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Ways to tell you’re in a really frum shul

I walked into the shul in San Jose the other day and felt inclined to wash off all the ruach ra’ah and tumah of the internet from my hands before davening. Suddenly I started wondering about how you can calculate a shuls level of frumness just by the fact that they had sinks devoted to hand washing. You may notice that some shuls have the washing sinks in a separate room right outside the bathroom, but the highest level of frumness for a shul is to have a large metal trough with metal washing cups chained to the faucets – there cannot be soap present because soap is inherently a modern orthodox zach.

Seforim: Obviously, the easiest way is by the seforim. One or two artscroll gemara’s lying around could be fine, but if your shul has a whole set of artscroll shas it can be very telling of the lomdus level of the shuls members. Take a look at the other english seforim (being from a modernishe back round I can use that term) BT shuls will undoubtedly have a whole bunch of Keleman, Tatz and some books that utilize science to prove God and very frum shuls that have English seforim will probably limit them to the mussar seforim like Mesilas Yeshurim, Chovos Halevovos and Derech Hashem. These shuls will also have a bunch of those Artscroll “history” revised shtetl fantasy gadol biographies. Modern Orthodox shuls will usually have some apikorsus in their shul libraries and the mere fact that it’s called a library and not a beis medrish is very telling.

Where shuls place their seforim is also telling, the frummer the shul, the more likely they are to have book shelves in the shul itself, so you don’t have to leave shul to find a sefer. The frummer the shul, the more worn the seforim are and the more haphazard they are stored, frum shuls will also tend to have tables with seforim scattered about and don’t expect to find any artscroll chumashim either.

How they remind you to say ya’ale vayavo: In really frum shuls, someone gives a clop and yells it out and then everyone in the shul proceeds to say it out loud whenever they get to it in order to remind their neighbors to say it. In really modern shuls they have it in some sign in an obscure corner of the shul so as not to mess with decorum. In frum shuls with a lot of hockers, many people give a clop to the bimah because everyone wants a part of the action.

How they sing Lecha Dodi: Really frum shuls never really sing, the chazzan sings and everyone kind of hums along or waits for it to be done with. Really frum shuls will have the chazzan sing a verse of lecha dodi and then he’ll stop and everyone else will say it to themselves. I never understood the practice, even though some have explained that many frummies are scared to sing davening because you may miss words, but I don’t buy it.

Havdallah: If they say havdallah in shul, they aren’t that frum. In general, the frummer the shul the less likely they are to do things which may not be cool, like saying havdallah when you know you have to go home and say it anyway. The more modern or un-frum the shul is, the longer, more drawn out their havdallah will be.

Kiddush Food: As a general rule, a really frum shul shouldn’t have anything healthy at kiddush. Carrot sticks or anything with whole grain in it automatically reduce the shuls hashkafa to modern. If they have a kiddush that women aren’t invited to, then it’s safe to say that you can hold by their kitchen without asking. In frum shuls, no one waits for the rabbi to make kiddush, everyone says their own. You can always tell a shul is really modern orthodox, when someone passes you a shot glass of grape juice to drink from, everyone knows you need a mezonos to really make the kiddush count.

Women’s entrance: If women are going to come to shul at all, God forbid we actually see them and if there’s a party or big kiddush, the women stand all the way on the other side. Some members even get mad when girls over the age of 3 go into the men’s section, they call the women’s section the “ezras nashim”.

Mechitzah: The mechitza is designed in a way that never even allows a peak, there’s no opening up the mechitza to hear the rabbi speak and it wouldn’t matter because it’s designed to keep the women out and the men from being oiver any assur thoughts.

After shul on shabbos: Everyone lines up to wish the rabbi good shabbos, if this doesn’t happen in your shul it’s not really frum. Then everyone rushes home, there’s no socializing in very frum shuls, the wives and kinderlach need to hear kiddush and go over their parshah sheets to prove that their 20k in tuition costs are worth every penny.

Tables and Shtenders: Very frum shuls usually contain both tables and/or shtenders. Shuls with tables usually have seats on both sides, making those sitting with their backs to the front, quite awkward during speeches and other front facing shulactivities. Other very frum shuls have either shtenders on the back of the benches, or a random assortment of standing and sitting shtenders. In very frum shuls you will also notice that every little kid has his very own shtender that he made in camp.

