bow exactly the same way with the knee intensive bow, and would have no idea when to bow if not for the chief bower at the front, we started kabalas shabbos, or Shabbat as they claimed it was called.

I should also note that everyone ended shemona esrei at the same time, kind of like when I was in high school and we would look around to see how many people were done and then sit down. But this was a more en masse ending, like the Rabbi sat down so we could sit down. Another thing interesting was that it was completely silent, like not a peep, which drives people like me nuts, I need constant stimulation regardless of whether is has to do with yehash shmei rabba or overhearing some woman talking about her estrogen supplements.

During yedid nefesh I looked through the siddur and tried to find stuff that was changed or taken out, nothing besides the brachas, but I did find all of these nationalistic songs like America the beautiful and the star spangled banner, or and Oh Canada – WTF??? The sim shalom siddur is also the first siddur I have ever seen to have a bibliography which was really interesting because they talk about who wrote this and that and when.

Not one person was wearing a tallis, I was kind of surprised, I mean based on my ďunaffiliated kids at campus chabad and hillelĒ wearing tallis on Friday night experience I would have expected everyone to be wearing tallis scarves, but they werenít and only 2 women were spotted wearing a yarmulke, until I realized that Ian might actually be a woman – which I kept to myself untilÖ

The kids in front of me turned around and asked me about the chazzan, they said Ian was going to lead services, but Ian was a woman, what was up – I told these kids that this was the east village and anything goes in the east village.

Then for lecha dodi the rabbi said something about how we sing the tishga baav tune for lecha dodi, which was odd because tisha baav isnít for another two weeks, but I love the eicha tune so I was kind of happy until I realized it was some happy go lucky, I have no idea what tisha baav is tune.

I was kind of sad to leave because I had grown fond of my pink silk yarmulke which would be a great way to get aliyos at frum shuls which would never give just a regular modern looking guy one. Just like black velvet changes your status in a lot of places, having a 1950ís bat mitzvah yarmulke of someone named Gertrude will also change yours.

I am still wondering the same thing that your wondering what on earth is the difference between Egal, conservative and Reform?

Oh and technically speaking for all you sticklers out there who bashed me when I wrote about the reform minyan I went to, this as was the case in that post took place in the basement of the shul, in their day care center.

{ 85 comments… add one }
  • Chaviva July 18, 2009, 11:56 PM

    You, Heshy, are the bomb-diggity.

    ??? ????? ??. ūüôā

  • A. Nuran July 19, 2009, 12:36 AM

    And surprise, surprise, the men weren’t all stroking themselves after hearing a woman’s voice. The women weren’t turning tricks in the aisles. And nobody was passing the hat for Hezbollah.

  • Dani July 19, 2009, 12:49 AM

    As someone who grew up in the egal minyan, that is your typical NY conservative minyan. Here in the west coast, ALL the conservative shuls have mics and almost all have music. The conservative movement “adheres” to halacha, but changes but modifies to it to be modern and more lenient. Like, it’s ok to drive to shul, according to the movement, if you drive home after and don’t use lights etc.

    Reform doesn’t abide by halacha as it is “out dated”. I sometimes had to go to a reform synogogue for bnai mitzvos and it was…interesting. They have 10 clergy on staff, and out of those 10, 8 are gay and lesbian. It was interesting to hear the Bar mitzvah boy read the Torah parsha when it says a man shall not lie with another man. The rabbi had no comment.

  • Mark July 19, 2009, 1:08 AM

    Yeah, yeah … but it might lead to mixed dancing!

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 1:23 AM

    A. Nuran – I also just noticed that this is the first post I have ever written about shul that mentioned nothing about the girls, maybe were onto something here.

  • RobynRSTAR July 19, 2009, 1:38 AM

    Well Heshy, I can’t tell you what the difference between Egal, Conservative and Reform really are…. I was raised Reform, but through the past few years have become quite more observant. My friends call me “The Most Orthodox Reform Jew Ever.” I wear a kippa and talis. I keep Shabbat (not to a full shomer shabbas extent.) I keep kosher. However, I’ve met “Reform” Jews who are way more observant than I, just as I’ve met Conservative Jews and Orthodox Jews who are less observant than I. I even met a MoDox Jew who didn’t know what 17th Tammuz represents and why it’s a fast day…

    But I’m just a woman, what do I know, right? ūüôā

    Sometimes these titles and denominations lose their meaning. Does being frum make you a better Jew, or a better PERSON, than non frummies? Nope. Some may think it does, but righteous is as righteous does, and Hashem just doesn’t care about how you daven, as long as you’re believing, living with a shem tov, and being the best person you can be.

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 1:43 AM

    Robyn – if only more Jews felt like that in the orthodox community but then what would we talk about at the shabbos table.

  • Chris_B July 19, 2009, 1:46 AM


    Good one, couldnt tell when you were chain yanking and when you werent. Anyway I’m glad you had the experience and could see that us CJs arent having pagan orgies, sacrificing our kids to Baal, complete with libation wine.

    Oh yeah, horror of horrors that we should hold with tuf instead of suf!!!1(eleventy)!!1


    At my CJ egal shul we dont use mic’s or music. Also anyone who cares to read the responsa about driving to shul, its on the web, available to all.

