Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Year of Mourning - Tzedakah, Minhag HaMakom, & Makom Kavuah

Each minyan I attend has it’s own customs. When entering any minyan, my first concern is “Whose seat am I taking?” Synagogue regulars have their spots. They sit in the same place every day, every week, every holiday. This is your regular, fixed place or makom kavua. A makom kavua isn’t set in stone. But people are very attached to their spots. In a new minyan, I’m always worried I may accidentally take someone’s spot. Personally, I hate when b’nei mitzvah families take my space on Shabbat. I have a Shabbat morning space, a Shabbat evening space, and spaces for other days depending on where we’re davenning.  There’s a custom of changing your makom during the year of mourning. Without thinking, I have, at least in our chapel. My space moved from the front to the back. I stand, and I want space around me. The front just doesn’t feel right anymore.

Other customs are whether or not the minyan recites tachanun or certain other t’fillot and when or if tzedakah is collected. Every minyan I’ve ever attended has a tzedakah box (or pushke) for the minytan. In Toronto the pushke seems to be out only at Shacharit. At my childhood shul in Merrick and at the minyan here in Monroe, NJ the pushke is out at every (non-Shabbat or holiday) service. Some also have pushkes at breakfast. Others do not. Then there is whether the minyan actively asks or simply leaves it to peer pressure. Does someone take the pushke around to everyone there, shaking lightly to rattle the coins inside? Who takes the pushke? I’ve always wondered how it’s decided. And, when do you do this? Just before Barechu? After the repetition of the Amidah or after the Torah service? In places where the pushke is simply left on a table, is that table towards the front where everyone can see, or is it more private? When one person gives (there’s still the custom of when), others seem to follow. It’s like a choreographed dance, but I have no idea who is directing? Then of course, what to give? Is it one coin, multiple coins, or bills? Does a yahrtzeit warrant more? What about minyan regulars?

It’s all just one more part of the culture of the tribe.

Shabbat shalom.