Friday, July 20, 2012

Reduced joy at davening this morning

Two rules I've tried to follow in this blog is not mentioning the names of specific individuals and not complaining too much about shul (synagogue services).  The two shuls I attend are supportive, generally welcoming and open-minded and have excellent rabbinic staffs.

But today's morning service didn't work for me.  It's Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month of Av.  Davening on Rosh Chodesh is almost twice as long as regular Friday prayers.  First, the person sitting directly in front of me was shuckling (shifting back and forth) at such a frenetic pace that I couldn't concentrate.  (I wasn't leading prayers as Rosh Chodesh has an element of joy and so mourners do not lead prayers.)  Shuckling is a usual physical activity that accompanies prayer.  (I've noticed it's more common among men than women.)  I do it, usually moving slowly from side to side.  It's a sign of concentration and engagement with one's prayers.  But this person's shuckling was so drastic that I couldn't concentrate on my own prayers--and we were only up to the preliminary service.  So I got up and stood in the back.  I moved to a different seat and sat down, but the person seated in front of me was reciting all his prayers out loud, again throwing off my concentration.  I stood again and prayed in the back.  Then a child who was helping collect tzedekah (charity) during the repetition of the silent prayer dropped the Pushka (charity box), spilling the coins therein.

I just couldn't wait to say my kaddishes at the end and leave.  As services concluded, I said my two Mourner's Kaddishes.  Only the Rabbi's Kaddish remained, following the Rabbi's (usually) brief D'var Halacha (words of Torah law).  But today the rabbi spoke at length about the laws attendant to the days leading up to Tisha B'av.  Tisha B'av, the Ninth of Av (this year commemorated on the tenth of Av since the ninth falls out on Shabbat) is a day of public mourning for tragic events in Jewish History.  The tradition is that from the first of Av through Tisha B'av, joy is reduced.  The rabbi said that this implied that one's general attitude should be one of joy (how can you reduce joy if you are not joyful?).  Is that right?  I have much to be grateful for, but am I usually joyous?  Not really.  I certainly wasn't this morning.  Maybe that was the point.

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