Holy day or party?
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Keeping it holy

Sick of cameras, cars and cell phones disturbing Shabbat holiness, Chief Rabbinate recommends weekday bar-mitzvahs for secular Jews

In the last few months, the Chief Rabbinate has been fielding calls from angry clergy complaining about the disrespectful behavior of secular Jews attending bar-mitzvah ceremonies on Shabbat.


The rabbis complained of "guest arriving in cars, sometimes right up to the entrance of the synagogue, videotaping the bar-mitzvah boy's reading of the Torah, and leaving cell phones on during prayers."


The rabbi of Rishon Lezion, Yehuda David Wolpe, claimed to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who also serves as rabbinical court president, about the phenomenon.


"It's unbelievable," Wolpe told Yedioth Aharonoth. "While the Torah commands the observance of Shabbat, people ascend (the 'bima,' or almemar) to the Torah and shamelessly desecrate the Shabbat."


Clueless secular Jews


Another rabbi recalled embarrassing moments during one ceremony.


"Once," he said, "someone went up to the bima with a list of people to be called up to the Torah, and without skipping a beat he said, 'One of the guys called and said that he's stuck in traffic. Perhaps you could call up someone else instead of him?' How can I, as someone for whom Shabbat holiness is so dear, stand this?"


Once, the same rabbi saw a man in synagogue with a cell phone. "When I pointed it out to him, he said, 'Don't worry, it's on vibrate. When someone rings, you won't hear anything'."


"Another smartass asked me when prayer ended," said the rabbi. "When I asked him why, he said, 'I invited everyone for lunch at a restaurant. I'll pay you to stretch out prayers'."


Another man hired a detective to secretly tape his son reading from the Torah so as not to publicly desecrate Shabbat.


"Having your Shabbat sermon taped? It's enough to make someone explode, " the rabbi said. 


Revenge of the rabbis


The 14-member rabbinical council has taken the complaints of the clergy to heart, and, by a majority vote, has decided they would encourage secular families to celebrate their children's bar-mitzvahs on Monday and Thursday (when the Torah is also read) instead of on Shabbat.


Chief Rabbi Metzger said, "Abroad its commonplace for a number of years ... relatives come to synagogue on Monday and Thursday with the bar-mitzvah boy and take pictures with him when he puts on phylacteries."


The rabbis also noted that Monday and Thursday morning prayers are short, so no one need miss work.


פרסום ראשון: 07.10.05, 21:14
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