Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Respect and Honor

I just celebrated the final holiday of the season, Shmini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah outside of Israel. We read portions of the torah every week in synagogue, and on Simchat Torah we get to the end of the cycle and start right back at the beginning.

Each week, eight people are called up to make a blessing before reading. During the course of a year in a particular synagogue you may be called up a number of times, depending on how many people go to the synagogue. One time, five times. If you are a cohen ("priest"), maybe every week or two. On Simchat Torah, everyone in every synagogue is called up. Well, traditionally every male over the age of 13, but in modern religious synagogues, the women also read in a separate reading and call up all of the women.

Three people in the synagogue are not called up with everyone else: Hatan Torah (literally, the groom of the Torah), Hatan Bereshis (the groom of Genesis), and Maphtir (the last reading regarding the temple offerings for the day). The two grooms are the most honored "call ups" of the year, and traditionally given to people who have done a lot for the shul, or a rabbi. I was Hatan Bereshis this year, I suppose because I served as president, and then on maintenance, and also created and run the website. To tell the truth, I was pretty embarrassed.

It's one thing to get no respect at all. I think all of us crave a little. At the very least I would like people not to laugh at what I say or dismiss me or treat me like someone who doesn't matter at all. I would like my children to respect me enough to stop if I shout "Stop!" when they are about to run into traffic. Beyond that, I don't really need any more. Really, as Hatan Bereshis, I'm representing all of the Jewish people who are getting "married" to the torah again. I'm very egalitarian when it comes to honor - you could even say communist. We all do our parts, as best as we can. After the little amount that I need, any more honor is difficult to deal with.

When I became thirty, I realized that even that little amount that I needed could be gotten by looking inside myself, and didn't have to come from others. Of course, I still want my kids to stop if I tell them not to run into the street. But there is nothing more futile than chasing after honor.


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