I was just up in Boston visiting Hebrew College. I discovered that they have a special Elul zeman to prepare for Rosh HaShanah in awe, contemplation, and renewal. They follow the sefardi custom and have long semi-mandatory selihot at 7:30 every morning in Elul with musical accompaniment. Some of the rabbinical students seek to continue this in their pulpits. This is another answer to my query on Rosh Hodesh Elul.
I spoke to one random student about his future plans as a rabbi.
He said that he would like to start a center where Jews can come for music, art, meditation, study, prayer, and various other methods of accessing their spirituality. The vision is not to produce a synagogue because he says that his generation is turned off by synagogues. This would be a place where you can have your Jewish needs met.
He said that he wants to start with everyone’s natural interests- music, art, sports, and food- and present them in a Jewish context.
I asked him: Why present it as Jewish? Do I really need Torah to go to a Phish concert or a Patriots game?
The Rabbinical student enthusiastically said yes!! We need the font of creativity, vision, tradition, soulfulness, meaning, and growth of a person that Torah offers. He effused that Torah is essential for us to make the most of those experiences. In these we experience our transcendence and self.
I asked: So what is Torah? He said Torah is the 2500-2000 year tradition of the aspirations of individual Jews- their own struggles, their contexts, their accomplishments. It is the language of the Jewish soul for dealing with the growth of a person. It is an organizational and development language of the Jewish soul.
I ask: What of the texts? He answered that they are an amazing record of the Jewish soul through the ages. They are the way to track who and what we are as Jews, as humans, where we’ve been, and where we want to go.
At first, I thought wow this is different. Then I remembered a similar sentiment by a RIETS student.
A Shabbat Tent At Phish Concert
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Josh Fleet
The “Shabbat Tent” will provide a space for Jewish and other Phish fans to experience the Sabbath the way they want to experience it. The best part? Fans get to combine a love of music with a love of Shabbat.
The Shabbat Tent organization, which came out of an informal gathering at a Phish festival in 1999 and has set up tents from California to Florida and all points in between, does not do kiruv, or religous outreach.
“There’s no sort of, ‘You have to behave like an Orthodox Jew, you have to behave like a Renewal Jew,’” Adam Weinberg said.
Practically, the Tent will provide a vegan Friday night dinner for 300 to 500, a Saturday kiddush, a third meal for 200 to 300 people and continuous snacks. There will be a Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat, Torah reading on Saturday and Havdalah.
Avi Lichtshein, a 24-year-old rabbinical student at Yeshivah University and avid Phish fan, was one of the first to contact Bookstein about bringing Shabbat Tent to SuperBall. He wanted to channel two of his passions – Phish and Judaism – but he was worried about Shabbat observance. After getting the go-ahead from Bookstein, Lichtschein contacted donors and friends in his hometown of Teaneck, N.J. to help raise the more than $10,000 needed to run a successful Tent.
“I believe that Jews are drawn to transcendent collective experiences,” Bookstein said. “It started 3,500 years ago in the Sinai desert, and it’s continued throughout our history.”
Historically, the major Jewish festivals were times of mass pilgrimage and camping — and music. So it’s not surprising that Jews are drawn to this in great numbers, because it is so much a part of being Jewish to want to connect and transcend with others.
The beauty of Shabbat Tent is being able to get into theological discussions about Judaism and then to slip into analytical conversations about Phish – to simultaneously debate texts and sets. Read the rest here.