ASK THE RABBI
December 2018 QUESTION:
I would like to sign up to open/close the curtain on the ark, but don’t really know what the “rules” are for that. Can you please explain?
December 2018 ANSWER:
We open and close the ark for the Barkhu (aka, call to worship), for the Amidah, for the Torah service (twice: when we take the scroll out and then when we put it back in the ark) and for the Aleynu. Usually, I announce the name of the prayer, the page it is on, and ask people to rise, before I head toward the ark.
Once I get there, the curtain should be open (it isn’t a long distance and doesn’t take more than a few seconds…). Then while we are standing at the ark with the curtain open, I gesture to the “curtain crew” when it is time to close the curtain.
Some general points:
• We do not turn away from the ark while the curtain is open; the exception to that is during the Torah service. When in doubt, take your cue from me.
• When opening/closing the ark, do NOT use the curtain itself to open or close. Instead, use the plastic rods to accomplish this. We do not want to spoil the curtain by getting the oils from our skin on this magnificent piece of art.
• When at the ark, we should all be facing toward the ark (eastward). Do not stand so you are facing the other ark-opener.
• It is more important that you open the ark promptly than that you find the right page, so open the ark first and then turn the pages in your prayerbook.
• When you are sitting on the bimah, remember that you are participating in leading the service; pay attention to what is happening, and follow the service as best you can.
• Do not wave to your friends or anything like that (duh).
It is not, as they say, rocket science. And I am always there to help you, if you need it.
You will find it interesting to watch the congregation during the service. If you have any observations you’d like to share with me, please do that. And thanks for participating. The leadership of the congregation is really eager to get more and more folks involved in this way.