You say Shabbat. I say Shabbos. Let's call the whole thing off.
I posted this at The Reform Shuckle before Shabbat this week. I didn’t expect it to get as many comments as it did, but it’s got a fertile comment stream running now. The proliferation of comments made me think maybe y’all would get something out of it here at Jewschool too. So here we go.
It is fashionable in the Reform Movement world that I grew up in to adhere to Israeli/Sephardic pronunciations of Hebrew. So on Shabbat morning, we would wear a tallit, rather than wearing a tallis on Shabbos. We put the emphasis in the last syllable, not the first. We prayed to Adonai, not Adonoy. Etc.
The first time I can recall noticing a difference was at my cousins’ Conservative shul in St. Louis, where I noticed that Kaddish suddenly sounded wildly different. It sounded like a pit of hissing snakes, as scores of T sounds became S sounds.
Eventually, I came to hold two things be true: One, that the Ashkenazi way that my grandparents pronounced everything sounded silly, and two, that there was an ideological reason to go for the T’s. I became convinced during my four month stay in Israel during high school that the existence of Israel was a sign that the main stage of Jewish history was once again the land of Israel. I thought that Jewish history now only happened in Israel and the rest of us out here in the Diaspora were just a sideshow. Not that I wanted to make Aliyah, but I had some persuasive teachers while I was abroad.
And then came college. And New York. I became disenchanted with Israel and my Zionist fervor became Zionist frustration and defeatism. And after spending a considerable amount of time around New York Jews from non-Reform backgrounds, I found a foreign and distasteful couple of words in my mouth. I found myself recently saying wishing people “Good Shabbos” and complaining when I got to shul, rather than synagogue or temple, that I had left my tallis at home.
But I guess that’s all in line with who I am in relation to Israel and the Diaspora these days. I don’t buy that Jewish history has returned exclusively to Israel. Rather, it has stagnated and become an inbred clot in Israel.
I’m more free to be the Jew I want to be in Texas or New Jersey than I will ever be in Israel.
So. Good Shabbos.