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Lifetakes: A Yid’s Place

Faigy Schonfeld

They simply didn’t know how to pray. And yet... they came to shul. Just because. Because it’s Friday night and a Yid goes to shul

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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I ’m still looking for someone to blame for my lack of shul-going prowess.

It’s not like I didn’t go to shul as a kid. Rosh Hashanah meant getting all spiffy in new clothes, bags of candy, bickering, and jumping around the playground outside, waiting for the shofar’s cry.

I got older, and come Yom Kippur, I’d don pink Chinese slippers and a solemn face, sit elegantly next to my mother, and watch the bubbies wade through their tissue boxes.

Eventually, I was a big girl. I tried to daven, really daven. I listened to the baal tefillah, strained to focus, sometimes shed a tear. Then I was a kallah, then a mother-to-be, and my prayers gained a new level of potency; there was a future to daven for, a baby, dear G-d! Baruch Hashem, by the following year, I was no longer among the shul-goers.

I’m blessed with sisters, and we do a babysitting rotation, so on occasion, I still get to go to shul like a lady. But for the most part, my shul experience nowadays is a throwback to my younger days — new clothes, potato chips, hoping the tekios will start already, only now it’s because the baby is calm.

I read these flowery articles about women aching to be in shul, struggling to find their place on this sacred day amid lollipops and tantrums. There’s all this consolation: We’re mothers, our task is holy, caring for our children trumps all the tefillos we could muster in shul.

And I feel... very tiny. Because I don’t need consolation. I really don’t like going to shul.

There, I said it. It feels sinful. I wish I could crave the quiet and loftiness of the ezras nashim, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with throngs of holy Jewish women, fervent whispers, muffled sobs.

But I don’t. I just want to daven at home, in my Shabbos robe, in the corner of my dining room. It’s always freezing in shul and so full of exquisitely dressed people who pull my eye — which makes me feel guilty for noticing such things on a day like this.

The moments of prayer when the men launch into song are my favorite; I close my eyes and the haunting melody shivers in my bones, and for a moment, I taste the awe, feel the love. But then they slip back into the low rumble of the nusach. I wrap my sweater tighter and wish I could go home.

I remember one shul, though, where it was not cold at all. A large, rambling shul somewhere in Krakow, that city draped in the mystique of long-ago baal agalos and boisterous merchants who locked up shop at Friday noon, with dozens of shuls, and Yidden, and all the stories you can imagine. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 561)

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