Every city lacks something when it comes to their Jewish community. For most cities its good kosher food, good schools and maybe a larger choice of shulls. Baltimore on the other hand is one of the few communities that have everything a frum person could want, besides for good mechitzas. Now I know what you are thinking, “Ner Yisroel one of the most famous American Yeshivos is there so how can they lack good mechitzas.” Well I am talking about the other way around my friends. You see Baltimore has the best mechitzas, for keeping prying eyes like those that tend to pop out of my sockets when the fine frummies behind the mechitza are actually visible.
The first night of yom tov I davened at Shomrei Emunah, which has rather cushy blue fold down “shull stadium seats”, for those of you that have experienced shull stadium seats, you will know first hand that these seats are unlike regular stadium seats. Although they appear roomy and comfy, they almost always lack the proper room to allow full leg stretches during laining and more then 1 small step in any direction for shmona esray. In fact, while attending a shull that does have these shull style stadium seats, one must never bow like so many flaming baal teshuvas tend to do, the seats allow for only the slightest movements and tend to piss me off after a few minutes of trying to find the position to sleep during the haftorah.
Shomrei Emunah did have one thing that caught my eye, though a bit too late. Since they are undergoing renovations, the rear of the shull has a section in which you can daven and sit right next to a mechitza-less part of the women’s section. Jackpot!!! There was no one there anyway.
I had the pleasure to be staying at my good friends the Silverbergs, and they hook up all the meals and stuff and I was not disappointed. The first night we ate at some kuruv Rabbis house and he had this guest who instantly fell in love with me, kind of sucks that the age gap was so big, oh and that he was a man with the last name of Iceberg, which kind of ruins the classic Jews-sunk the Titanic joke that Rabbis love to tell.
So me and the Iceberg had similar fascinations with small towns and I could hold my own when he talked about far off random places such as Havre, Montana and Soccoro New Mexico. It was kind of cool, and everyone else was lost, he was this Piano performer who had the opportunity to travel all over the world for performances, very interesting dude.
The first day we davened at Taubs, the great Rabbi Taub recently passed away and they had this shrine to him under a an indoors succah in back of the shull. I later realized that I was the moron for not noticing the skylight could lift up making it a kosher succah. Taubs is a frummy shull, in fact it is chassidish and quite anti PETA chassids roamed the shull wearing dead animals on their heads in protest. Yiddish was the official language and the only way I could tell I was not in New York was because only some of the kids were staring at me and my friends, since we had no beards or hats. In New York, there would have been a little circle of kids for most of the davening staring at us while tugging on their tattis bekishes in a desperate attempt to figure out if we were Jewish or not. This would have gone on until I would have scared them all into thinking I understood Yiddish with a resounding “nu vus kooks du?” Then they all would have been shocked and turned away muttering the residual “pas nishts” while going to find some more button candies.
The mechitza engineers hired to construct the ramshackle fence system preventing any slip up at Taubs were brilliant yet cheap. They engineered a way to usher women in and out of shull without any possibility of ever seeing them, lest you exited shull when they were leaving as well. The walls were curtains on top of huge dividers that were all leaning against each other, as if they were trying to thwart burglars. There was no rhyme to the reason, but I did try to sneak peaks, but saw nothing to my dismay. I am sure that nothing but a few turban wearers would have been seen anyway.
Barry the other dude staying with me went into a whole rant about not being able to find ashkenazic siddurim at Chassidic shulls. This also pisses me off and luckily we found several buried in the backyard under the playmobil swing set.
I was definitely not in the mood of simchas torah when I walked into Goldbergers for mincha. In fact all I could think about doing was reading this book called “One night at the Call Center” which I had recently started and could not put down. It is a book about a bunch of college kids in India working the graveyard shift at a call center that helps out Americans with their appliances- very clever book.
Anyway I was just not in the mood, Goldbergers is a weird shull, anyone who goes there is weird. That said, it is a shull made up of mostly hippie-neo Chassidic- lubavitch- carlebachian types. The women mostly wear those cool hippie-tichels and the men come in all types. Several streimels could be seen, a bunch of Chassidic hat wearers, bend downs, and the plain old regular folks like myself wearing untucked shirts with sandals. I did wear a suit the first night but the weather got the best of me and polo shirts with sandals became my yuntiff outfit of choice.
