Wednesday, October 07, 2009

In Which Prayer Is Not A Play-Group

Let me first state that if you identify as a Jewish religious feminist, you will not like this quote. It may even be best if you choose not to read this post. Let me also add that, at least according to the web, the prayer service the Maharat was participating in at the time was not her typical one but rather one she had joined in an attempt to understand others. If this truly does help people and aids them with their spirituality, kol hakavod! It is a wonderful innovation and people should do whatever helps them, within the bounds of halakha, to connect with God. What is more, on issues like this, R' Rakeffet-Rothkoff always invites discussion and dialogue. One person spoke up and stated that this is similar to Hasidic ecstasy and R' Rakeffet responded by saying the person is totally free to disagree with him.

But if this is merely 'phony baloney,' as my grandfather would have said, then this quote is right on.

This is from Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff's Monday, August 31, 2009 lecture. You can listen from 13:38 onwards to hear the quote:
    So now let me read to you from the Maharat and you’ll understand why I’m shaking. And this is sourced August 20, 2009. And this is Sara Horowitz speaking, posted by Maharat Sara Horowitz. And they take it seriously. Maharat; it’s a title, I, I, to me it’s an overkill. I wouldn’t have used such a title. But okay. And she discusses how she went to some prayer group which they met and they’re experimenting with prayer and they’re doing a yoga mincha.

    “To my surprise, I found that embodying literally the words of the mincha prayer to be an extremely uplifting experience.We threw our hands up into the air in joy as we recited the word “ashrei.’ Then we went into a sitting pose at the word “yoshvei.” Then we dropped our hands down, in a cave like manner, to create a home as we said the word “Vaytecha.”

    Gentlemen, I will only tell you the following: If I could turn back the clock and I was showing this document in the most ______ (I don’t know the term) Yiddish to one of my Rabbeim named R’ Yerucham Gorelick, there would have been a hole in the ceiling. The walls of YU would have been shaking as if an atom bomb had been dropped. [R’ Rakeffet clops for emphasis.] And I want to tell you your humble servant doesn’t feel much differently. Rakeffet, Religious Zionist, doctorate, six books in publication, etc, etc, oh my gosh. If this is a Maharat and this is what we’re talking about and this is what becomes of Ashrei Yoshvei Ve’techa Od Yehallelucha Selah, Ribbono Shel Olam, we have fallen down the cliff. So that’s one comment.
That depiction made me laugh. And when he said prayer is not a play-group, ah! That brought back fond memories of Rabbi Kenneth Auman's class.

15 comments:

The Cousin said...

A few weeks ago, I got an email from one of the local Jewish-event lists I'm on here in The City. [I'm deliberately omitting the name of the congregation that hosted said services]

Needless to say, the ad for the services included terms like: "yoga, free form movement"

Needless to say, not only did this rapidly go into my deleted items folder, but it just left me totally perplexed.

I agree...prayer is hardly a play group or a place for exercises that belong more in a yoga studio/gym.

dman said...

Here is a link to the article "Yoga Mincha" posted by Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz, which I assume is what Rabbi Dr. Rakeffet-Rothkopf discusses in his lecture.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/morethodoxy/item/yoga_mincha_39090820

Anonymous said...

R' Rakeffet has consistently taken this position about yct as well, but IIRC said that history will paskin (as I suppose it did about chassidut which was described in much more negative terms by the "gedolim" of its day.
GT
Joel Rich

TPW said...

It's an interesting concept, and certainly worthy of research (if you know what I mean)...not to mention, a very creative idea for an actual play-group.

I've never been into yoga myself

TPW said...

Whoops, accidentally left comment prematurely due to slip of finger on keyboard.

As I was saying, I've never been much into yoga myself, but would imagine that it might catch on for shaharit, practically, as morning is supposedly good for yoga.

As for the legitimacy of the practice...this is certainly not the type of worship I would go for, but when investigating whether prayer can be like "a play-group", it might be relevant for people to also ask whether Am Israel in this generation is a tinnok she-nishba. If this is so to some extent, then play-group may be appropriate--even positive.

Anonymous said...

you might want to look at R' Akiva's practice on brachot 31a - and what he might have done if the tzibbur were in agreement
GT
Joel Rich

DYS said...

R Rakeffet has shown himself time & time again to be intolerant of differing opinions. This doesn't surprise me. Kitzonim (extremists) don't always appear at the end of a spectrum. You can have extremist centrists as well.

Chana said...

DYS,

I don't agree with you. I don't think it's an extreme position to be unhappy with turning davening into a feel-good play-group. Once again, if this is truly how people find their spirituality, great! But it's not necessarily ideal, as no crutch is.

Shira Salamone said...

What does Maharat Hurwitz's reaction to a Mincha that incorporates yoga have to do with feminism?

DYS said...

Chana,

It's not like I feel super comfortable with the merging of mincha & yoga either. But R. Rakeffet's tone tends to be intolerant and combative. I'll look for some audio clips in which I've heard him being hyperbolic & combative.

Anonymous said...

R'ARR style is very emotional which can seem hyperbolic at times.

GT
Joel Rich

Chana said...

Shira,

My thinking was that if you are a religious feminist, you probably support the Maharat. If you support the Maharat, it's likely you support ALL of her actions, no matter what they may be, and thus you might not like this criticism.

DYS,
He's intolerant of things that mock or don't work in accordance with halakha, but not, I don't think, intolerant overall. To the contrary.

DYS said...

If you support the Maharat, it's likely you support ALL of her actions, no matter what they may be

I think that's an unfair assumption and thus a straw man. I support the Maharat and agree with her ordination wholeheartedly. However, I disagree with the mixing of Yoga into tefilla. There's plenty of fascinating variety in our own tradition to explore.

As to R Rakefet, I just don't like the intolerant tone which he takes. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

DYS said...

e's intolerant of things that mock or don't work in accordance with halakha

Also, you're assuming that he's right that this was a mockery of halacha. I view it as unnecessary and pointless, but you yourself pointed out in the post that they may have been sincere.

Chana said...

DYS,

It is rare that I encounter a person able and willing to make differentations between their appreciation of a person or movement and its shortcomings. Thus my assumption that most people take an all-or-nothing approach. That having been said, it's all good- you don't have to agree with Rabbi Rakeffet's perspective on everything. I personally find him to be a much-needed voice of common sense.

Also, it has been my experience that when individuals approach Rabbanim with specific problems they tailor their words and attitudes and are far more caring than they might appear if you simply heard a lecture on a tape. Not every person has the ability to consistently watch all their words/ how they may be construed, but they do strive to understand others and their positions even if they may seem to come down hard on them. Take R' Rakeffet and YCT- you'll see that's so.