I’m getting married in two weeks buy us a gift on our registry or throw us a bone in paypal

{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous June 3, 2012, 4:34 AM

    I’m assuming a chasuna invitation will go up on this site for us shortly 🙂

  • zach June 3, 2012, 6:32 AM

    A really frum shul will NOT have old Hertz chumashim lying around which are used in a MO shul only when there are not enough Artscroll Stone chumashim to go around.

  • thinking outloud June 3, 2012, 8:01 AM

    really frum shuls don’t have kids that go to 20K elementary schools.

  • Dan June 3, 2012, 10:15 AM

    I’ve always wondered why its a yeshivish thing to not have kiddush in shul, or havdalah, or anim zmiros.

    Also, yeshivish days schools don’t cost anywhere near 20k. Max is like 10k. You can tell how frum a day school is by how little they charge.

    • Anonymous June 3, 2012, 11:59 AM

      Tuition is dependent on where you live.

    • BZ June 4, 2012, 7:25 AM

      I don’t know about yeshivish in general, but Lubavich don’t say Anim Zmiros because it’s too holy to be said as an afterthought at the end of services, especially by a kid.

      • Yochanan June 4, 2012, 11:02 AM

        I think of it as the “Talit-folding Song”.

      • Heshy Fried June 4, 2012, 3:04 PM

        The Vilna Gaon held that Anim Zemiros was only for the holiest of the days – correct me if I’m wrong but only YK and RH?

  • mordy June 3, 2012, 6:40 PM

    This is a very interesting point you make about the bathrooms. It appears to me that there are actually three different styles:

    1)Most MO shuls will have sinks in the bathroom and then an additional washing station outside for those who want to wash again or those who didn’t use the bathroom. But the outside one is really not connected in proximity or relation to the bathroom.

    2) A typical fancy yeshivish shul will have beautiful sinks right outside the bathroom, sometimes in its own room what is almost like a foyer way to the bathroom.

    3) the most yeshivish/frumest is as you pointed out the full blown trough. Most chasidish shuls have this as well.
    I never really analyzed this before, thanks for the insight.

  • mn June 3, 2012, 6:49 PM

    This is a very interesting point you make about the bathrooms. It appears to me that there are actually three different styles:

    1)Most MO shuls will have sinks in the bathroom and then an additional washing station outside for those who want to wash again or those who didn’t use the bathroom. But the outside one is really not connected in proximity or relation to the bathroom.

    2) A typical fancy yeshivish shul will have beautiful sinks right outside the bathroom, sometimes in its own room what is almost like a foyer way to the bathroom.

    3) the most yeshivish/frumest is as you pointed out the full blown trough. Most chasidish shuls have this as well.
    I never really analyzed this before, thanks for the insight.

  • Susan June 3, 2012, 7:54 PM

    It looks like you want an awful lot of knives. Is that really the best way to start a marriage?

    • A. Nuran June 3, 2012, 11:32 PM

      It looks like one of the couple is a professional cook, which he is.

      Personally, I’d go with Victorinox for the Chef’s, paring and a couple other of the knives.

      • Heshy Fried June 4, 2012, 3:05 PM

        I have an Ikon classic 8 inch and someone just got me a global (super light, but very fast and easy to kasher)

        • A. Nuran June 4, 2012, 4:19 PM

          Nice. Very, very nice.

        • A. Nuran June 4, 2012, 8:26 PM

          I like the Victorinox because it’s been Cooks Illustrated’s “Best Buy” for a couple years running. $35 and outperformed the $150 ones.

    • Telz Angel June 4, 2012, 8:09 AM

      Maybe it means they appreciate “cleavage”

      • Reading around these days June 4, 2012, 9:44 AM

        hehehe

  • Yochanan June 4, 2012, 7:49 AM

    If taking the Torah out of the Aron (and back) is a long drawn out process, your shul is definately NOT frum.

  • hophmi June 4, 2012, 8:02 AM

    Re: How they sing Lecha Dodi: In a really frum shul, Lecha Dodi is sung by the chazzan as slowly as possible in a tune that is impossible to follow, and then the kehillah repeats each verse even more slowly. For the shul to be really frum, there must be at least three different slow Lecha Dodi tunes + slow, cacophonous Yi-di-di-ing going at once, making it impossible for the uninitiated to sing along.

