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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Ark’

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/10/06

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

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Dear Rachel,

This is in response to the column of January 13 that featured a letter from a Jewish male subway rider regarding girls/women davening on the train.

Some time ago, on a weekday morning, I met up with an old friend on the train. It was crowded and we stood schmoozing side by side – when she suddenly declared that it was getting late and she still needed to daven. To my utter dismay, right there she took three steps back and three steps forward, bowing (before the Ribono Shel Olam, I suppose – though it could have been to the passenger sitting directly in front of her) and began to daven Shemoneh Esrei, while holding onto the overhead bar. I was floored by this unseemly display of “piety.” Whom was she trying to impress – or implore, for that matter? In my humble opinion, she succeeded at neither.

Davening is certainly commendable, but there’s a right time and place for everything. I didn’t hang around long enough to see what would happen if the seated passenger needed to get off the train while the “weirdo” ahead of him was swaying and bowing. Would a polite “excuse me, ma’am” have elicited a side step by my friend (conceivably in the process of uttering the blessing of Atah chonen l’adam daas – You bestow wisdom upon man)? Would she have then murmured “uh, excuse me, G-d, I’ll be right back.”?

I was taught way back when that Shemoneh Esrei is an especially exalted tefillah that calls for absolute concentration and no interruption. In fact, one who is not praying (but is in proximity of one who is in the midst of the amidah prayer) is to keep it down to below a whisper in the presence of such sacred communication with G-d.

Rachel, you were right on (as usual) in your assessment. Mechanically recited prayers and half-baked pleas don’t carry much weight. Furthermore, women have more leeway time-wise – and can beseech Hashem in their own words at just about any time.

Like many frum girls, I too allot time for davening. But if I can’t manage to complete my morning prayers at home before leaving for work, I utilize my coffee break to do so.

Dear Female (and Male) Straphangers,

Last week’s column featured four letters, all from female readers, who took issue with the opinion of Unimpressed Male Onlooker and my response to his letter. (Male readers are mum on this one)

“Glad to be living in a land of Freedom of Religion” takes note of both “Jew and Gentile praying on buses and subways.” To be sure, “Unimpressed” made the point of stating that “reciting psalms in an unassuming manner is one thing – to set oneself up to be the center of unsolicited attention is quite another.” Dear readers, pray tell, how would you react if a member of the Muslim sect unrolled a rug in the aisle of a subway car and fell upon it – in full view of fellow riders – in a passionate fit of prayer? I venture to guess that the thought that would run through your mind as you make a dash for the nearest exit door would be, “Why doesn’t he go to his Mosque to pray?”

“The Subway’s fine for me” talked of our prayers “purifying the [subway] surroundings” Is she suggesting that we ask female riders of varied denominations to cover up their untznius’dik anatomy (in the summertime)? Does she propose muzzling the rowdy young riders whose yackety-yak is peppered with choice four-letter words? How would she deal with the pungent odor of a cheeseburger and fries being munched on by a fellow passenger? Would she tell him to bag it till she completes her prayers? One’s prayers can “purify” an open-air environment, or a hotel room/lobby/ auditorium that are, at minimum, clean of discernible impurity. Even in our own homes, we are not permitted to utter as much as a blessing where an open door leads to a lavatory facility.

“Dismayed” cites the well-known episode of Dovid Hamelech dancing before the “Holy Ark with great kavanah and emotion.” I am hard-pressed to decipher a correlation between the subway car and, l’havdil, the Holy Ark. As for the devotion and stature of King David, does our reader imply having reached the level of Dovid Hamelech’s lofty heights? Woe unto me . . . I confess that even in the confines of my own private quarters, I constantly struggle to keep extraneous mundane thoughts from invading my conscience as I attempt to focus upon the holy task at hand.

“Dismayed” ends her letter with, “So, what takes priority – the idle thoughts of man, or honoring Hashem?” Precisely the point

As for “A very upset reader” who expresses her disappointment in my view of women davening, perhaps I failed to clarify that there is nothing improper in saying tehillim or otherwise praying quietly to oneself, while not getting in anyone’s way – whereas making a show of praying with total abandon is not part of our repertoire and is certainly unbecoming of a Jewish girl/woman. As for the appropriateness of the environment and the concentration factor, the limited space allotted to this column precludes delving into detail of these essential elements as pertain to tefillah. I take the liberty of referring readers to a recently published book authored by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman entitled, Praying With Fire. This excellent guide to “Igniting the Power of Your Tefillah” is thoroughly researched and liberally documented with references.

