Monday, 21 July 2008

Ethical Dilemma - Gabbai Abuse

My friend Sammy G. told me this one after the fast was over. Sammy G. is a Gabbai par excellence in New England who has formally retired and is a "gabbai" shlishi....

It seems that the Rabbi was away and Gabbais 1 & 2 were late to Mincha during an unusually hot day for New England. So Sammy, seeing all the people gathering 'round to go to minyan, ran ahead [well he is a bit old to really run...] and opened up the shul

A chiyyuv [call him Gavriel] approached him to daven - so Sammy obliged. Then a Kohein asked to be called since he had "yahrtzeit" the next day. Here is the conversation [no good deed goes unpunished or no wisecrack goes unappreciated?]:

Sammy: So you want Kohein I guess?
Kohein: of course what else is there?
Sammy: Well there IS hagbah! [Sammy was being tongue in cheek!]
Kohein: Well of all the @#$%^&*&^% things I have ever heard!!
and then Kohein storms out of the shul.

Sammy is a bit bemused and confused because he was really just making a quip.
Then Gabbais 1 & 2 enter and Sammy says "You should have seen Kohein today - he really flipped out."
Out of nowhere the Chiyyuiv [Gavriel] goes ballistic and starts screaming at poor Sammy

Sammy: But I was just kidding...
Gavriel: But Kohein WASN'T
Sammy: But I meant no harm;
Gavriel: YOU should know better [and he proceeds to lace it in]
Sammy: Well if you feel that way, I guess you should ask Gabbai 1 or 2 to daven because you obviously cannot accept MY appointment to the Amud!

Sammy was shocked. He later shared the story with me and then asked:
Rabbi Rich:
  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. What should I do?
  3. Where is every one's sense of humor?
  4. How could Gavriel daven for the amud after being so nasty in public?
I had a hard time calming Sammy down. Here are a few points:
  1. Sammy, you really were not wrong.
  2. You might apologize or TRY to explain the mis-understanding, but don't excpect Kohein or Gavriel to back down. Both seem to me to be a bit "amud happy"
  3. Well they are fasting and it WAS a hot day, but granted, I think they way over-reacted. Perhaps an anger management course is in order!
  4. Good question! See #2. Apparently Gavriel felt he was right so he had no problem with losing his temper
Sammy came back with a couple of new points:
  1. Well If I were THAT angry I would not take the amud, I would walk away EVEN if I were a chiyyuv
  2. I don't disagree that they could have talked back to be about the mis-understanding. But what excuse is there for screaming in public? Isn't that wrong to embarrass someone in public?
I had to agree.
  1. Gavriel might have stepped away if he were really being a mensch about it and MERELY defending Kohein, but I guess he had another agenda, too
  2. I agree also, had Gavriel just quietly shushed you it would have been much better instead of going ballistic
I also mentioned that hagbah is after a big kibbud, EVEN though people don't consider it so. But I guess in a small town they are not so educated re: the Mishna Brurah and the idea that Hagbah is the culmination of the laining etc.

  • Anyway, was Sammy wrong to make light of Kohein's Yahrtzeit issue?
  • Did the fact that the Yahrzeit was the next today a factor - iow since Kohein was not a REAL chiyyuv that day, he could always get an aliya on Monday morning.
  • Did Kohein embarass Sammy by storming out?
  • Was Gavriel justified in stepping in or did he really add gasoline to the fire!
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In order:

1) No. It's not his fault the Kohein is a Richard.

2) No. A Richard is a Richard. You can't satisfy them unless you give them what they want with a smile that says you're happy to grovel at their feet.

3) Yes.

4) No, he's also a Richard for involving himself in someone else's dispute.

The lesson Sammy should learn from this is: bring a bottle of water and let the SOB's shvitz until the lazy regular gabbais get there. And if anyone gives him grief because they know he has a key, he can shrug. "Forgot where I put it. Old age and all."