  • Elf's DH July 19, 2009, 1:46 AM

    Well yedid nefesh was sang from a feminist point of view

    What does this mean? (If you mean Sim Shalom’s use of ???? endings instead of ????, you’ll be disappointed — that’s not a feminine form, it’s correct Rabbinic Hebrew grammar. The text of Yedid Nefesh was hopelessly corrupted in the Ashkenazic siddur. The Sephardic siddur and the manuscript texts are closer to what’s in the Sim Shalom.)

    Then for lecha dodi the rabbi said something about how we sing the tishga baav tune for lecha dodi, which was odd because tisha baav isnít for another two weeks,

    The tune is probably from the kinah Eli Tzion, not Eicha. I’m surprised that the minhag to sing [the first half of] Lecha Dodi to the tune of Eli Tzion during the three weeks isn’t more common in frummie circles, since it didn’t originate in Conservative Judaism. (Now I get to take my own dig at CJ — what percentage of CJ knows what the 3 weeks are?)

  • Elf's DH July 19, 2009, 1:48 AM

    oops — looks like your text box eats Unicode Hebrew… that should have said:

    (If you mean Sim Shalomís use of “ach” endings instead of “echa”, youíll be disappointed ó thatís not a feminine form, itís correct Rabbinic Hebrew grammar. The text of Yedid Nefesh was hopelessly corrupted in the Ashkenazic siddur. The Sephardic siddur and the manuscript texts are closer to whatís in the Sim Shalom.)

  • Scott July 19, 2009, 1:51 AM

    Technically, Reform and (most) Conservative davening is “egal” insofar as men and women participate equally. But the term “egal” generally refers to egalitarian Conservative davening to distinguish it from (increasingly rare) non-egalitarian Conservative davening. Reform is usually called Reform, or sometimes “liberal” or “progressive.” Conservative davening tends to be 90-100% the same as Orthodox davening in terms of liturgy; Reform davening tends to be very different.

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 1:54 AM

    These educated non-negative comments can only mean one thing – my frummie anti-anything that doesn’t wash their veggies underneath a microscope crowd has not woken up yet.

  • eyekanspel July 19, 2009, 2:48 AM

    You just wait Heshy. Those guys are still eating Seudas Shlishis. You should start hearing it sometime tomorrow morning…

  • ipitythefoo July 19, 2009, 5:05 AM

    A- I would probably have no problem with Conservative Judaism, except that I really have never enjoyed Conservative J’s way of rolling on Shabbos.

    B- I found the davening very VERY similar to that of both modern orthodox and chabad shuls. However, the shuls i attended all used microphones, even though it made davening way too loud and I felt it was only done to mark the entire service as ‘modern’.

    C- I have never seen Shabbos dvening with instrumentals or music, except in Reform.
    (nor did they sing America the Beautiful…?)

    D- When asked how I felt about Egal davening, I told my employer “I have no problem with equal participation of the sexes.” (problem was I pronounced sexes like testes.)

  • Dani July 19, 2009, 5:10 AM


    I know the responsa. I know not all shuls use them, but in the west coast where I live…MOST of them do. And I’ve read almost all of the responsa’s over the past year. I got the AJU (American Jewish University). It used to be the University of Judaism and conservative along with the rabbinical school, but now undergrad and all grad school is secular and the rabb school is separate. My rabbis are conservative or orthodox at school, and i even talk with the rabbis who make those responsas….i just don’t agree with them.

  • Jon the A July 19, 2009, 6:32 AM

    Robyn – such an awesome post. From a mostly lapsed OthoJew,

    Jon the A

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 9:26 AM

    I pity – besides for my observations I definitely didn’t enjoy the minyan, it was just like orthodox minyanim that try to do Carlebach except they didn’t sing all the songs, and they didn’t do the post lecha dodi dance around the bimah, oh and they had mixed seating -I would much rather prefer a classic yeshivish davening to this. But in order to make fun of everyone I have to start attending more of these things.

  • conservative scifi July 19, 2009, 10:26 AM


    As you point out, most conservative services are pretty similar to orthodox, with slight liturgy changes.

    While you noticed the change in the birchot hashachar, there are also two pages for the shemonah esray, one that is the normal page and a second with the matriarchs which some synagogues use. In the musaf service on shabbat, the text is slightly changed to reflect a lesser desire to see the sacrificial service reinstituted. There are some other subtle changes as well, for example, correcting a word in magen avot to the probable original word instead of the way we all say it.

    While I’ve been to many orthodox shuls, they don’t tend to have that much dancing at kabbalat shabbat. The only time I really saw dancing was in an actual yeshiva (in Yavneh) and it seemed kinda forced. Someone said that in Tzfat there is a lot of dancing, but I was there during the week this time.

    Please visit the other denominations to make fun, since I enjoy the humor, but it sounds like you’re only going to have kavannah in a yesheivish type minyan, so we won’t be able to sway you. Oh well.

  • MAVEN July 19, 2009, 10:50 AM

    HESHY: Your former frum readers are not responding because this blog has gotten so lame that yo are ignored. Blog was like a passing comet that burned itself out. Nice try, but it’s been going downhill for months.

  • Anna July 19, 2009, 11:00 AM

    Wow! This sounded just like many of the davvening experiences I had in early July at the ALEPH Jewish Renewal Kallah. Although no-one there would have thought anything about men and women wearing kippot or tallitot (or not), shuckeling (some do/some don’t), variances in bowing, about davvening the complete prayers, about the variety of Ashkenazi and Sephardi pronounciations in use, about the use of mics (or not), etc.

