During the past few weeks, I’ve found myself leaning hard on the ritual aspects and traditions of Judaism. I’ve never been a regular service-goer, but I started attending Friday services every week about a month ago. I deliberately go in late and leave after Kaddish and sit in the back by myself, because I’m pretty emotionally fragile during that time. I cry throughout the service, particularly during Mi Sheiberach.
I find comfort in the order of the service and prayers because it’s something that stays the same. In a year that has been difficult and life-changing (and not in a good way), I’ve struggled with the constantly evolving circumstances. I like routine, I like being able to anticipate what’s coming next and, without that, it feels like I’m adrift. Shabbat is something that comes every week and that I can count on and that has been soothing.
Strangely, even though I deliberately sit alone, it’s also comforting to just be with community. Judaism centers around family and community, which is one of the reasons I converted. I rarely light Shabbat candles at home because it feels weird to do it by myself, so it’s nice to be able to recite the blessing with other people during services. It’s rare that I’m invited to Shabbat dinner or holiday celebrations (even pre-pandemic), so it’s important for me to be with the congregation during those times.
Last week was a rollercoaster. I’m not going into details because I’m still exhausted and broken-hearted from last week’s shitshow. Suffice it to say, it started badly and ended even worse, with (maybe) a handful of good or at least not terrible moments. This week hasn’t been great either and with my mom’s surgery scheduled for late October and an onslaught of pre-op appointments, I’m guessing the next few weeks will be even more difficult to get through.
So, I’m going to keep attending Friday night services, will likely still come in late and leave after Kaddish, and will definitely cry during most, if not all, of the service. It’s weird, but I find a quiet sort of peace in that. I think it says a lot about Temple that I feel safe enough to cry during services and I feel comfortable confiding in the clergy. It means that Temple really is a second home for me and an escape from everything, at least for a little while and even when nothing goes to plan.
It also means that my relationship with the community is changing, in a good way. I think (and fervently hope) that will help my mom and me cope during the rest of this awful year.