Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 10

I made a concerted effort to live a very Jewish life. My children were already very familiar with the scent of homemade Challah for the Sabbath, something I was never raised with. (We got ours at the bakery). We lit candles and sat down to a wonderful tradition every Friday night. Then I decided it would be fun to have a sukkah, for Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles), and that was also a big success. Of course there was always the Seder on Passover, and so on. The great difficulty of all this Jewish doing was that it all fell to me. My husband loved it all, but in a regular ol'Jewish home, there are things that men do to help all the observance up the remember that a particular day is infact a Jewish Holiday. It also didn't help that come Chanukkah, I had to remind my own parents to send some gifts. Of course the very large boxes of Christmas gifts from Ireland would have already arrived.

It also didn't help that the members of the synagogue, I mean, "Temple" weren't all that interested or aware of most Jewish things either. They weren't even particularly interested in Israel .

When I discovered that Chabad had an outpost about an hour away, I decided it would be fun to try one of their services. So we took off to a Purim service. If you have never been to a Purim service, you may be in for a shock. Purim celebrates the story told in the Book of Esther, when Haman (BOO HISS STOMP YOUR FEET) tried to destroy the Jewish People. Now Haman (BOO HISS STOMP YOUR FEET) was a descendant of Israel's enemy Amalek, who, the Bible says will have his name blotted out because he went after the soft targets, the women and chldren, during the Exodus from Egypt. So when every the name Haman (BOO HISS STOMP YOUR FEET) is read, everyone makes alot of noise. Infact it is a requirement to carry on like this at the Purim service, whenever....... (BOO HISS STOMP YOUR FEET) is said.

So there was my Episcopalian husband, ever the polite gentleman, seated with various swarthy bearded men on the other side of the divider,( remember this is an Orthodox Jewish place), not to mention all the Israeli cab-drivers and what-have-you, amidst all this yelling and shouting.
And then things got really interesting. The Lubavitch trained rabbi instructed us that we were only to shout when "you know who" was refered to by his full family name: Haman Ben Hamedata (Boo know the drill), and not when only his first name was used. This must be a custom of that particular branch of Chasidism.

The Israelis, a rough bunch, were having none of this and proceeded to shout whenever "you know who" was mentioned, and the rabbi would tell them to stop. They in turn, would shout back at the rabbi, "No! That's not how we do it!!" Finally the rabbi gave in and a raucus Purim service was had by all. My husband was in deep shock. Talk back to the man in the pulpit? He had the time of his life.

This led to some interesting incidents. Because the rabbi now had our name and number, and because the Lubavitch exist as "missionaries" to Jews who are unaffiliated, we would get phone calls at all the most unusual times, like.........Easter Sunday, or Christmas morning.

I loved the Lubavitch, and I still think they have had the most wonderful effect on the Jewish community. They are Jews who are not afraid of piety and dvotion, and they also appreciate that it can be alot of fun being Jewish. Unfortunately some of them are reinventing the wheel, and believe the Rebbi is the Messiah, and he's coming back........remember, generally this is not a crowd that is familiar with the movie "King of Kings" so it is an interesting phenomena, n'est pas?

EventuallyI took myself on a retreat for women that was being held in Brooklyn, ground zero for the Lubavitch Chassidim. it was great. We heard Rabbi Manis Friedman, who wrote "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore?,"and other good speakers, and we visited the Rebbe's Tomb. On Saturday night, after the Sabbath, there was some sort of concert, and an elegant Orthodox, Israeli woman approached me.

"My frrriend, over there, he want to know....arre you marrrried?"

She was a Matchmaker!!! I immediately called my husband and told him:

"You just watch your step....there's a guy with a beard down here who wants to make a "shidduch" (a match)

He didn't really need to worry, but I said, my husband loved all the Jewish stuff but it was more of a performance he was enjoying, rather than participating in. After awhile I got tired of being the only Jewish show in town. My kids hated the Sunday School at the Reform Temple, where apparently they colored in the same picture of Moses for weeks on end, or so I was told.
My older daughter had experienced some sort of antisemitism at school, and was trying very hard to avoid anything "officially" Jewish. It broke my heart, but eventually I just got tired.

More on Monday........