    At home, in my Reform shul, davvening is almost all in Hebrew, and one finds most men and women wearing kippot at all times, and kippot and tallitot on Shabbat morning. There are people davvening with accents representing their Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Ladino heritages. The Reconstructionist havurah, Conversative and Modern Orthodox shuls are much the same.

    I am curious to know why you felt that that “yedid nefesh was sang from a feminist point of view’?

    RE: “I did find all of these nationalistic songs like America the beautiful and the star spangled banner, or and Oh Canada Ė WTF???” For your info, there are lots of Jews in Canada, and we may use any of the siddurim published by the various denominations, and we do sing our national anthem on Canada Day (July 1st), not unlike our American neighbours sing their National Anthem on Independence Day (July 4th).

    I hope you continue exploring the many davvenning experiences available . . .

  • Chris_B July 19, 2009, 11:13 AM

    Hesh you didnt say clearly which siddur they used.

    BTW at my shul we usually sing “the world is a narrow bridge” in Japanese.

  • StL Sam July 19, 2009, 11:40 AM


    here’s the deal, i’m conservative/chabad/whateverdox myself and if a true frummy outsider is spotted, then the onan-ing and harlotry are kept to a minimum for the sake of decorum.

  • Anonymous July 19, 2009, 11:57 AM

    In the end, a Jew is a Jew…. is a Jew

  • Phil July 19, 2009, 1:11 PM

    Without getting into bashing beliefs again, I would like to know what they’ve done to the Hebrew grammar in reference to Hashem in the masculin terms (assuming the siddur has Hebrew too).

    For example, Hakadosh baruch hu, would become hakdosha brucha hi in feminine, but what’s the egal version?

    The Tanach and devening all refer to God in masculin terms. What they changed all the Hebrew text or just the politically uncorrect things such as shelo asani isha?

    Lastly, what the heck is Oy Canada doing in there. What’s next, Janis Joplin?

  • Puzzled July 19, 2009, 1:44 PM

    Well, I’d say that your experience sounds nothing like the reform Friday night experiences I’ve had, or for that matter the “less religious conservative” services I’ve been to. At the Reform service, there was no amida, the shema had only one paragraph, and there were lots of English songs but most of kabbalat shabbat was missing. There was a long sermon, and a Torah reading, since they only had Saturday services if there was a bar mitzvah. The less religious conservative services I went to were similar. At both, there were lots of times when people were called up to the bima/stage and given things to read responsively.

    On the other hand, the more religious conservative shuls I’ve gone to have looked like orthodox services with mixed seating.

    If this minyan was not held in a shul, by the way, wouldn’t it be halachically permissible not to have a mechitza, since mechitza is only required in a shul?

    In reference to the driving teshuva – come on, if you’re going to use that kind of reasoning, why not just say “halacha isn’t binding” and be done with it? I consider myself conservative, but I’m embarrassed by that teshuva. I am also annoyed by all the nationalist songs in the siddur.

  • Channah K. July 19, 2009, 2:13 PM

    Phil–The Sim Shalom is basically a Hebrew/English siddur, so it has both English and Hebrew like the Tehillat Hashem English Siddur (but without annotations and so not as good). They keep all of the grammar that I’m aware of, so “hakadosh baruch hu” is still “hakadosh baruch hu” but the politically incorrect things, as you say, are changed, and the references to sacrifices are mostly eliminated.

    I davened with a Conservative shul for about a month this summer because there was no other place in walking distance (I later found a local Chabad house so I stopped going). I’m on the West Coast, so as Dani said, it’s all microphones, musical instruments, and lights being switched on and off. All the women wore kippot and the cantor was female. I saw a couple frum-looking men there and the rabbi seemed to know what was going on during shacharit–he had a very frum shuckel going on, tallit over his head, the whole thing–but during erev shabbat when there was a bigger crowd he turned into the young rabbi trying to be hip to keep the kids from all marrying goyim.

    Right on the money, Hesh, with the not-knowing-when-to-bow during aleinu and the simultaneous shemonah esrei sit-down. Well done!

  • Anonymous July 19, 2009, 2:45 PM

    yeah i don’t know whats with all of those english songs at the back of the siddur – i was brought up conservative and i always wondered what they were doing there because we certainly never sang them in shul

  • Chris_B July 19, 2009, 4:30 PM


    Your conclusion on the driving teshuva makes no sense at all. The leniency is granted under a controlled set of circumstances with a clearly stated reason. Thats a far cry from “halacha isnt binding”.

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 6:10 PM

    “HESHY: Your former frum readers are not responding because this blog has gotten so lame that yo are ignored. Blog was like a passing comet that burned itself out. Nice try, but itís been going downhill for months.”

    Funny because everyone feels like writing something like that on every post for the last 3 years yet my traffic keeps going up and up B”H.

  • Phil July 19, 2009, 6:16 PM

    Channah K,

    I didn’t realize egalitarians had somehting against the sacrifices too. Don’t they realize that most of davening and especially the parts about sacrifices/ketores are there to replace the sacrifices we no longer have?

    Kind of missing the whole point if you ask me…

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 6:20 PM

    I wonder if they have something against tefillin too?

