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My Three Stooges Minhag (Tradition)

My family has a tradition. There’s a famous Three Stooges sketch that takes place on the observation deck of a very large waterfall on the border of Canada and the USA. My grandmother always claimed she couldn’t remember it’s name. At dinners, cocktail parties and restaurants she bothered poor unsuspecting guests or wait staff asking them “Had they heard of this waterfall? What was it called again? The location is supposed to be very romantic…” Inevitably the poor souls would fall for it. “Oh you mean Niagara Falls?”

“NIAGARA FALLS!?” She would cry out. That was the cue to my father and uncles and they would rise to their feet to reenact the infamous skit. Spinning around in a circle they would repeat the words of the Stooges, almost prayerfully. “Slowly I turn… Step by Step… Inch by Inch!” Then the whole family would sit down as if nothing unusual had occurred and continue the meal. It still happens in my parents’ house. We get visitors to say the name of that waterfall and do the whole song and dance, with spins, shouts and gleeful yips. But then, instead of pretending nothing happened, we tell them what I just told you. About our tradition, silly as it is, that we keep it and how my grandmother started it.

A Minhag of Prayer and Comfort

One of the great traditions that has been kept here at Holy Blossom is the twice daily Minyan. I can say with great confidence that before coming to Canada, and outside of Hebrew Union College, I had never had the luxury of being in a Reform synagogue that offered Minyanim during the week. I was incredibly impressed to find out that it was lay led, both morning and afternoon/evening, and that attendance is regular. The community which has developed around the daily Minyanim is warm and inviting, offering comfort to those who are coming to say Kaddish for their loved ones and to those who are looking for a prayerful experience.

This week marked my Grandmothers 24th Yarzheit. I cannot express how meaningful it was for me to be able to say Kaddish for her in a community where I felt at home. It was much more comforting that what I have done in years previous, running to a shul where I was a stranger, the minhagim foreign, with only the prayers regular. To those of you who are already volunteering, leading, attending, or supporting the daily minyanim at Holy Blossom- Kol HaKavod. And to those of you who have been thinking about making prayer practice a more regular part of your Judaism, or if you are looking to support the mourners in our community, the morning and afternoon/evening services could always use a little more attendance. If you want to help ensure that Holy Blossom Temple continues to regularly make Minyan, please click here and send JoAnne Bieman your information.

I only saw that Waterfall for the first time a few years ago, on my second trip to Canada, coming back from my first visit to Toronto. I had no idea then that I would be so blessed as to be able to spend an entire summer serving its Jewish Community. I want to offer my deepest thanks to the staff, clergy, and members of Holy Blossom Temple for welcoming me here with such grace and warmth. Thank you for the meals you shared with me, the interest you showed in my life and in my studies, and the hospitality which was always offered. Thank you for the mentorship that was given, the time which was granted, and the traditions that were shared. Thank you for showing me your Torah.

I’ve taught a line from the Mishnah several times this summer. “Hafoch bah va-hafoch bah, d’chola vah. (Pirkei Avot 5:26).” Turn it and Turn it again- everything is in it. A gentle reminder I’ve shared with this congregation about holding onto traditions despite dissonance or disagreement. Only now as I write my goodbyes and remember my grandmother does it occur to me how similar they are to the words she trained my father, and me, to say…  Slowly I turn. Step by Step. Inch by Inch.

Turn it and Turn it again. As slowly or as quickly as you need to. May our traditions continue to be a source of strength, and may their exploration and continuation be a blessing.

With gratitude,
Samuel Kaye

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  • David Warren

    Although the Three Stooges did it, and did it memorably, it was an old vaudeville sketch by the time they did it.

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