Monday, October 05, 2009

What I learned and where I daven

What I learned - from a Conservative rabbi, actually - is that there may never be a shul that "fits the bill" in every way.  Our shul sure isn't it for me, but it seems to be a good fit for Ted, and he has to be there a lot more than I do, so his comfort there is more important.  Period.
 
I've said repeatedly that it's a lousy place for anyone who understands the davening, or at least, doesn't want to be spoon-fed instructions on how to daven.  And it's a lousy place for FFB teenagers.  (YM's yeshiva seriously frowns on him davening there, and I agree)
 
What he taught me is that the shul you daven in doesn't necessarily have to be the shul with the people you click with best or where you learn best... in other words, as you know, you're probably not going to find it all in one building.
 
I spent a lot of time looking for the right community, and then settled for a community which has the most to offer to the most members of my family.
 
I am truly fascinated by my family's frum and chassidic past, and I guess a million years ago, that's what I hoped to become, somehow. 
 
Did you know that when caterpillars turn into butterflies, they don't just enter the chrysalis, grow wings and pop out?  They actually (and okay, I read this, so please feel free to flame me if this is totally scientifically inaccurate) dissolve, they disintegrate, and then build themselves up again in the form of a butterfly.  There is no trace of the caterpillar.  If it had had fingerprints, they'd be gone, dissolved, and new ones in their place.
 
That's what I'd have had to do to become part of a chassidic community.  That's what Jeremy started to do... and then couldn't take it.  He wanted to be himself, and couldn't see himself in the picture he was creating, in the butterfly he was becoming.  So he left the chrysalis completely and became, basically, a sad, tired, bitter extension of the same person he'd been before he met Yiddishkeit.
 
I don't know what happened to me, but I guess I gave up hope more slowly of ever being part of that sort of community.  Frankly, we all like coloured clothes much too much to blend in.  :-)
Seriously, that's too glib, but maybe it is the chrysalis thing.  Maybe I wasn't willing to dissolve enough of my pre-teshuvah personality and lifestyle.
 
Anyway, I sat on the fence for a long time, particularly when I wasn't sure about Ted converting, and finally it was a Reform rabbi (I was probably avoiding Orthodox rabbis during this period of my life!) actually told me to get off the fence and declare where I was holding and I pretty much did and started making a life for myself in this weird nonconformodox niche.
 
All of which is just to say, for those who think our shul and our community is pretty monolithically Orthodox, it isn't.  And that shul doesn't represent me or my views or even perhaps those of my family. 
 
It's a nice "outpost" shul that I am happy to support despite its many, MANY shortcomings because there's a deep need for kiruv and classes in this area and because every once in a while, when I actually get inside the shul, I have a moment of clarity and epiphany and feel this whole 20-year yiddishkeit trek has been worthwhile so far.
 
(but, of course, as any heretic knows, it's equally possible to have epiphanies on mountaintops or in science labs...)

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