  • Phil July 19, 2009, 6:23 PM


    I would guess that egals have women putting on tefillin and men lighting candles. These people are really mixed up. I wonder what they do in bed.

  • Channah K. July 19, 2009, 6:30 PM


    Yeah, but sacrifices make them uncomfortable. I know some of them know what’s going on with them, but the idea that we civilized people would do something as barbaric as making the sacrifices Hashem commands when the Temple is rebuilt makes them edgy. They still talk about the sacrifices in the past tense (unlike a lot of Reform services) but not about the sacrifices that will take place in the rebuilding).

    The women don’t wear tefillin, though, because no one wears tefillin. I never went to their Sunday service (the CJers I davened with only had a Friday night minyan and shacharit on Shabbat and Sunday), but I don’t get the impression that any of the men wear tefillin, nor were the women taught how to put them on. Women light candles though–it’s more about giving women more mitzvot than actually making it genuinely egalitarian.

  • Puzzled July 19, 2009, 6:54 PM

    I didn’t say that the teshuva itself said that halacha isn’t binding, I said if you’re going to use such tortured logic to get the conclusion that you want, and you’re not engaged in an honest search for the right answer, but rather looking to justify wanting to do something, it would be easier to instead say halacha isn’t binding, as other movements do. (Side note: Since 1950, just how often is this teshuva followed as written? If I walk into the average conservative shul, how many people there will either have driven or can explain why they fall within the teshuva?)

    In particular, I object to the depiction of aish as the only concern to consider with driving. There are plenty of other prohibitions not discussed – carrying, building, completing a vessel. In overturning the rabbinic prohibition, I don’t accept that any relevant changes have taken place that would permit overturning the relevant rabbinic prohibitions. Finally, I don’t even see the underlying logic. The person the teshuva appears to be targeted to will not drive on shabbat without rabbinic consent – but is in danger of complete assimilation and loss of his Jewish identity if he doesn’t go to shul on shabbat? Anyone who drives under this teshuva would be driving anyway, so I don’t see how it helps to prevent assimilation.

    Remember, I’m a conservative. I agree with almost everything in Joel Roth’s Halakhic Process. I’m not approaching this from an orthodox point of view, and I don’t deny the possibility of issuing lenient responses on questions that have traditionally been decided differently. I just don’t think this one was successful.

    For what it’s worth, while I have trouble with sacrifices, and I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that talk about sacrifices in the future is metaphorical, I find other things that upset me much more. Such as this week’s Torah portion. I had an overwhelming impulse during our weekly Torah class to take off my kippa, walk out, get into my car, drive away, and forget about a religion that believes these things. I didn’t, but not because I convinced myself that what was in the parsha was something I could deal with. I remain convinced that I can never accept that idea, or a few others, and that the Rambam would therefore have to say that I am forever a heretic. So I’m also not writing from a more-religious-than-thou perspective. I just want consistency. For a year, I drove to shul on shabbat, and to other places as well, as I became more observant. However, rather than accepting the driving teshuva, I simply said “there’s the standard, and here’s where I am – I’m not living up to it, and I’m ok with that, but I’m trying to improve my life to where I won’t do that.” Same here – I probably could find a way to deal with it by making changes in the meaning of the text, but I’d rather just say I can’t deal with it, no matter Who wrote it.

  • Chris_B July 19, 2009, 7:01 PM


    I just checked through Siddur Hadash (another CJ siddur) and it seems the references to sacrifices arent there in the Amidah. I guess I also suffer from SADD so hadnt quite caught on to it not being there what with my own use of Artscroll and now Koren.

    I do my best to keep my schedule but even though I’m saying the words 3x a day (at best) the fact is I dont find the idea of animal sacrifice all that great.

    As for what we get up to in bed, well, thats for us to know and you just wish for.

    Channah, Heshy,

    All the men at my shul I’ve talked to about it do lay tefillin. Women dont (duh).

  • Chris_B July 19, 2009, 7:07 PM


    Well said. Thanks for explaining yourself.

  • Scott July 19, 2009, 7:11 PM

    Sim Shalom’s musaf actually has two options for sacrifices: One that is the same as the Orthodox version except that we pray to return to worship in the Temple rather than sacrifice there (past tense reference still included), and and “alternative” version with all references to sacrifices omitted. At my Conservative shul, we use the more traditional version 90% of the time.

    Also, Conservative Judaism is pro-tefillin for both men and women. As a practical matter, many people don’t wear them because they never learned or they’re too expensive, but it’s encouraged, and any female Conservative rabbi will wear them.

    And re liturgy, Sim Shalom’s Yedid Nefesh is an earlier manuscript. Conservative siddurs do not change brachot to the feminine, although Reform Jews sometimes do that.

  • yehsiva dude July 19, 2009, 7:19 PM

    frum satire,

    And you consider yourself Orthodox!?? You seem to find the other sects of Judaism a lot more appealing lately….Hmmm

  • Phil July 19, 2009, 7:22 PM

    I was referring to the korbanot section we read every morning and afternoon. Either way, reading them is considered as the replacement for not being able to do them, at least according to authentic Jewish sources.

    This is all knew to me, so now I’ve got some more semi satirical questions?

    Do egal Jews pray for a tofu korban Pesach when mashiach comes?

    Do egals believe that thre mizbeach will be rebuilt as well, or will it be scrapped for a more modern microwave where we can heat vegan prepackaged meals to give to the kohanim?