Goldbergers is small and has no room, that said, after the auctioning of everything under the sun, including Kiddush and gelilas for the rest of the year, ended, the dancing began. Well, their version of it anyhow. First the Rabbi dances and sings by himself for several minutes, he had his talis over his head kind of like folks do at birchas kohanim. It made him look like a ghost if you ask me. Then we all joined singing and finally I felt the sweaty crowd pick up and start a massive sweaty, body odor filled frenzy that swayed and ran around the bima.
Let me mention that when the auctioneer began his shtick, the curtains of the mechitza were raised revealing multitudes of 20-25 year old girls waiting for the dancing to begin. This made hakafos especially exciting because for 20-30 seconds each time around the bima, every guy in the shull would stare, pretending to be looking for their wives- though I knew better, across the divide that was merely a low wooden wall, devoid of its normal fortress field that protects the ladies from prying eyes.
There actually were some hotties, although for some reason the best looking girls in Baltimore are the multitudes of teeny boppers who all wear the hair bump, that descend like flies on road kill, setting up shop replete with girls hugging and screaming in front of all the shull in Baltimore. It is interesting to watch, considering that when growing up on the upper west side, the scene was totally different since all the guys and girl went to school together, while here it was budding frummy rebels and bais yaakov girls all trying desperately to get some simchas torah ass, but failing miserably.
It was quite simply a game, all the guys and girls would stand in separate crowds showing off to each other. The girls talking loudly and the guys, climbing trees and kicking each other, or fighting and screaming. Almost like the mating call of animals, accept here there was not going to be any mating.
The happiness of the dancing really uplifted me and my spirits. Rare is it that I can go from, plain old unhappy to be in shull, to wow this flippin rocks. It may have been all the hairy, sweaty men that insisted on holding hands with me and grinding their pelvic bones into my rear or maybe it was the pure simcha that permeated the crowd, but I was very joyous. Even though I think most people view the whole point of simchas torah as very abstract. If we were really happy to receive the torah, wouldn’t we follow it better.
While all the dancing was going down, something suddenly struck me as odd. Not only had they not given a torah to the women, the women were not dancing at all, they looked like caged barn animals, just staring at us with the occasional wave. Why were the women not dancing? I know it wasn’t only men that are joyous for receiving the torah, I know that women also were mikabel?
I thought back to my days growing up on the Upper West Side, where at every shull the women danced with numerous sifrei torah. Even the right wings shulls had women dancing, though they didn’t always get the full size torahs. Then someone mentioned that it was untznius. UNTZNIUS MY ASS, they could just as easily throw the curtains down and let the women celebrate as well, unless they had nothing to celebrate. Is a women holding a torah scroll untznius, I would say a women wearing a seatbelt is more untznius then one holding a torah.
Later on after our awesome meal, the only milchigs one during the whole yuntiff, someone mentioned that it was gross for someone to breast feed at the table. Although I love breasts I had to agree, luckily I didn’t have to throw up in my mouth while watching the person at the end of the table suckle her baby. Tznius aside, its just plain nasty to do that. That said, I had noticed that her shirt was kind of wet and someone mentioned that she had um….plumbing problems in her boobs, and a small drip was making its way onto her shirt. Just gross man!!!
As usual the food that’s stood out during the whole holiday was cooked my own hosts Chaim and Sarah Silverberg. They also invited over some single ladies so me and Barry could drool our glorious food out onto our dry cleaned yom tov outfits as week tried so desperately to get some. Actually Barry is a pimp, so I’ll leave him out of it.
Simchas Torah lunch featured some rare, but amazing garlic topped roast. Roasted carrots and parsnips with a few marinated mushrooms. Curry wontons and some rocking homemade eggrolls, that went well with the lime ginger sauce I gave them. On shabbos Chaim busted out this awesome spicy cholent, I have always wanted to write a post on cholent, but its too hard when you have so different styles. This one had tons of Indian Spices and this Morocon spicy sauce as well.