26 September 2006

Religious fervor or fever?

Looking around me this past Rosh Hashona, I could not help but notice the zeal on the faces of some individuals. The zeal tends to diminish with age, the older ones more sedate as if they'd just as soon be home making Kiddush or even sneaking in a Rosh Hashona nap. Very noticeable, were the Mesifta Bochurim. Most are away in yeshiva, but there were several of them around anyway. There was one particular boy who caught my eye. He was shuckling like crazy, gesticulating wildly, his hands flailing in the air and sometimes smacking one hand into the other. And all this during part of the davening that carries no special significance for the day. And then amazingly enough, sixty seconds later, I turn back to see him scrutinizing his tie and adjusting his Borsalino.

There's got to be a name for this phenomenon.

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    36 Comments:

    At September 26, 2006 1:27 PM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

    >There's got to be a name for this phenomenon.

    being a phoney? Acting? Going through the motions?

    Being more charitable you can say he is trying to get himself into the mood

     
    At September 26, 2006 1:39 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    > Being more charitable you can say he is trying to get himself into the mood.

    I agree, they're definitely not phonies. Maybe it's a case of the Chetsonieus is Meorer the Pneemius. But either way, I just find the mood swing so amazing.

     
    At September 26, 2006 1:39 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    the boys mimic their rebbeim.
    plus with all that shuckling, his tie and hat probably moved out of place.

     
    At September 26, 2006 1:52 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >plus with all that shuckling, his tie and hat probably moved out of place.

    LOL.

     
    At September 26, 2006 2:36 PM, Blogger The Hedyot said...

    That used to be me.

     
    At September 26, 2006 3:06 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    The Hedyot, welcome.

    What, no hat and tie anymore? Or no davening and shuckling? Hmm, maybe I should take a good look at the mirror, cause I think I still shukkel like crazy. It helps pass the time.

    But I never did make with the hands. The best I ever got to was scrunching up my face.

    So what goes through your mind at the time when you shake your hands? And is it something you picked up from your Rebbeim?

     
    At September 26, 2006 3:42 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    i close my eyes and ask for the usual.
    good health, parnassa and marriage for me, my kids and good relations with my brother and sisters, and good health and happyness for my parents.

    one thing i always stumble on is when i name my little daughter.
    do i use her given name or her english name (which happens to be a hebrew name) since we only gave her the given name for my parents sake. (its one of those shprintza type of names)

     
    At September 26, 2006 3:45 PM, Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

    When I was younger, I used to do that.

    So I can tell you what went through my mind.

    Some word or phrase in the "uninspireing" prayer, actually you know, inspired me, and I starting thinking about some things that I really regretted. It started to get painfull... I couldn't handle it, I quickly told myself I will be ok, had many differetn rationalizations, and then chose the more comfortable route of forgetting everything.

    The syndrome is called being a normal teenager.

     
    At September 26, 2006 3:48 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    by the way, you read that right. i dont ask for talmid chochom, because that conflicts with parnassa (mine and theirs)

    i dont make faces, nor hand wave or fist wave like im learning (which i dont even do when i learn).

    i do shuckel, but nothing to write home about.

     
    At September 26, 2006 4:42 PM, Anonymous Jewish skeptic said...

    I knew a guy in a N.American city,who was the mashgiach of kashrut of the community & mechanech of the youth.He was 33.
    On R.H.& Y.K. he had his seat in the middle of the shul,where everyone could see him.He used to stand thrughout shachris & musaph,nonstop.Very ostentatiously he kneeled at every 'koreem',& the violent shukling,grimaces,shaking of fists was a sight to behold.
    That went on for quite a few years untill,he made front page news of every newspaper in the city for being arrested for sexually molesting prepubescent boys.Hundreds of pictures of nude boys were found in his home,most of them Jewish...
    That was quite a scandal,as you can imagine...

    The phenomenon that one often sees in chareidi shuls,of bochurim & adults,behaving in a way described above is well known.
    In mussar & chasidik lit. you have the concept of *machshavot zarot*-strange thoughts.A euphimism for sexual involuntary thoughts entering your mind during t'filah,& davka when you are pronouncing the most holy names,like Adonai,Elohim...
    These s'forim try to teach you how to get rid of those "unwanted" thoughts.
    E.g. you see someone saying a prayer which should take 15 min.& it takes him 1-2hrs. What happens is, that every time,let's say,he gets to words like Adonai or Elohim,impure thoughts attack him.It might be rape,incest,adultery,etc.He is shaking his fists,making grimaces,clapping hands,all in an attempt to get rid of those intruding thoughts.He will repeat words & sentences many times untill he is exhausted & thinks he got them right.It's a never ending battle...
    Psychiatrists associate it with 'obsessive compulsive disorder',guilt of masturbation & other mental disorders.

    So the next time you see in shul someone doing those shtick & praying 2 or 3 times longer than others,have pity on him.Think of all the torture he is going through!

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:11 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    JS, could be - could be.

