My Problem with the Hamptons Shul — Solved

About 13 years ago, while a student at Brooklyn College, I was very active at the Hillel House and even held a position on the e-board (basically, a student board — not sure what the “e” stood for, “executive” maybe?) as “Director of Jewish Learning.

Anyway, I attended a Hillel “leadership” weekend retreat (essentially a “shabbaton”) at the Hamptons. Davening, meals and other functions took place at the Hamptons Shul. There were a lot of funny (i.e. unusual) things about that shul, as anyone who has ever been there can tell you, but I remember one in particular that his bothered me for the last 13 years. Until now.

During Shabbos morning services, the assistant rabbi would call out, in the middle of the services, the respective page numbers of whatever section the congregation was meant to be up to. Now, while everyone knows that “talking” during the services is strictly forbidden (an alien from outer space visiting many Orthodox shuls today might not get that impression, but, whatever), certain utterances are permitted in case of pressing need, such as announcing pages in a congregation in which many attendees would otherwise have difficulty following the service. The Hamptons shul certainly qualifies.

But if there is one place where EVERYBODY knows that NO INTERRUPTION is allowed, it is between the blessing of “Gaal Yisrael” and Shemoneh Esreh (a.k.a. the Amidah or “Silent Meditation”).

Therefore was I ever shocked when, whaddaya know, right after “Gaal Yisrael” the assistant rabbi goes ahead and shouts out the page number! Hey, was this shul Orthodox or what? (Now, as I mentioned earlier, the Hamptons Shul is not your typical Orthodox shul, but still, I imagined there had to be some justification in halacha for this practice, and besides, the assistant rabbi — I had shmoozed with him — was a graduate of Yeshiva University, and his mode of dress gave off a pretty frum impression: black suit, white shirt, you know. So I was surprised that he would do this.)

Well, ladies and gents, with patience and diligence comes reward.

So, I should probably be embarrassed by this,  but in this day and age, no one seems to be embarrassed about anything. The things people are not ashamed to post to social media! I won’t recount here some things I saw recently, cuz the people who posted ’em might read this and get mad at me. (Who am I kidding? No one reads my blog!) But my reaction was something like: Really? You would post that for all to see? I think it’s low enough to begin with, but at least share your ambitions over a private message with a few potential candidates who might appreciate such a message. But publicly? Where is the shame? Where is the dignity? *AHEM* Excuse me, but I digress. My point is that in comparison, my shame seems a lot more dignified and justifiable to publish.

And that is my plain ignorance of an open statement in Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law). Orach Chayim 110:1 clearly lays out the prohibition to interrupt between Gaal Yisrael and Shemoneh Esreh, but the Rama comments there that according to some opinions this prohibition only exists on weekdays and Yom Tov (Festival Days), but NOT ON SHABBOS! (See there for the reason for this exception.) Rama concludes that one should be stringent except in cases of NEED, and as I mentioned earlier, in this congregation, that need does exist. So this was perfectly acceptable Ashkenazic practice! Shame on me for being so ignorant! Though, in my defense, I did judge favorably in assuming there must have been some halachic justification for this, rather than assuming that these people were just plain sinners. Go me!

And after 13 years of wondering, a little Torah study once again puts my mind at ease.


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