In closing, I quote an excerpt from Rabbi Kleinman’s text. “If the right location can enhance prayer, it makes sense that, in equal measure, the wrong location can harm it. Thus, one should not pray in a place where concentration will be difficult” (Chapter 6:Strategy 12:page 217).

Thank you all for taking the time to share your views.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/03/06

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Readers react to letter by “Unimpressed Male Onlooker” (Chronicle Jan.13).

Dear Rachel,

To the man who wrote that he is uncomfortable with women davening on the subway, my answer is for him not to look at the women. While the subway is not an ideal place to daven, I think it is great that a woman takes the time to do so – a time oriented mitzvah that is not really expected of women at all. It is especially commendable in these busy and troubled times. Though I myself daven at home daily, I don’t believe that it is in this man’s place to tell women what to do. I’ve seen both Jew and Gentile praying on buses and subways.

Glad to be living in a land of Freedom of Religion

Letter #2

I am an 18-year old student who frequently rides the subway and was very disturbed by your response to the “unimpressed male onlooker.” Since when have Jews concerned themselves with what others think when doing what Hashem wants of them? As far as calling attention to oneself, l find that females on the train who are just looking around or listening to music draw more unwanted attention. When davening or saying tehillim with your head and heart in the siddur, not only are you purifying the surroundings, you are safely distracted from the subway environment. I speak from personal experience.

The subway’s just fine for me

Letter #3

“Unimpressed male onlooker” seems more interested in carping and criticizing others (i.e. women) than studying a sefer on the train. Did he ever learn Pirkei Avos (1:6) – to judge others for merit (l’kaf zchus)? No, I suppose he is too busy studying girls on the train. How dare he act as judge and jury over his fellow Jew! On a personal note, my great-grandfather was renown for his great piety. And yes, there were occasions when he davened on the train. And yes, he had such kavanah and “devakus” (closeness) to Hashem that the secular surroundings did not dissuade or distract him. “Unimpressed

¼” is insulting my own family, as well as countless other Yidden whom he views as “overly pious.”

Both you and the letter-writer would do well to read SHMUEL ll (6:14-23) about Dovid HaMelech dancing, leaping and whirling before the Holy Ark with great kavanah and emotion. When Michal, his wife, saw this “tasteless display,” she accused him of being vulgar and “exposing himself” before the slave girls of his subjects. King David’s reply was – as you would say – “on target”: “Before the Lord Who chose me… I made merry. Before the Lord I will demean myself even more than this and be low in my own eyes

¼ and among the slave girls of which you speak, I will be honored…” So, what takes priority – the idle thoughts of man, or honoring Hashem?

Dismayed by your attitude

Letter #4

I read your article on a weekly basis. However, I was very disappointed to see your view on women davening. Did you consult a Rav before saying that women shouldn’t daven at all if that’s the only time they have to pray? Take, for example, a married woman of children who is the breadwinner for the family as her husband learns all day. Her job is out in Manhattan and she has to be there at 9:30 a.m. Why shouldn’t she daven on the train? What’s wrong with it? Even a girl, I’m sure, has reason for davening on the train. My mom had a baby last year. Having had a difficult birth, it took a while for her to get back to her normal self. My sister arose early to see our siblings off to school and to help out with the baby. Once when she hadn’t managed to fit her davening into her hectic morning routine at home, she took her siddur out on the train on her way to work. As she began to daven, an Israeli male said to her, “Miss, this is not the way

¼to pray on a train where you can’t concentrate. Get up a half hour earlier…” My sister politely told him that she had been up since 5:30 to send kids off to school, etc. The man embarrassingly apologized. So you can inform your letter writer that if he has a problem with women praying on the subway, he can either ask them why they are doing so or give them the benefit of the – in that maybe this is the only time the girl can make for davening. And what’s wrong with purifying the train and making it holier? Tell this man to move to a different car so that he doesn’t see what the nashim tzidkonios of this generation are doing. What a selfish man! Even the few minutes that a woman has to talk to G-d he wants to take away from her!

A very upset reader

(To be continued )

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-11/2006/03/01/

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