Costume Changes – Part II

Here’s Part I (good comments too)

So I almost ALWAYS wear a skirt on the bimah, — except when I’m leading Jewish Renewal-style services (which I rarely lead from on the bimah anyway. We usually set up some chairs in a circle). For those services I try to wear something in which I can move, since movement/stretching/dancing is often a part of the service; so, sometimes, is sitting still and meditating. But it’s actually probably more true that I wear something flowing for the looks. It’s certainly not going to be a tailored suit. And the color: It almost always includes purple or turquoise. (My tallis is purple and turquoise on white, so that covers the need for “new agey” colors at the least.) I tend to wear a tall and colorful kippah .

Is this nonsense? No, it’s theater. Ritual is primal theather, in which the “audience” has been transformed into a “congregation” of participants (in my ideal, anyway). No, that’s backwards. I read somewhere a long time ago that theater itself grew out of religious ritual. Think Greece. Somewhere along the way the congregation became an audience, and there’s a difference; I really object when people refer to the “Jews in the pews” as the audience, because they’re not. Their job is to experience and participate and contribute, not to simply be the receptors of what’s going on on the bimah

OK, enough of that. I was reminded of all this on Shabbat morning, when it took 25 minutes to dress.

I had been invited to Congregation Beth Shalom in Clifton Park to co-lead a Renewal Service with Rabbi Diane Leibovitz. They’d never had a Renewal-style service there, and the congregation includes liturgical traditionalists as well as folks who welcome liturgical innovation. Oh, the fuss in front of the mirror that morning! Not too tailored. Not too funky. Not brown and turquoise — too 1950s, or something. Yes, a skirt. A long one, of course; that’s my comfort level (remember the nylons in Part I! You can also get away with more sensible shoes. I am so grateful that long skirts are no longer reserved for highly formal occasions!)

I must have spent five minutes on my shoes: The black Birkenstock “Mary Janes” with the big toe box, or the Israeli-made “Beautifeel” black shoes, more stylish (but still comfortable, with my extra arches in them — and the most expensive shoes I have ever bought in my life)? Eventually I opted for the more stylish shoes; I thought the others really looked too … what? Funky/earthy? Nerdy? Nerdy was a problem especially in Junior High, and I still worry about it sometimes…

Oi vey.