Saturday, October 6, 2007

Torah Conga

I did a Torah conga line last night.

I tried -- and almost failed -- to attend Simchat Torah services last night in Fayetteville. I say almost failed because I failed to take into account the absolute horrid event that is Bikes, Blues & BBQ. (Yes, that's BBBBQ. Sigh.) Plus ZZ Top was in town. So I followed a pickup with two people riding in the bed for about 30 minutes for what should have been a 10 minute stretch on I-540.

I was very annoyed.

But, in fact, I would have been even more annoyed had I got there on time because they hadn't started services yet when I got there -- 20 minutes late. So needless to say, I had to leave before services were over because I had to get back to work. My boss had given me a two-hour dinner to attend services.

Simchat Torah is a service on the eighth or ninth day of Sukkot (depending on what brand of Judaism you follow). According to the reform, it fell on Thursday, but because it's a small community down here, the temple combined regular Friday services with the Simchat Torah services. Simchat Torah separates both the end and the beginning of the reading of the Torah. Every year the synagogue reads the five books of the Torah, and during this service, the last section and the first section is read, symbolizing the circular, everlasting nature of the book.

It is traditional to bring out every Torah the synagogue has and dance with them. This consists of throwing them over your shoulder and kind of shifting along while the other members of the synagogue dance around you (such as in a conga line?). For those of you who haven't seen the Torah scrolls, they are fairly large, heavy and have lots of ornamental dressing, so they are hard to handle. And if you drop one, it requires a 40-day fast. It's serious business.

Last night a young girl of about 10 was one of the holders. The rabbi said on Simchat Torah everyone is welcome to dance with the scrolls regardless of faith or age because the Torah is for everyone. When the father placed the Torah over the young girl's shoulder, her eyes got wide and she said "It's so heavy." "Do NOT drop it," the rabbi's wife told her. And she didn't.

It was a good experience, though I had to go alone. Ryan had to cover a football game.

Some of you might wonder about Sukkot. Sukkot is the eight day holiday that celebrates the harvest agriculturally and also symbolizes the 40 years of wandering in the desert historically. It is customary to build a sukkah, which is a booth, during this time and eat your meals in it and some even sleep in it. The synagogue in Bentonville built one and they hosted a potluck in it on Wednesday night. Click here to watch a slideshow of the congregation building the sukkah.

Here's another link of interest: Yet another New York Times article about Temple Shalom.

OK, the game is back on! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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