    Do egals have anything against ketoret (made of spices, wine, etc)?

    Do egals believe mashiach is a woman or possibly androgenous?

  • RobynRSTAR July 19, 2009, 7:47 PM

    Channah K and Heshy – As for the “not knowing when to bow and sit down” that’s just ignorance (i.e. lack of education, either formal or on their own.) I see it in the Reform shuls in which I teach during afternoon Tefillah service. The kids all look at me — no matter how many times we’ve discussed Baruch from Berech which means knee. OY!

    It’s the intricacies, bits and bobs that help one really connect…

    As for the grammar and what not, the Hebrew grammar has remained the same (as in the Hakadosh baruch hu vs hkdusha brucha hi and also in Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Adonai Tz’vaot) What has changed in Reform and some Conservative and Egal shuls is in the English translation and also in the Avot — now referred to as Avot V’Imahot – Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu velohei avoteinu v’imoteinu. Elohei Avraham, elohei Yitzchak, velohei ya’akov; Elohei Sara, elohei Rivka, elohei Leah, velohei Rachel. For a Jewish Feminist like myself, I appreciate the equality of the sexes, or gender neutrality as it’s called. Though I do believe in certain separation of powers, so to speak.

    Oh, and to piss off some more people, yep, I wear tefillin every morning.

    Judaism is for each person as they want to have their relationship with Hashem. If that’s through dancing naked in a prayer circle in the woods while playing “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” on guitar or it’s wearing your kittle, tzitzit, tallis, black velvet kippah and mumbling through your davening, so be it.

    At least we’re not Jews for Jesus… a crock of a whole other color.

  • A. Nuran July 19, 2009, 7:54 PM

    Phil, probably what anyone else does but with some exceptions.

    They do it with the lights on every once in a while.
    They don’t wait the (stupid) extra week to have sex which provably reduces the chances of having a baby.
    They don’t run the rabbi for permission every time they change positions.
    They don’t think they’re damned for all eternity if one of them jacks or jills off.
    They make their own decisions about when and how many children to have and what means to use to accomplish the spacing. A big part of feminism is the realization that women can have worth and fulfillment outside of being brood mares and popping ’em out before they’ve finished nursing the last one.

    Consider tefillin. G-d doesn’t say “Men, wrap these around yourself.” Nowhere. Not a bit. It’s all (man-made) tradition along with all the prayers, OCD rituals and every particular we treat as Divine Commandments. The only thing the Almighty says is that “you” (gender non-specific) shall put them on the doorposts, gates et cetera et cetera.

  • Scott July 19, 2009, 8:03 PM

    Phil, the changes to the sacrifice references in the Conservative liturgy predate egalitarianism and the two are not necessarily related. At non-egal Conservative shuls in, say, Toronto, the sacrificial references will probably be the same as they are in most egal Conservative settings.

  • Hornball July 19, 2009, 8:57 PM

    I wanna participate in an egal minyan so I can have a hot female congregant on my lap while I do the sit shuckel vertically.

  • RABBI SUSAN July 19, 2009, 9:21 PM

    Hornball at my temple we call that lap dancing and it’s encouraged to build the congregation.

  • GROSSE CHACHAM July 19, 2009, 9:28 PM

    Egalitarianism has nothing to do with korbonos, or tofu of the mizbayach. It’s all about men and women being the same and as you know anyone with eyes knows there are differences. I hope that Heshy wasn’t too distracted by all the half dressed egalitarian women at his temple prayer service. I know that if a woman in hot pants and a tank top was davening next to me I’d have trouble concentrating on the tefilah instead of her.

  • Phil July 19, 2009, 9:43 PM

    This temple is starting to sound like mardi gras or Woodstock. I wonder if they allow mixed dancing, or maybe having the women go on themen’s shoulders for lecha dodi like at a rock concert…

    Which leads us to the next set of big questions:

    Does egalitarian theory spread to aspects in their lives besides religion?

    How do egalitarian women view dating? Do they get equal rights to hit on men and women which would mean they are bi?

    What about household duties? Do egal couples share cooking and doing dishes equally?

  • Frum Satire July 19, 2009, 10:31 PM

    RE yeshiva dude

    As a social critic, writer and observer of the Jewish community I find all sects of Judaism interesting. I am religious, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be exploratory. Besides, its about time I started making fun of other Jews besides the orthodox, my fan base has grown beyond the shtetle and I want to show my love.

  • Anonymous July 19, 2009, 10:36 PM

    Mixed dancing is of course considered ok if davening together is ok! . Also, keep in mind that although men and women pray together and the women aren’t dressed “tznius”, there is still a dress code inside conservative shuls – no short skirts, no shoulders showing, no cleavage. Even at the refrom shuls I’ve been to, there is a dress code. Also, keep in mind that most services aren’t completely egalitarian – usually the women still light candles and only the men are required to wear kippot in the synagogue.

    Phil – It is suprising that you know so little about how your fellow Jews pray! You implied that the way they pray is wrong and yet you don’t know how it’s done. Also, I’m sure you consider yourself learned with regard to Judaism. And yet you know nothing about how many of your fellow Jews pray! By most standards, I am not very educated Jewishly. And yet, I have a decent knowledge of how all the different demoninations daven. If I didn’t know all of the different options and perspective, I wouldn’t be able to listen to their arguments, try to understand their customs, and make an informed decision.