    But I imagine that all teenagers go thru something similiar. I know I grappled with my own personal taavos; nothing deviant just normal part of growing up. But I thought I must be the only Yeshiva Boy with sex on his mind; until a friend set me straight. (Hmm - just like for seven years when I thought I was the only Frum skeptic in the world; what else am I clueless about????) But I didn't wave my fists thru the air talking to God and I don't recall seeing anyone doing that in my youth. I spoke to God in my mind in a controlled fashion.

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:12 PM, Blogger Baal Devarim said...

    "There's got to be a name for this phenomenon."

    Rain dance.

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:15 PM, Blogger Baal Devarim said...

    "But I didn't wave my fists thru the air talking to God and I don't recall seeing anyone doing that in my youth"

    God was more reasonable back then. Didn't need that much persuasion.

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:23 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >>>But I didn't wave my fists thru the air talking to God and I don't recall seeing anyone doing that in my youth"

    >God was more reasonable back then. Didn't need that much persuasion.


    BD, all kidding aside, I think there's more to this. The fact that he switches in and out of this "inspired" mode leads me to think there's something else going on.

    I'm not saying he's trying to mis-lead people. I think this is just some sort of emulation of some real or imagined role model or something like Spinoza suggested.

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:26 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >i dont make faces, nor hand wave or fist wave like im learning (which i dont even do when i learn). i do shuckel, but nothing to write home about.

    Happy, it may simply be a generational thing. Our generation shukkeled cause that's what we saw our rebbeim do. The new gen has a new set of Rebbeim.

     
    At September 26, 2006 5:28 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Irviner & Hedyot, in light of what JS wrote, are you trying to tell us something????

    Just Kidding, Just kidding.

     
    At September 26, 2006 6:22 PM, Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

    >So the next time you see in shul someone doing those shtick & praying 2 or 3 times longer than others,have pity on him.Think of all the torture he is going through!

    Just disgusting.

    You don't make wild generalizations about other people because of the way they daven... How arrogant.

    There is nothing wrong with being physical in your davening. Just as some people prefer singings vs silent reading, some prefer fast, some prefer slow, some prefer to stand still, some prefer to move.

    It doesn't say anything about a person's charachter any more than knowing if he likes the color blue over the color purple.

     
    At September 26, 2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous Jewish skeptic said...

    >"Just disgusting."

    Facing the truth isn't always pleasant.
    The above reaction shows that I touched a raw nerve.Sorry.

     
    At September 26, 2006 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Its called "Kol Atzmosai To'marna". You say it in Nishmas every Shabbos.

    And to stand before God like a shlump isn't proper. Gotta straighten out the Levush, and get back to work.

     
    At September 26, 2006 11:08 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    anon, thats what we say about shukkling; but swinging your arms? What's next, dancing like Dovid Hamelech?
    But truthfully, well said, I like your thought processes and the way you say it. Do you by any chance work for the chofetz chaim heritage foundation? ;-)

     
    At September 27, 2006 7:40 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    now you know why i have those darned verification words.

     
    At September 27, 2006 7:53 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Happy, that was a human, ver words would not have helped..

     
    At September 27, 2006 10:28 AM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    bhb
    its just another obstacle for the loonies.

    cant wait till beta blogger so i can start see new comments in blogger in my rss. Klypod reports he educated you on the wonders of haloscan. but haloscan captures IP address, which i think would be against your practices of trying to be as anonymous as possible.

     
    At September 27, 2006 10:45 AM, Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

    >Facing the truth isn't always pleasant.
    The above reaction shows that I touched a raw nerve.Sorry.

    No, its disgusting biggotry, no nerves struck.

    There was a study that said people who are gay were more likely to be sexuallycrazy molested as a child than people who arn't. Yet, if I said as some sort of "fact" I would be labeled a biggot.

    You don't make generalizations about people and judge them on it, based on theories.

    Its the exact opposite of every principle ever written in Perkei Avot.

     
    At September 27, 2006 2:15 PM, Anonymous Jewish skeptic said...

    >"You don't make generalizations about people and judge them on it, based on theories"

    >"No, its disgusting biggotry, no nerves struck."

    Someone is very upset.

    There is a Yiddish saying:

    "Oifen ganef brent dos hittel"

     
    At September 27, 2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    JS, LOL. But may I add, that not every burning hat is indicative of a thief.

     
    At September 27, 2006 3:06 PM, Blogger J said...

    Anon is right. "Kol Atzmosai Tomarna". Many adults still daven this way. It is getting your whole body into the davening and helping to force out other thoughts - not just sexual - thoughts about the Giants getting creamed by the Seahawks, thoughts about your project at work being late, about what you and your wife argued about...etc., etc.

    Why can't he straighten out his tie and hat after completing his davening? methinks you are being a bit too critical.

     
    At September 27, 2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous Jewish skeptic said...

    Apropos shukling.It's stated in early Chasidik lit.that the union with God should imitate the sexual act between man & woman,the highest expression of love & union.
    The shukling is imitating the sexual act.
    Before somebody starts calling me names & saying I am writing smut,I wish to state that this is taken from a very scholary work written in the 1970's by Mordechai Wilenski,"Chasidim Umitnagdim"(Heb.).In this book(unfortunately,I lost it during my travels),all the relevant early Chasidik & Mitnagdish texts are included.
    Especially interesting is the first critical book against Chasidim,called "zemir Aritsim",by Rabbi Leibel.Printed at the end of the 18th cen.BTW,I saw the full text of the book online.

