Wednesday, June 19, 2013

cutting it short

I am not sure at what age wearing shorts stops being cute, but it happens.  It hasn’t even been really hot here yet, but already I see teens and even adults showing up to davening wearing shorts and T-shirts.  B’shlama not wearing a hat, I understand – hats are out of fashion (at least in society at large), so not wearing one is the social norm.  But people do still wear pants, shirts with collars and buttons, jackets, etc.  In my workplace, which is business casual, they recently sent out a reminder e-mail about what is acceptable dress and what isn’t, and shorts and a T-shirt is definitely on the not-acceptable list.  If it’s not acceptable in a business casual office environment, what’s the hava amina that it is acceptable when standing before G-d?

Even in camp, where someone may rush in from the ballfield to catch a mincha, I wonder whether or not it might be better to miss minyan and take the time to change.  Who says that tefilah b’tzibur outweighs tefilah dressed appropriately?  I haven’t looked it up, but at least off the cuff it doesn’t strike me as an absurd question.
Even if you personally don’t care if you come to daven looking like a shlump, it sets a certain tone in a minyan when enough people do it.  It makes a statement: “We’re not formal here – sit back and relax, make yourself comfortable…”  My parents told me recently of a shul in their neighborhood where people come in (I am talking about the room used for davening, not the lobby) on Shabbos carrying coffee cups, pushing strollers, etc.  They feel at home; they are as comfortable in shul as they are in the privacy of their living room or lounging at Starbucks.  I don’t know about you, but “Da lifnei mi atah omeid,” doesn’t sound to me like we are supposed to feel all that comfortable.

The problem, of course, is that blog posts on the topic will change nothing.  Matzah min es mino – people who treat davening a certain way will go to daven with other people who treat davening the same way, creating a spiral that reinforces itself.  Those who agree with this post most likely do not come to daven in shorts and a T-shirt and most likely daven in places where such a thing would be an aberration; those who disagree probably think I’m a fanatic (which may be true anyway…)  The question is how to change the culture once certain norms become institutionalized.  I have no idea of the answer.

We're coming up to the three weeks, the time to mourn churban habayis.  Does anyone think it would be appropriate the show up to the mikdash wearing shorts and a T-shirt, sipping a coffee?  Of course not.  So why treat the mikdash me'at in our communities any differently?

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