Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Warnings and Suggestions for a Yom Kippur in Rabat

Warning: Kapparot are taken very seriously, every single person gets a chicken. You may come home one day to find your house full of said chickens (de-feathered and de-footed, thank God) occupying all manner of container from the pasta strainer to the laundry basket. We had 11 total -- one for each of the 7 children, one for Baria, one for Jakob, one for Lisa and one for me. And then Baria sewed them up. I'm still not sure why.
Suggestion: Don't get home at 5pm from the plage (beach) with Mike when you need to be at synagogue at 5:45pm. You need more time than that to shower, dress and EAT Baria's delicious kitchen (she means chicken).
Warning: Your host mother will say many strange incantations in the name of Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNes. Don't get nervous -- just go with the flow. She'll eventually bless you in his name that you should be married and become a good journalist or doctor depending on if your name is Sheva or Lisa...though sometimes she gets confused, so the name probably doesn't matter a whole lot.
Suggestion: Bring your own siddur to synagogue. Machzorim are not provided. We got one from Mike.
Warning: Purchase a see-through white blouse to wear (applicable to both genders). They are fashionable, and thus preferable.
Suggestion: Ignore the prohibition against leather shoes. In fact, snakeskin and white leather pumps for women are in vogue. Available for purchase at your local Mango or Zara.
Warning: You will be distracted by (the few) adorable children in town for the holiday visiting their Moroccan grandparents. But you needn't worry about them until 4:30 when most of hte women arrive.
Suggestion: Before you come, try to age as much as possible. Most people are over 70, and you'll want to fit in.
Warning: Be ready for the heat. The sun hits the synagogue straight on through the window beginning around 2pm, and if you're wearing Tzitzit (a Talit) on top of your suit on top of a long sleeve shirt it can get quite toasty. So says Mike. Also there's a power play over the windows and the mechitza curtain (whether or not they stay open) in the women's section. It all goes down in French so I recommend just staying out of the way.
Suggestion: Be prepared for no bowing at Aleinu, and no Unetane Tokef, and no fun tunes. At all. Weird.
Warning: If you speak French you may have your back rubbed and scratched whether you want it or now by Strasbourg.
- MEN: I suggest setting your watches to Moroccan time. The governor - yes - makes it a habit to come visit "the Jews" on Yom Kippur every year. He was supposed to come at 3pm, between Mussaf and Mincha, but instead came at 5:30pm between Mincha and Neila. Also, men, I suggest learning all of the prayers by heart. Moroccan davening is extremely participatory.
- WOMEN: I suggest becoming a man. The governor shook all of the men's hands individually and warmly, asking how their businesses were faring, seeing how all the children were getting on...and then, as he was leaving, he gave a condescending but gentlemanly wave in the direction of the women's section. The entire section smiled and waved back. Except me. I wanted to shake his hand.
- ALL: Learn Fusha! (This may be the only time I recommend this.) The speech by the Jewish community's representative (you may remember David Toledano) was in slow, beautiful Fusha (!), as was the halting first half of the governor's. I followed both, despite the double-digit decibels coming from the window due to the 8-car entourage double parked on the street outside. The second half of the governor's speech was in much more fluent Darija -- so his audience could understand. It was ingratiatingly sweet, but comforting at the same time. The Jews know that the Muslim government knows about them, likes them, and has their back.
Warning: The shofar comes as quite a surprise (I jumped) in what you might think is the precise middle of Neila (final prayer of Y"K). But its not. Its the end. Be thankful.
Suggestion: Leave the sanctuary at least once to visit the "hang out" room. You won't ever meet all 300 Jews who live in Rabat, but the woodworky ones (60 or so) who come for Y"K are accessible one day a year...you just might need to leave the sanctuary to find them (make your way to the couches).
Warning: You may begin to lose your concentration around 6:30pm or so...there's no break.
Suggestion: Bring food for afterward, Jakob may take his time with Ma'ariv, Kiddush Levana, walking home with the "Shaliach Gadol", in the bathroom, and saying Havdallah. A 25-hour fast quickly (or slowly?) turns into a 27-28 hour fast. But if you didn't remember to bring food, it'll be OK. Baria made a thousand types of delicious cookies to go with the coffee made with hot milk for you to break your fast with.
Warning: You won't be able to sleep if you drink coffee at 8:30pm.


  1. Shev, I LOVE IT!!! I thought about you all day yesterday.

    "The entire section smiled and waved back. Except me. I wanted to shake his hand."

    Great, great line. {hug}

  2. incredible. thanks for writing this!!

  3. this is hysterical, i read it on my blackberry during shishani's class and i kept cracking up and whispering about it to grosser. hope shishani didn't notice, she was kinda busy teaching us about case endings. ICK!
    had a very strong "i miss elisheva" pang today. made me sad :(