  • Anonymous July 19, 2009, 10:38 PM

    *an informed decision about my own views and how I want to be observant.

  • conservative scifi July 19, 2009, 10:46 PM


    In my egalitarian household, I do the cooking while my wife does the dishes. I also pick the kids up, while she drops them off.

    On your earlier questions, I’ll answer seriously, though I think you were joking. I doubt many conservative jews want the sacrificial system reinstituted (but I am sure there are some who do). So tofu is probably better than sacrificing an animal, but I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
    Maybe we’ll offer just the meal offering, and not animals when (if?) the mizbeach is rebuilt.

    Regarding mashiach, why are you so sure that mashiach will be male. Maybe she’s already born, and waiting for you to catch up.

  • Frum Satire July 20, 2009, 9:19 AM

    Wow so my non-religious or less religious commenters are teaching the frummies that they are not evil – maybe I’m getting brownie points for all the love being displayed here

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 9:48 AM


    You sound karaite. Frum people believe in halacha lemoshe misinai.


    You’re right about me not knowing details about sects that I have nothing to do with. Frum people are forbidden from attending those types of services. Furthermore, as I pesonally consider many of the things that go on there as a desecration to what I believe in, so I have no interest in going there to get pissed off.


    I was semi joking as I mentioned. I can’t see how anyone could justify a meal offering but not an animal unless they are part of peta, which has nothing to do with Judaism. If you have no problem eating a steak, you shouldn’t have any problem with BBQing a lamb for korban Pesach. I was joking about Tofu, it’s kitniyot and forbidden for non sephardim. Regardless, it’s not up the conservative movement whether or not they want the sacrifices re-instituted. When mashiach comes, reform, conservative and all other sects will merge back into one true way, following mashiach.

    Regarding mashiach, I’m assuming he is male because he is referred to as mashiach BEN David not mashiach BAT David.

  • Chris_B July 20, 2009, 10:02 AM

    Phil you crack me up sometimes! But what if, God forbid, Moshiach says all streams are good?

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 10:22 AM


    It would seem strange to think that he (I think he’s male) would admit 2 contradictory ideas and say they are both fine or set up different laws for each sect.

    He is supposed to unify not only the Jews, but the entire world to serve God properly. Assuming that Moshe Rabbeinu will be teaching us Torah as he learnt it from Sinai, conservative and reform stand no chance, as both are acknowledged as sects that came at a later date and both don’t even claim to practice authentic Judaism.

    I can’t see rabbi Judy coming to challenge Moshe Rabbeinu, Mashiach or any of the great tzadikkim that will be resurrected at that time.

    What will happen to minhagim and stringencies and different chassidic sects? My guess would be that some will be cancelled or become irrelevant, and some might stand.

  • Chris_B July 20, 2009, 10:37 AM


    He will unify us no doubt. But how? Two Jews can barely agree if its sunny or rainy outside. Given that and our tendancy to factionalize, I figure His only option is to accept all of us fear & serve Hashem differently ^_^

  • A. Nuran July 20, 2009, 11:31 AM


    You sound like an idolator. Jews believe that G_d alone is worthy of worship and obedience. You believe that anything anyone with a beard and a black hat says is the Divine Will.

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 11:32 AM


    When someone revives the dead, I think he might not have such a hard time convincing even the most stubborn person that he knows what he’s talking about.

    If you walk into a stadium, you abide by the rules. Try smoking in a non smoking area, taking off you clothes or running on the field and you’re out.

    No matter what color, race or religion you’re from, you burn a red light, you get a ticket. End of story, no questions asked.

    Same goes for the 3rd temple. Can you imagine some woman deciding she wants to be kohenes gedola and bring up a tofu korban?

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 11:39 AM


    Talmud and shulchan aruch state laws regarding to tefillin. Are you saying that Jews that follow Shulchan Aruch are idolatrous?

  • Puzzled July 20, 2009, 11:58 AM

    Phil, there weren’t orthodox Jews in Moses’ time either. How can you be so sure he won’t say that there are things the orthodox got wrong? In a long logical chain, it’s possible to make mistakes, isn’t it? Maybe we’ll find out swordfish really is kosher, or that the Shulchan Aruch saying that milk and fish is prohibited isn’t a mistake. Certainly, he won’t tell us we have to dress like Polish nobility, will he?

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 12:16 PM


    At least Orthodox stand a chance as we believe we are following authentic Moshe misinai, whereas the RJs and CJs know very well that they modified the rules to suit their needs.

    Milk and fish isn’t prohibited, If I rember right it was sakana. How else would Jews be able to eat lox with cream cheese?

    Maybe swordfish is kosher. So be it. There is no way intermarriage, driving to shul on Shabbat or eating non kosher will be accepted simply because people refuse to accept otherwise.

    As to dress code, I’m with you on this one. No one ever said dress code was halacha, except when it come to tznius. The prohibition to dress or imitate the ways of idolators is where all the garb stories are brought into the picture. As to how that is interpreted is the difference between sects.

    Lubavitchers in my area dress like the Italians did 50 years ago, wearing suits and borsalinos. Does this make them any better than one that wears Levis?

    Are jean wearing goyim any more or less moral than Al Capone and his crew?

  • Chris_B July 20, 2009, 12:37 PM

    C’mon Phil,

    You darn well the halacha is the domain of humans, you know Gemara way more than I do.

