It must be timely that I’ve moved to a new apartment on the Jewish New Year, which is a time of self reflection that leads to resolutions for change. I usually visit my family in NJ for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but this Yom Kippur I wanted to stay in my new apartment. That wasn’t enough of a legitimate reason for Mom, so I told her I’d find a synagogue to go to here in the city. To Mom (or any Jewish Mother for that matter), what this really means is: I’m going to single mingle with other Jews. Aka, meet a nice Jewish Boy.
“Go to the Soho Synagogue! You must be with your people!” my mom said, excitedly. I'd heard about this Synagogue, a progressive and fancy new place that aimed to attract non-affiliated Jews who don't have time to regularly observe. “I brought an article from Israel, from an Israeli paper, that says there are professional singles that go. And it’s in Soho. You like Soho.”
I’m not sure why Jews that hang out in Soho would be any different than Jews who don’t, but I did briefly live on the Upper West Side, and so..I had hope.
When Mom asked me on Wednesday what my plan was, I told her I made a reservation for Saturday morning services. I hadn’t, but I figured it wouldn’t be difficult. But with my busy week, by the time I got around to purchasing a ticket (yes, praying costs money….especially when you’re a Jew cramming in a years worth of repentance into two hours), it was sold out! What to tell Mom? I had already fibbed. Not a good beginning for a day of atonement.
I had to go now. Besides, since they were sold out, it naturally made me want to go alittle bit more.
So after a long work day on Friday, I got home to my unstocked kitchen and realized I had no food to kick off a fast day. Usually, I eat a bland (salt makes it harder to fast) matzo ball soup and chicken meal at my parents before sunset, with lots of water, but this time I walked down Sixth Avenue with my dog, and got myself a salty burrito at Chipotle, which I inhaled with a glass of wine.
By the time I got down to the Syngagogue, it was close to 9pm. My “people” were mingling outside the swank space (which resembled a Marc Jacobs store), and I was alone. But I didn’t mind. I knew being alone meant that I could leave whenever I wanted.
Women sat on the right, men on the left. I sat on the aisle, and felt like I was back in sleepaway camp, being checked out by the boys, and wanting to check them out too. My first impression was that they looked kinda cute. I like the jacket and tie with Converse sneakers look. These guys are well dressed, I thought. But I soon realized that you’re not allowed to wear leather on Yom Kippur (I was wearing knee high leather boots. Woops). I’m also a sucker for longish hair under a yarmulka (don’t ask me why), so I thought, hey, this isnt that bad.
Twenty mintues into the service, I got progressively sleepier (wine), and my stomach hurt (burrito), and the kinda cute guys didn’t look kinda cute anymore. Did they look good initially because my expectations were low, or was my judgement distorted because of the “jewish singles” setting? Was I once again, just like the last time I was in synagogue a year ago, wearing synagoggles?
I made it for an entire hour and fifteen minutes before turning into “that kid” – the only one that bolts before the sermon. The kind of meditation I was in need of was the closed eyes kind that happens in bed.
I have nothing against prayer. I admire, and in a way I envy those who go to services each week, who enjoy it, who get something out of it. I did try to concentrate. I swayed, I sang the kol nidre, and respectfully stood when the ark was opened. Maybe it wasn’t for me. Or maybe I was just too worn out – and distracted – to be present enough to draw meaning from that experience. Perhaps that was what I needed to find out. It’s not supposed to be as easy as flipping a switch. Maybe if I keep going, if I keep showing up, I will eventually get into the flow and connect with it (not unlike writing).
I fasted, like I do every year. And then went to my good friend’s break fast in Brooklyn and broke my fast on bagels, lox, and three different kinds of...uh...yeah...kugel.
Post script: I wrote the above after a lovely (and long) day with my beautiful family. They came in to help me with the apartment. My nieces made hairdos for eachother while my dad changed lightbulbs and brainstormed how to add a shower head in my bathtub. I had half an hour before changing for a date I was not thinking about (due to all of the above). The date was good (nope not talking about it!), but I wanted to come home to post. I don’t yet have internet in my apartment, so I came down to the “lounge” in my building that has internet – and an outdoor patio. Which is filled with people having a Sunday night BBQ and blaring Coldplay. As I sat here to open my computer, a nice guy (young finance cub) came over to apologize for disturbing me, brought me a glass of Cabernet (not a beer), and invited me to join them “when I was done with my thing.”
So do I think change is a coming, and is good?
Definitely. To be continued.