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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Why go to temple?

Why go to temple on Friday night? I could be out with my friends. Whooping it up. I could go on Saturday morning. Or I could tell myself> “I’ll go on Saturday morning,” and then be too tired and not go and say, “I’ll go next week.”

Earlier tonight I felt a heavy weight and just wanted to stay home and cry. I forced myself to change into nicer clothes and go to temple. On my way there, I called a friend who I go with most weeks. She said she didn’t feel like going either, should we skip. I told her that I was already on my way and was hoping it would cure what ailed me. Not that I knew what the problem was, just that I was sad. She agreed and we both went to temple.

I got there super early, mainly because I couldn’t stand to be at home any longer. I wandered around the temple and got a seat in my usual area. Another woman I am coming to know sat next to me. Later I learned that I was sitting in she and her husband’s chairs. Literally–the plaques on the back bear their names. Every seat has a benefactor at temple.

This is when I start to feel better every week. Talking to the other women at temple. While it is reform and men and women sit together, I often find myself in the middle of a pack of women on the left side of the sanctuary. People are getting used to my face and now include me in conversations and we know what is going on with each other. This is the community I was looking for.

Then we start–always with a ningun–a song without words. It is the first seperation from the work week into shabbat. There are only two or three ninguns we sing, so I’ve learned them. Often the Rabbi gives us shit for not singing loud enough, so we sing the songs twice.

This was my first service officially knowing the entire hebrew alphabet. It was exhilarating and frustrating. I was able to follow along with the prayers, but not able to read and speak fast enough to stay with the congregation. I’ve heard a rumor that in orthodox shuls people go at their own pace, so maybe I would do better there.

Again, I kept feeling tears welling up. Now it is more about being comforted and peaceful and not the angst I felt before I got to temple. I finally cried during the benediction after our final song. Rabbi Schaalman lead a prayer for Pope John Paul. It was a lovely prayer, never mentioning him by name, but by deed. And praying that he pass peacefully into the unknown.

Perhaps the energy I felt before temple, where the prayers of all the Catholics in the city for the Pope. The great sadness that is going to envelope the catholic community and indeed, the world. He is one of the most important world leaders of our time. He has done a lot for the jews and for all people. Considering the energy bomb that was the election, I’m quite certain this was part of how I felt.

After we left temple, we walked by my new building and to the Berwyn stop of the red line. After I got off at Lawrence, I decided to walk home. You are supposed to walk to and from temple, so why not try it? I was wondering why certain people come into our lives. I have friends who are in my life, it seems, to dish out wonderful advice, but never need any in return. I wonder about those relationships, because I don’t feel I have much to offer in a few cases. I am always on the receiving end of blessings from them.

When I got to the Don Quixote on the corner of Clark and Lawrence, I ran into a customer of mine. We walked and talked until we got to Ashland. She is someone whom I encouraged to join Weight Watchers. She did and has since lost 20 pounds. She said that people are starting to notice and she has been able to give away her largest outfits.

I felt like it was a little something from God. “See,” god said, “Here is someone who took your advice. You made a difference here. Take the advice your given and quit asking so many questions about why it is given.”

Thank God It’s Friday.

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