A few notes about last shabbos. My friends I stayed with live in a neighborhood with one orthodox shul, which was where we went Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon.
The Saturday morning service was three hours long. I think that's inexcusable. Even a take-your-time shul can finish a shabbos service--with d'var torah--in 2:30 or less. I don't know if the filler is for people who don't go to shul during the week, but it doesn't matter. Who can sit for three hours? The chazzan really dragged out kedusha for mussaf. He has a beautiful voice, but it's too much. When I visit this shul, I'm going to daven all of pesukei d'zimrah (the introduction to the main service) on my own and show up half an hour late. I think that would make the service far more bearable and inspiring to me.
I attended a "learning lunch" at the shul sponsored by Jack Berger, featuring guest speaker Jack Berger. Jack is a Zionist with strong opinions. He frequently takes out ads in Chicago Jewish News to make sure many more people--Jews of all denominations and political views--are privy to his opinions. I mostly agree with him. His knowledge and grasp of Israeli-U.S. history is very impressive, as is his ability to respond to a Torah question with a direct quote. (His Chumash copy is more annotated than any I've seen.) I very much enjoyed his speech.
After Jack's speech, the young man sitting next to me asked Jack a question--supposedly. What he actually did was drone on for an extended period of time, finally getting around to a question he could have asked right away. This reminded me of the Spertus Museum Rules of Asking Questions:
1. You may take no longer than 30 seconds;
2. You must ask a question.
EXACTLY! Someone will stand up to ask a question, and he is shocked, shocked to learn we really didn't show up to listen to him tell his life story. We're just not interested. Ask your damn question or just sit down. Others believe this is their opportunity to offer their opinions on the speaker, his topic, or any number of other topics. No, again, if we want your opinion, we'll invite you for coffee. Until then, you're keeping other people in the audience from asking legitimate questions.
After the Sabbath ended, I went with a friend to the 2010 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place. Note to self: the $10 parking is at Soldier Field (18th St. exit). The $19 parking is at the 31st St exit. Thieves, I tell you! I was fortunate to enter gratis as someone handed me his passes. I obviously haven't been to the Auto Show in quite some time--probably not since the 20th Century. News flash: the beautiful women are back. The automakers, famous and notorious for featuring models posing next to their new cars, are up to their old tricks again. They stopped for a while, partly because it was silly--women make the final decision regarding an automobile purchase more than half the time. Maybe these female decision-makers find the models persuasive as well. Most automaker pavilions featured models on the turntables next to the vehicles or walking around, talking to potential customers. I am still amazed at how much money the automakers spend on these shows. The displays appear to be in the mid-five figures. The automakers also need to pay for staff as well as vehicle and equipment transportation to truck everything to the next city. I admit it's helpful to see numerous new car models under one roof, especially if one is in the market for one. But shouldn't the automakers pay us for the privilege of checking out their vehicles? $11 admission is a bit harsh.