We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?
You remember Cobble's Knot from Maniac Magee? The large ball of knotted string that Cobble would award a year's worth of pizza to anyone who could untie it? That's what the inside of my mind feels like. Something tells me this post won't do it justice, but here goes nothing...
I made the decision to daven at Yedidya for the Holidays. It's a Modern Orthodox shul located about 2 minutes from Pardes. They don't have a Rabbi but they sure do have a strong sense of community. I went to check them out last Shabbos to make sure I'd be comfortable there. Shacharit started at 8:30 and I got there around 8:25...only to find that they were in the middle of the repetition of the Musaf Amida. Something wasn't right. A woman came over and informed me that I had stumbled into the early morning minyan and that I really wanted to be upstairs. We started talking and I asked about Rosh Hashanna seating. The conversation resulted in an invite to 2nd day lunch (score!).
In my Self, Soul, and Text class, we analyzed sources that discussed that the best time to pray is when you're in a state of semi-consciousness. When you're half asleep, you don't have the ability to logically think and therefore can put your complete heart into your prayers. I didn't need these source sheets to understand the truth behind this idea. Due to some miscommunications, I made the decision to go to 5:40 Shacharit every morning. I soon discovered that 5AM is such a beautiful time to be awake. In our Mishna class, we've been discussing what the latest time is to say the nighttime Shema. According to Rabbi Gamliel, you can say it until the column of light starts to come up (aka: dawn). It was comforting to know that if a bunch of rabbi's sons wandered into our apartment after a night in the "drinking house" and hadn't yet said their nighttime Shema, it wouldn't have been too late. But I digress. I made the short trip to shul in the crisp, chilly air and joined the other morning birds.
Davening this year was an experience and a half. I was filled with such a wide range of emotions. This was the first time that I was ever away from my home shul and my family for the Holidays. I went from knowing everyone to being the visiting stranger in the back of the shul. If I was going to be welcomed back, there was no opportunity to hide the shoes of the Cohanim. This was the first time I've ever been homesick. On the other hand, I was able to really focus on the service and the prayers coming out of my mouth. I was able to reflect on the previous year- the ups and downs and all arounds. I thought about my roller coaster relationship with Hashem. I thought about my raging emotions towards Judaism ranging from complete anger and confusion to absolute awe and amazement. Will God judge me harshly or was this all part of the plan? They say that on Rosh Hashana, every human is like a sheep being inspected by God, one by one. Imagining myself as a sheep being inspected to the fullest extent was such a nerve wracking experience.
I did, however, find a lot of comfort in the shul's technical problems. There was an electrical fire in the middle of the second night. Fortunately, there was no serious damage but the shul was without electricity until after chag. This meant no lights or air conditioning. We davened the beginning of Shacharit outside along with the birds waking up with the sunrise. And, of course, with the obnoxious cats running around our feet. One of the women made a sarcastic comment about the shul and all of its problems. If only she had realized that everyone at home was sitting there with their snorkels and umbrellas praying to stay dry...
All in all, it was a pretty intense couple of days. I still don't think I've fully recovered but there will be time for that on another day.
Things I've learned recently:
1. Just because the "column of light" has appeared doesn't mean there will be enough light in the apartment to get ready. We should have set the timer a little later so the lights would still be on at 5:40AM.
2. Always know where the blech is and be sure to plug it in before chag. Just because you don't mind eating cold dino nuggets and pizza doesn't mean you should be forced into doing so.
3. Bring an ample supply of tissues to shul. It's pretty terrible getting on the floor for Aleinu and discovering just how much snot can come out of the human body.
4. Stumbling into wrong places will lead to delicious meals with strangers.
5. Delicious meals with strangers will lead to familiar conversations about the pros and cons of shul and what changes can and should be made.
Something tells me it's going to be a beautiful year.
שנה טובה ומתוקה וגמר חתימה טובה