Today I was reminded again why I belong to a congregation.
My partner is out of town, enjoying a long-planned trip with friends. The friends with her are good friends of mine, too — but the three of them are doing something that I wouldn’t enjoy. So I don’t begrudge her being gone, nor do I begrudge them. Truly, it’s all good.
Only I’ve been lonesome. It’s been a stressful week, for a lot of reasons that are not for a public blog, and I was a bit sad and a bit lonely. I’ve been following my instincts when lonesome and stressed-out, which is to watch more TV than is good for me, and to work more than is really necessary. In other words, I’ve been hiding.
But today I had a commitment to keep: I had promised to read the haftarah for services this morning. This morning, as I got dressed up to go, I wished I didn’t have the commitment. I wished I could just hide some more. But I got up, dressed up, and went to services at Temple Sinai.
As soon as I walked in the door, most things were familiar. I noticed that the prayer books and chumashim (books with the Torah and haftarah in them) were jumbled on the shelf, so I tidied them up. I chatted with a acquaintance, and met a couple of new people. I reconnected with a recently widowed person with whom I hadn’t really talked in years.
The service was nice. Some of the words blew past me, but others reminded me of the person I would like to be, the person I intend to be. We learned a little Torah, and the chair of the Green committee told us what that committee does (encourage recycling and improve water use around the shul.) The music was excellent, although I was a trifle annoyed that I didn’t know all of it.
At kiddush (the Shabbat meal) afterwards: more friends, more little conversations. Nothing earthshaking, just a reminder that I’m part of a community. I’m needed, if I will just step up and straighten the books, or volunteer for something. I’m needed to pay attention, too. Other people have troubles, bigger troubles than mine: I heard about recovery from surgery, and new widowhood, and disappointments in business. I heard a few jokes, applauded a couple of impending birthdays, complimented someone’s Torah reading. I resolved, as I left, that I need to be more present in this place, because it connects me to other Jews, to people with Jewish values.
This is the real reason I belong to a congregation. I came home reconnected to the Jewish people. That is almost always what happens to me when I go to shul (synagogue). Some of it was good, some of it was boring, some of it was trivial, but it was centered on Torah. I am reminded of who I am, what I want to do in the world.
I am a Jew. I am part of a People. I remember that best when I can touch base with other Jews, and the best way I know to do that is with my congregation.
Thank you, Temple Sinai. I love you.