    BTW so you are saying the Lubavichers dress like idolatrous polytheistic Catholics? That sounds like it breaks the prohibition to dress or imitate the ways of the idolators right there…

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 12:50 PM


    Halacha is in the domain of QUAILIFIED humans only to a certain extent. They have no right to scrap pre-existing laws.

    Regarding the dress code, I think it’s a fine line today, where it probably wasn’t when the law was put into place. I picture those monks with their frocks and funny hairdoos as the ones we weren’t supposed to imitate.

    Guys around here feel the same was about my jeans and t shirts. I use the reverse argument about Armani and Borsalino not being any more Jewish than Levi Strauss or Calvin Klein.

  • Puzzled July 20, 2009, 1:00 PM

    Jews are able to eat lox and cream cheese because the Shach says its a printer’s error when the Shulchan Aruch rules it is prohibited.

  • Chris_B July 20, 2009, 1:05 PM

    Phil its so much fun to yank your chain!

    BTW didnt RAMBAM have something to say about customs that fall out of practice?

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 1:16 PM

    If I remember correctly, Rambam discuss decrees that never took hold. He brings an example of a decree the rabbis try to make that would force men to go to the mikva after each time they did the deed. This was to be so the Chachamom would spend their time learning instead of chasing their wives around “like roosters” to quote his words.

    The decree never worked, so it was abolished.

    By contrast, once a decree took place, it is next to impossible to repeal it, as you need a court with greater authority to do so. That is why we still have outdated laws such as kitniyot, gebroks and not being able to have more than one wife (not sure what egals think about that one, though it gives equal rights to more than one women, so they should be all for it).

  • Chris_B July 20, 2009, 1:46 PM

    Last point is interesting. If kitniyot is OK for some Jews but not others, is that just one of those “oh well Moshiach will resolve it” things or is it like Ashkenazim are doing it “right” and Sephardim doing it “wrong”?

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 2:02 PM

    No, it’s one of those rulings that was only accepted by Jewry under the jurisdiction of the Rama (eastern European ashkenazim). R. Yosef Caro (sephardic leader) rejected the the ruling, therefore sephardim never accepted it. Same goes for the ruling about multiple wives. It was created in Germany, and sephardim rejected it.

    So while it is wrong for Ashkis to transgress these issues, it’s not wrong at all for sephardim.

    In contrast, RJ and CJ clergy are not in the capacity to override rules accepted by all. Of course, their followers may choose to do as they please, doesn’t make them halachically compliant.

  • justayid July 20, 2009, 5:16 PM

    1. Consie vs Egal

    This is confusing. Sometimes egal is used to mean egal consie, as opposed to the few remaining non-egal consie. Other times it means a minyan that it is MORE frum than most C shuls, EXCEPT on issues of egalitarianism. Sounds like you were in the former, not the latter.

    2. Musical instruments on shabbos – Different C opinions on this. More common on more West coast. Historically west coast was more lefty C, Canada more rightie, east coast US in between

    3. how many know what 3 weeks are. Thats the period of time before tisha bav, which you usually forget about till reminded, unless you are planning a simcha. When reminded you realize you dont want to give up listening to music, so you mumble something about the founding of the state of Israel.

    4. Generally being egal in terms of who can do what is more important than including matriarchs in the Avodah. I know of C shuls that are pretty strictly egal in terms of participation but that stick to patriarchs only in the Avodah. There was a pretty good article in CJ magazine on that not long ago.

    5. Shuckling – I never bow exactly right, but then I am Reform by origin. You need to realize that many folks in C shuls are not MasortiFromBirth, but are “baaltshuvaMasorti” from Reform or secular homes (or gerim) and there awkward shul practices will reflect that.

  • justayid July 20, 2009, 5:20 PM

    “There is no way intermarriage, driving to shul on Shabbat or eating non kosher will be accepted simply because people refuse to accept otherwise.”

    C does not allow intermarriage. It does not allow eating treif (there is some disagreement about the need for hasgacha when eating a hot non meat meal, the arguments are interesting and are quite serious)

    That leaves the driving leniency. It was made on the theoretical right of the rabbinate to issue a takana to respond to an “emergency”. Not all C rabbis hold by it. I personally think its the weak spot in C halacha, and hope it will be changed at some point.

  • Puzzled July 20, 2009, 7:14 PM

    Phil, I think (not sure) that the Rambam also discusses a rabbinic law that is not observed for a generation. I remember a related issue coming up with raising sheep and goats when the Jews came to Israel, and there being a ruling that the takkanah that had prohibited certain activities in Israel was no longer in effect since it had not been observed in thousands of years. The idea seems to me, as it was explained to me, that the rabbis of each generation have to reissue the takkanah. But I’d have to look inside, I only learned it outside.

  • Puzzled July 20, 2009, 7:17 PM

    Phil, the issue of “acceptance by klal yisrael” has always bothered me a bit. Just how many people does this mean? There have always been groups outside the mainstream – Karites, Sadduccess, Samaritans, Reform, Conservative…how can we say something is accepted by the klal if these groups reject it? It doesn’t help to say “by all Torah observant Jews” because the question under discussion is what a Torah observant Jew is.