  • Anon if I may June 4, 2012, 8:16 AM

    I noticed you put Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel pots in your registry… You might want to consider a set with “stay cool handles”. The stainless steel handles get awfully hot, and highly inconvenient.

    Mazal Tov!

    • Heshy Fried June 4, 2012, 3:06 PM

      I always use towels to pick up any pan

      • Susan June 4, 2012, 3:34 PM

        Oh, for crying out loud. Someone add potholders to the list.

  • Telz Angel June 4, 2012, 8:20 AM

    Washing hands:
    Frummest: call it negel vasser. Less so, have a beracha posted above to remind you. Less so, have a sign asking you to conserve water in order to preserve the environment. The best? an attendant who washes your hands for you.

    Seforim:
    The best is when you see the left-over seforim from people who left the community 15 years ago and were too lazy to schlep their old books with them so they just left them in the shul.

    Ya’a’leh klops:
    The best is in a shul I used to daven in where one guy was a BT and thought that he was supposed to klop his shtender every time we started shmoneh esrei. Then people had to, somehow, un-klop his klop so that no one would mistakenly say Ya’a’leh viYavo on a regular day.

    • U avi June 4, 2012, 10:21 AM

      Ya’a’leh clops – that is hilarious.

    • Anonymous June 6, 2012, 8:30 AM

      Surely you need koach gavra for negel vasser?

  • dkbrk June 4, 2012, 9:55 AM

    is your wife related to floyd meriweather by chance?

    • Alter Cocker June 4, 2012, 1:08 PM

      spells the name differently 😉

  • Cheap Jew June 4, 2012, 10:18 AM

    Heshy, I am a frequent reader of your site, but do you REALLY need the “Finest Luxury Bath Rug” for $49.99? I think you will be satisfied with a moderately fine bath rug for $15 dollars. A lot of your readers truly want to give but we cannot afford as we went to crappy yeshiva high schools and have ten kids.

    • Telz Angel June 4, 2012, 10:43 AM

      Dear Cheap,
      I’m sure this is a serious expense issue, but I want you to consider the perspective of this frum couple for a moment. HaRav Elyashiv paskedned in his Sefer Ashrei HaIsh, published by HaRav Yechezkel Feinhandler that one is allowed to walk on a wet mat or rug on Shabbos and it is not considered Sechita. Similarly, one may walk with socks which are wet from rain–as it is a Pesik Reisha Delo Neicha Lai. However Heshy and Chaya are trying to live a life that is more machmir than the average yossel who listens to the liberal psak of Rav Elyashiv. They want to have the Finest Luxury Bath Rug so that it they walk on it when they get out of the shower together on Shabbos, their wet feet will not cause even a chashash of Sechita, since having the Finest Luxury Bath Rug is not the Derech of regular talmedie chachomim. And therefor it is a shinui.

      So don’t be a cheapo. It costs $50 to fill up a tank of gas these days. Anyway, you don’t have to pay Yeshiva tuition — just follow the accepted minhag and ask someone else to pay for it.

      • Alter Cocker June 4, 2012, 1:10 PM

        “They want to have the Finest Luxury Bath Rug so that it they walk on it when they get out of the shower together on Shabbos…”

        wait a second…

        • Telz Angel June 4, 2012, 8:42 PM

          I figure that as San Francisco people, they will be concerned about conserving water. In a sense, showering together is a mitzvah, don’t you think?

      • Wrong June 4, 2012, 1:18 PM

        Real Lubabs have never heard of Rav Elyashiv

      • U avi June 4, 2012, 2:07 PM

        I know Rav Elyashiv and his modernish rulings…..liberal mumbo jumbo.

        Haha

  • KosherUnicorn June 5, 2012, 2:10 AM

    You can tell how frum a shul is by the condition of the negelwasser. I hear MO shuls actually wash them once and a while. This is one among the many signs of their apikorsus.

    – Yisroel

  • Yosef June 7, 2012, 11:26 AM

    “those Artscroll history revised shtetl fantasy gadol biographies”

    Hahahaha

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