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Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbi to hold Yom Kippur prayers in beer garden:

I was shocked to read of the response of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah to one of its Rabbis planning to hold a Yom Kippur service in a beer garden. Click on here to read the story.

This was the response of Chovevei Torah:

‘That doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the rabbinical school, which is standing behind its graduate.

“For the record, no beer or food will be served at that service. Anyone who wishes to enjoy a beer will have to wait until after the service and must provide ID. Minors might need to use a fake ID maker in preparation for this. It is a way of providing an environment that is less intimidating for many Jews than a synagogue is, especially on the High Holidays,” says Asher Lopatin, a rabbi and president of Chovevei.’

Rav Yoni Rosensweig responded:

I am usually not as harsh as I am going to be in this post, but I have to say I am deeply disappointed in an initiative led by a Rabbi and a Raba in the US, to host an alternative Yom Kippur service in a beer garden (link below). I also have great difficulty fathoming the indifference shown by the Rabbi’s ordaining institution to this alternative service.

Allow me to state some obvious points.

(1) Firstly, Purim did not exist when Yom Kippur was commanded. To think that a nice idea expounded upon by the Chassidic movement in order to enhance the meaning of the day, could then be taken to somehow revamp its character, is downright ridiculous, and the great Chassidic masters themselves would no doubt oppose this.

(2) The instigators contradict themselves. They say they want to “shake things up” by having the service in a bar, but also state clearly that for someone who has spent more time in a bar than in a synagogue in the past year this would be the ideal place to go. On the contrary, I would think: would it not “shake things up” for such people to attend a classic Yom Kippur service?

(3) One of the worst things about this is the complete obliviousness to the problems of being complicit in other people’s sinful actions, since those who attend will most likely be driving etc., and this is something which the organizers don’t even take into account, on the face of it. It seems that anything is okay for kiruv, according to this.

But to me the worst thing about this all is the claim that fasting and prayers are “overemphasized” on Yom Kippur. How can anyone say such a thing? How can you take the heart of the day, and turn it into a fun symposium, which has nothing to do with the deep introspection that is Yom Kippur?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but besides the days and days leading up to Yom Kippur, it takes me several hours of standing in davening and focusing on the day’s meaning, to really start to understand myself and my place. How can all this be replaced by two hours of socializing, part of which has nothing to do with personal work, but rather talks given by the organizers?

I have always been for innovation in Judaism, but not innovation that tears out the heart of the issue, and replaces it with something completely foreign.

I was once walking with my grandfather, a year or so before his passing, and somehow we got to talking about his age. “I’m old”, he said, “but that’s okay. The Torah is old too”.

I’m sorry if, for some, Yom Kippur is too “old”. But to me that’s just fine. And I believe that if others try and experience Yom Kippur on its own terms, rather than turn it into something it’s not, they will find this out for themselves.

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