  • Phil July 20, 2009, 9:33 PM

    Usings the Rambams definitions, Jews that break Shabbos in public, deny the rabbis rulings (karaites), or those that deny the Torah was given by God, all fall into categories that make them equivalent or worse to idol worshippers in some instances.

    Furthermore, he says they should be shoved into a pit and not removed, and their families should make parties when they die instead of mourning.

  • A. Nuran July 20, 2009, 10:06 PM

    I respect Moses ben Maimon’s knowledge, scholarship and penetrating intellect. I don’t believe he was infallible, a prophet or that his word is the Divine Word.

    If you knew anything about history as opposed to rote indoctrination in the modern fiction which passes for it you would know that in his day much of what he said was strongly opposed. The part about “A Jew must believe” this or that was radical and controversial.

    So was the fact that he used Greek and Arabic philosophy extensively and was recognized as a Sufi Shaykh by all of the major orders of his day.

    And so on.

    Applying actual scholarship and impartial research to Judaism paints a much different, richer and ever-changing picture than the cartoon still-life you’ve been shown all your life.

  • A. Nuran July 20, 2009, 10:08 PM

    Put differently…

    Truth is truth.
    Belief is belief.
    They are two very different things.

    Human authority is fallible.
    Accepting lies for the truth is always a mistake no matter how much you want to fit in and be accepted.

  • Phil July 21, 2009, 9:17 AM

    Belief is the first and fundamental commandment in the 10 commandments. I think we can agree that that was God given. Without it, there is nothing else.

    Just because the Rambam was contoversial doesn’t mean he was wrong. Take Colombus as an example.

    For any modern day scholar to dare equate him or herself with any of the Tannaim, Amoraim, roshonim or acharonim is completely absurd. They had more knowledge in their toenail than anyone alive today.

    Again, that’s my belief of the truth. If you think that you or any other modern day rabbi is on intellectual or knowledgeable par with these tzadikkim, that’s your version of the truth, which I refuse to accept.

  • Chris_B July 21, 2009, 9:29 AM

    Ah but Phil, see by that logic “thatís your version of the truth, which I refuse to accept” were back to the only way for two conflicting views to be right is for both to be right. I honestly think that this kind of acceptance, “you are right and I am also right” is about the only way we all as Jews could ever unite.

  • Puzzled July 21, 2009, 9:43 AM

    Yes Phil, I know that, but that’s a restatement of the issue, not a solution. The Rambam holds that this other interpretation is heretical. They would hold that his interpretation is heretical. That’s not an answer.

    The reason it matters that the Rambam was controversial is not because anyone thinks “it was controversial, therefore it’s wrong.” Rather, look at how this evolved. In the time of the Rambam, there are a variety of approaches, all more or less in the category of “Torah approaches.” The proponents of these positions argued amongst themselves. One was absorbed as “the mainstream” the other was not. I’m not talking about ‘heretical’ streams now, but streams which were fully seen at the time as being within the halacha. So today we assign no value to the Torah position that did not become the mainstream the way the Rambam did.

    It’s interesting that you argue that no one today can argue with the greats of the past. Certainly there are greats from the past whose opinions you think have no validity – such as those who disagreed with the Rambam or rejected the Shulchan Aruch. How about the sages who called Caro a destroyer of the world?

  • Phil July 21, 2009, 9:44 AM


    Ultimately, there is only one truth. The world was either round or flat, Colombus was right, others were wrong.

    Same goes for halacha. Hillel and Shammai were great scholars, yet the talmud has them arguing constantly. Though Shammai’s followers did like Shammai, the rest of us are forbidden to follow Beit Shammai, halacha is always like Beit Hillel.

    How much more so when it comes to movements such as conservative and reform, that are relative newcomers to the scene and were clearly created to clear the consciences of those charlatans who did not want to follow mainstream, yet didn’t want to consider themselves as transgressing.

    Anyway, I think we’ve been through all this before in a previous post about reformed temples, no sense in going over the whole thing again.

  • Chris_B July 21, 2009, 9:53 AM

    “These and these are the words of the living God” might apply here? I might not hold with some other Jew’s ways but who am I to say what Moshiach will do? My comment above is just my little idea.

  • Phil July 21, 2009, 9:57 AM

    Chris, hopefully we’ll find out soon enough.

  • Chris_B July 21, 2009, 10:11 AM

    THIS we can agree on!

  • Puzzled July 21, 2009, 11:05 AM

    Yet the Talmud says that when Moshiach comes we’ll practice like Shammai. Doesn’t that pose a problem for your worldview?

  • Phil July 21, 2009, 11:17 AM


    Best answer I can give you is “teiku”.

  • Sholom September 13, 2009, 4:52 AM

    I was raised among the Frum Shebifrum, and left about ten years ago to find my own derech, my own means of hisbonenus vehisbodedus.

    During the past decade, I’ve davened with all sorts of Minyanim: Chabad, Yeshivish, egal/conservative, reform rock n’ roll Kabalat Shabat, English-intensive, new-age-hippie… You name it.

    In whatever sort of congregation I find myself, I always follow the rabbinic dictum of Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur; or “When in Rome…”

    What strikes me most about some of the comments coming from the farfrumpteh here, is the utter ignorance, the arrogance, the attitude of “our way is the right way, and everyone else are a bunch of stupid liberals who are bad Jews because they want to have a healthy individual relationship with the divine.”

    Apparently, we’ve forgotten why 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died.

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