    In the above book by Willenski,sources are quoted from Hasidic texts,or Mitnagdim quoting chasidik sources(I don't remember which),that the shukling should culminate into an erection(sic)!
    Thats its a special mitsvah to daven with an erection!!

    Now HOLD OFF.DON'T SHOOT! I am just quoting of the early history of the chasidim & the mitnagdim & not as it has evolved & is now.
    I thought you might be interested to know what shukling originally symbolized...
    BTW,at the chareidish litvishe yeshivah I learned,The roshei yeshivah never shukled.

     
    At September 27, 2006 5:59 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    >In the above book by Willenski,sources are quoted from Hasidic texts,or Mitnagdim quoting chasidik sources(I don't remember which),that the shukling should culminate into an erection(sic)!
    Thats its a special mitsvah to daven with an erection!!

    JS, ROFL.
    I wish someone would have told me this a long time ago.

    Also, now I see why Chassidim on R'H daven from 8AM to 4PM.

     
    At September 27, 2006 6:02 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    J, welcome.

    I already agreed with Anon. For a true believer, his viewpoint has some validity and is most admirable. Kind of far-fetched, but admirable.

     
    At September 27, 2006 8:15 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

    Bhb
    I think the shukling theory js proposes is interesting.
    Related to that is the end of yoma. Where the talmid seems to imply that having a involuntary seminal emission on yom kippur is a sign you will get olam haba. Maybe the erection concept arises (so to speak) from that gemera. Only if you've reached the highest ectasy can you be close to hashem.

    Could be?

     
    At September 27, 2006 9:32 PM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

    Happy, I think the gemara says, an individual, in such a case, should worry about his life for the upcoming year - and if he survives for the year, then he is guaranteed Olam Haba.

    So behave ;)

     
    At September 28, 2006 10:21 AM, Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

    >The shukling is imitating the sexual act.
    Before somebody starts calling me names & saying I am writing smut,I wish to state that this is taken from a very scholary work written in the 1970's by Mordechai Wilenski,"Chasidim Umitnagdim"(Heb.).In this book(unfortunately,I lost it during my travels),all the relevant early Chasidik & Mitnagdish texts are included.

    That's ridiculous (unless you somehow meant a specific kind of shokeling) because it is attested a thousand years ago in the Kuzari, where it is evidently an already old practice. Shukeling was hardly begun by Chassidim, although its possible the sifrei chassidut attributed new signifigance to it.

     
    At September 28, 2006 12:46 PM, Anonymous Jewish skeptic said...

    >"That's ridiculous (unless you somehow meant a specific kind of shokeling) because it is attested a thousand years ago in the Kuzari, where it is evidently an already old practice. Shukeling was hardly begun by Chassidim, although its possible the sifrei chassidut attributed new signifigance to it."

    MFM,
    Not as ridiculous as you might think.Chasidism is based on the Kabbalah.One of the Ikarim of kabbalah is to re-unite the exiled Shechina with the Godhead.This is called *yichud*.The kabbalists & early chasidim were performing all kinds of *yichudim* in order to achieve this union.
    The Zohar & other kabbalistic works have many,some of explicit sexual nature & words,how to bring about this reunion.

    You have the prayer "l'shem yichud"- לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה
    to be said before performing any mitsvah.This prayer is included in every siddur nusach Sepharad.
    That's clear! The shokling during prayer was seen by the EARLY chasidim as symbolically representing this attempt at yichud. Let's not forget that some of the early chasidim & FOUNDERS of chasidism were remnants of the Shabtai Tsvi movement.Just think of the sefer "chemdat yamim"& its popularity amongst chasidim.

    You said that the Kuzari writes that the Jews were shokling in his time. Many years ago while studying the kuzari,I remember reading something similar to what you said.You might be right,I am not sure.I think the kuzari might be referring to a group of people studying of one sefer & because of that they have to "l'hitnone'a" in order to see better what's written in the sefer,not in reference to prayer.
    But why not give a mareh makom & we'll check it.ניתי ספר ונחזי
    But even if you are right,it woudn't take away from the meaning the chasidim gave to it.
    Lastly,what I wrote is not of my own.It's what I remember reading in the sfarim of "shever poshim"&"zemir aritsim".The 2 earliest works written in late 18th & early 19th cen.by very anti chasidik rabbis. Both works are included in the very well known scholarly work by Mordechai Vilenski,"chasidim umitnagdim"

    חסידים ומתנגדים



    לתולדות הפולמוס שביניהם
    בשנים תקלב-תקעה

    Shanah Tovah

     
    At October 03, 2006 1:01 AM, Blogger dbs said...

    No stirah: It's all about looking perfect.

     
    At November 25, 2006 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I'm having a good time going through your posts here. GREAT blog.

    BTW, the name is probably something like ADD. The kid would've shuckled his hair out if he weren't human. He probably felt guilty enough when he realized that his 60 mph exercise ritual got lost in the tie.

     

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