Monday, January 25, 2016

The Story of Shabbat 505

Want to Celebrate Shabbat in Albuquerque? Now you've got your chance! Abq Jew proudly announces that

the Rabbinical and Cantorial Association of Albuquerque (RACAA), Congregation Albert, Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Nahalat Shalom, Chavurat HaMidbar,
and the Albuquerque JCC 
are sponsoring
the Duke City's first-ever

Here is the general plan:
On Friday night and Saturday morning, the synagogues will hold services as usual.* Then, on Saturday night, the Jewish Community Center will host a Community Havdalah and Dance Party, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. There will be Jewish folk dancing and live music by the Nahalat Shalom Community Klezmer Band. 
* sort of. See below.

How, Abq Jew hears you ask,
has this blessed event come about?

Abq Jew must tell you: He doesn't know. Abq Jew is not a member of RACAA - they do not offer membership to Rabbi School Dropouts.  Nor is Abq Jew a Member of the Board of any Albuquerque Jewish organization (or any organization anywhere; don't get him started).

Nevertheless - Abq Jew hears things. And a few weeks ago, he found out that the Albuquerque Jewish community was going to celebrate

Yes, it was originally going to be called 505 Shabbat. There being no publicity materials available, Abq Jew, as is his wont, decided to create some. Well, one - a graphic that he and others could use to promote this worthy community happening.

Where, Abq Jew hears you ask, did Abq Jew get that beautiful image upon which this graphic is based?

From Google, of course! And whence Google? Apparently from the Zazzle Shop of Adela Camille Sutton, of which Abq Jew was not, at the time, cognizant; and who, it turns out, offers a variety of gift items using this same image, which she created.

The above graphic first appeared on the Abq Jew Calendar (of course); and then in the JFNM Upcoming Community Events email of January 4 (yes, it is Abq Jew who sends these).

By the time the January 11 JFNM Upcoming Community Events email came out, 505 Shabbat had been changed to Shabbat 505; Abq Jew had modified the original graphic; and he had cheerfully said YES to various requests to use it.

Here is a story, which you can also read on

Do We Sit? Or Do We Stand? 
A new rabbi comes to a well-established congregation. 
Every week on the Sabbath, a fight erupts during the service. When it comes time to recite the Shema prayer, half of the congregation stands and the other half sits. 
The half who stand say, "Of course we stand for the Shema. It’s the credo of Judaism. Throughout history, thousands of Jews have died with the words of the Shema on their lips." 
The half who remain seated say, "No. According to the Shulchan Aruch (the code of Jewish law), if you are seated when you get to the Shema you remain seated." 
The people who are standing yell at the people who are sitting, "Stand up!" while the people who are sitting yell at the people who are standing, "Sit down!" It’s destroying the whole decorum of the service, and driving the new rabbi crazy. 
Finally, it’s brought to the rabbi’s attention that at a nearby home for the aged is a 98-year-old man who was a founding member of the congregation. So, in accordance with Talmudic tradition, the rabbi appoints a delegation of three, one who stands for the Shema, one who sits, and the rabbi himself, to go interview the man. 
They enter his room, and the man who stands for the Shema rushes over to the old man and says, "Wasn’t it the tradition in our synagogue to stand for the Shema?" 
"No," the old man answers in a weak voice. "That wasn’t the tradition." 
The other man jumps in excitedly. "Wasn’t it the tradition in our synagogue to sit for the Shema?" 
"No," the old man says. "That wasn’t the tradition." 
At this point, the rabbi cannot control himself. He cuts in angrily. "I don’t care what the tradition was! Just tell them one or the other. Do you know what goes on in services every week — the people who are standing yell at the people who are sitting, the people who are sitting yell at the people who are standing—" 
"That was the tradition," the old man says.

So, here we are. The JCC of Greater Albuquerque, may they live long and prosper, developed their own graphic to publicize Shabbat 505.

This is (thinks Abq Jew) a fine graphic that does not, alas, emphasize (OK ... it doesn't mention or depict) the holier aspects of celebrating Shabbat Mishpatim (see Writing Down the Laws).

The JCC prepared and distributed publicity flyers and respectfully requested that the Albuquerque Jewish community use their graphic.

Abq Jew (as is another of his wonts) put a border around it and prepared, for the sake of community unity (sorry; Abq Jew just couldn't resist) to accede to this request.

Here is another story, which you can also read on

Why the Mezuzah is Slanted 
A slanted mezuzah is a great example of a compromise in Jewish law. It might look screwy to you, but it’s actually a demonstration of two legal authorities literally meeting in the middle. 
Way back in the eleventh century, Rashi, a French rabbi and commentator, opined that when you put up your mezuzah, it should be hung vertically (Rashi and Tosafot on Menahot 33a). But then Rashi’s grandson came along. He’s known as Rabbenu Tam, and he wrote that a mezuzah should be affixed horizontally, because the Ten Commandments and the Torah scrolls were kept horizontally in the ark in the Temple. 
A hundred and fifty years later Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher, also sometimes called the Tur, was writing his book of Jewish law, the Arbaah Turim. In it, Ben Asher suggests that the way to hold by the precedents of both Rashi and Rabbenu Tam was to split the difference, and affix your mezuzah at a slant (pointing into the room). (Yoreh Deah 289) 
Three hundred years later this view was codified again by the Rema, an Ashkenazi commentator, who noted that slanting a mezuzah had become the common custom among Ashkenazi Jews. (Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews today still hang their mezuzot vertically.) 
It’s rare to find a Jewish custom that was so clearly developed as a compromise between two different interpretations of one commandment. 
When you put up your mezuzah on a slant, think of how you’re acknowledging the ways multiple voices and perspectives are welcome and encouraged in Jewish life.

So, here we are. As this blog post goes to cloud (blog posts don't really go to press),

  • the JCC of Greater Albuquerque is using their graphic; 
  • some congregations are still using Abq Jew's graphic; 
  • and Abq Jew wishes everybody well. 

Hence Abq Jew's "slanted mezuzah" graphic -

So, Abq Jew hears you ask - 

What is each Albuquerque Jewish organization
doing for Shabbat 505?

Here are the specific plans as currently construed (but better you should check before you go):

Congregation Albert

Friday, February 5
5:05 pm - Tot Shabbat
5:30 pm - Café Shabbat Oneg
6:00 pm - Erev Shabbat Service
6:45 pm - Song Session Jamboree

Congregation Albert invites Jamboree participants to "bring your guitars, ukuleles, mandolins or percussion."

Abq Jew cannot help but notice that banjos and accordions have not been invited.

Congregation B'nai Israel & Chavurat HaMidbar

Congregation Nahalat Shalom

Friday February 5
6:30 pm - Sephardic/Converso/Crypto-Jewish Shabbat Dinner

This service celebrates the connections with our Sephardic Heritage. Sefarad is the Hebrew word for Spain and Sephardic refers to those Jews who once lived in and then were expelled from Spain, and who carried their language and their traditions with them wherever they went.

We share songs and stories, food and conversation.

This is a potluck dinner, so please bring your favorite vegetarian dish to share.

We gather at 6:30 pm, with candle lighting starting promptly at 7:00 pm. Come celebrate New Mexico's oldest Jewish community with us!

Saturday February 6
10:00 am - Reconstructionist Service

Albuquerque JCC

One Shabbat for all of Albuquerque! A community-wide celebration spanning Jewish denominations.

Saturday February 6
7:00 - 9:00 pm at the Jewish Community Center—FREE. All ages welcome.
  • Community Havdalah celebration
  • Jewish folk music and dancing/dance instruction
  • Nosh and schmooze
  • Kids activities

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