The Moishe Kavod monthly Fabrengen (Yiddish, “joyous gathering”) is the ultimate progressive and pluralistic (and yet quite substantive) Jewish spiritual ritual. A fabrengen has three elements: singing, teaching, and drinking. Participants are welcome but not obligated to enjoy any and all of these activities. A leader facilitates, inviting people to share songs, teachings or l’chaims. Here is the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of each of these offerings:
– Songs: The only songs welcome at fabrengens are niggunim (Hebrew, “melody”), wordless songs. Think syllables—yi diddy di, etc. Niggunim are easy to teach and easy to learn, making the fabrengen welcoming to participants at all levels of Jewish literacy. Without words, there’s no need for books, leaving people free to smile at one another, and drum on the table if need be. Without words, there’s no disconnect between the emotional and literal content of the song, a contradiction liberal/radical Jews often face during prayer. Singing niggunim, participants have a pure spiritual experience of sharing voices in a space.
– Teaching: At the Moishe Kavod fabrengen, “Torah” means teaching, and all kinds (within or without Jewish tradition) are welcomed. Each month there is a theme, usually related to the calendar and holidays. Participants take turns “playing Rabbi,” and sharing whatever wisdom or thoughts they have on the topic. It is a gathering for giving and receiving wisdom, not for heated debate.
– L’chaims: In between singing and teaching, participants can suggest l’chaims (a shot of alcohol, accompanied by general well-wishing). In the fabrengen ritual, alcohol serves a spiritual role, warming hearts, raising voices, and generally bonding the participants in the space. If you are not into drinking, don’t worry—the singing and teaching are largely the more popular and powerful bonding experiences at the Moishe Kavod fabrengen.
That’s the whole event! We do these three activities in rotation, in whatever order suits us (with the help of the fabrengen facilitator) for a couple of hours at the end of Shabbat, and then hold a Havdalah (Shabbat conclusion) service.
The first one of the year is 6-7:30 on September 17th at the Moishe Kavod House Boston. You are invited to join us! Given the date/season, you are encouraged to come and share wisdom on: Rosh HaShanah, New Beginnings, Repentance, etc. It is also the birthdate of the Ba’al Shem Tov (the founder of Hasidism), so anything and everything Hasidic (except non-egalitarianism) is welcome.
To learn more about the original concept of the Fabrengen which I co-opted, see Wikipedia.