Friday, October 14, 2005
Ayub Ogada -- Obiero
I love this music -- Ayub Ogada is a guy from West Kenya that sings and plays a particular kind of lute called a nyatiti, that's apparently a really ancient instrument. Anyway, it's really nice. I have no idea what he's singing, but it's very soothing.
Over the years, I've developed a nice collection of "world" music. My sophisticated method? I blindly buy albums on the Real World label. If it has that stripe of colors along the side, I buy it. It's a lame way to pick music, but it's worked so far. Some of the best album art ever is on Real World album covers.
So hey! On Yom Kippur I afflicted my soul...I didn't eat or drink or bathe or work. However, I wore leather shoes, and I decided not to afflict my girlfriend's nose, so I did brush my teeth in the morning.
Speaking of which, I really got an appreciation for the traditional mechitza (the barrier separating men and women in Orthodox synagogues) yesterday. Our synagogue, of course, doesn't have one. And when I was a teenager and going to morning services, it wasn't an issue, because women never went. (If there had been a teenage girl at morning services, though, perhaps I'd have kept going rather than dropping out after a while...)
But I could see how I was getting so easily distracted with women about.... the older women behind us were commenting on the services the whole time, my girlfriend and her friend were talking from time to time, teen girls were getting in and out of their seats... it was distracting for me. And of course, once you are conscious of being distracted, EVERYTHING was distracting. Now, I am a straight guy. Honestly, I can't remember any guys in the synagogue besides the rabbi and cantor on the bimah, and there were hundreds there. But I can remember all the women and teenage girls and where they sat and what they were wearing, that one blonde sitting on the aisle a couple rows back that was wearing profoundly inappropriate fishnets, the girl in front of me who was actually studying for the GRE the whole service... . Of course, the traditional rabbinical line seems to be how easy it is for weak men to be distracted by pure and holy women, so we need to stick the barrier up so we can pray without the distraction of all that female stuff.
And this sucks in a way, because I don't want my girlfriend and her daughter excluded from anything. But there are also surely benefits to women when they are able to be with each other and not burdened by being distracted by men. We have all seen how girls often do better in school without the distraction of boys. Currently, there is lots of attention being paid to womens' practice, like all the Rosh Chodesh groups being started up. And we see a small but growing number of feminists find great power and freedom in supposedly sexist practices like muslim headcoverings and Orthodox Jewish "modest" dress, because they are free to be themselves and be judged on who they are, not their body.
Also, another possible benefit is that you emphasize community when you have the men with the men and the women with the women. Honestly, I tend to stay joined to my girlfriend's hip -- I'd be a lot more likely to meet and mingle and get to know guys at synagogue if I were just with guys.
This is all speculation, and I don't see myself in a shul with a mechitza any time soon, but I can understand the reasons in a way I never have before. Who knows. I could be wrong.
Services were good, but by the middle of the afternoon yesterday I had a killer headache and was really grumpy. When it was all over, and we were at our friend's house for break-the-fast, I got a cup of coffee and enjoyed the act of drinking, and then I piled a plate full of kugel and eggs and bagel and tomato and onion and I reconnected with the wonders of food. And within fifteen minutes, I was SO happy. We had a nice time seeing folks we only see a couple times a year on big holidays. It was so nice, sitting at tables under the stars, seeing everyone illuminated in candlelight, all us modern mostly-secular Jews still fasting and celebrating together.
And then when we got home, I did the bedtime Shema and had a great night's sleep...
And now Shabbat is on us and I haven't got hardly anything done. It's amazing how fast time flies. Everyone have a good Shabbat.