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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Variations on a theme

If the theme is, “a month ago I was…” then we’ll continue the theme tonight, but starting with tonight. Tonight is shabbat, I’m writing on my blog, bad Leah. I went to shul. Summer services typically have light attendance, but this one was pretty good. Our sanctuary is large and it takes a lot of people to physically fill it and even more to fill it with song.

Compare that to a month ago. My first time on the other side of a mechitza in an orthodox shul. The entire synagogue would fit snugly in just our front santuary. The songs filled and rocked the space. Once I let go of “where are we in the book, how can I follow along, shit stand up! STAND UP!” I really enjoyed being there. I watched my companions through the mechitza, I listened to the women’s voices behind me and the men’s voices in front of me. I jealously spied a little girl who still got to sit with her daddy on the men’s side. I want to be over there in the middle of all of the singing.

It felt good to be in a small space so filled with song and shabbes joy. Before we headed to shul, I’d checked my email and had an alert that a friend had died. Tonight I sat with his wife. When the names were read for kaddish, his was off the list. “Oh, I didn’t realize that shloshim was already over. It’s been a month today.” I’d kept her and her family in my prayers that shabbat in Jerusalem and now it’s already been a month.

I hiked up the side of the old city and went to the kotel. In my crocs, thank you very much. I slipped my paperwork into crevices and enjoyed the silence you get at 11PM on Friday night. That is a magical hour for me. When I feel like there is nobody around to deny my Jewishness. I know that the identity issues are all mine, but I feel better when I’m alone with the great stones of the kotel and not in a crowd of women. I feel less separate when I’m alone in emptiness than when I’m alone in a crowd.

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