Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Becoming an adult Jew

I'm in Tel Aviv for a few days and the first thing I thought about was where the nearest shul was. Fortunately, even in this so-called godless city, there are more than enough shuls, and, I might add, kosher dining places, nearby. Yesterday I went to a shul for the evening services around the corner from where I'm staying. It turned out that, because of "shiputzim" (repairs), there were no morning services. (The building was built in 1931 we were told.) I asked someone about finding another shul. Before answering, he wanted to know what nusach (style of prayer) I used, as this would determine which shul I'd feel more at home in. He told us of a Nusach Ashkenaz shul nearby, and while I couldn't quite follow his directions ("yashar, yashar", i.e., "straight, straight"), through Google I confirmed its exact location.

This morning I found it. Once again, after I said the first kaddish, a man approach me and asked me if I wanted to daven from the Amud (lead prayers). My policy is not to volunteer to lead prayers, but not to refuse, or, phrased in the positive, to accept the honor, when asked. And so once again I led prayers in an unfamiliar place.

There's something about the mourning process that makes you feel grown up. First, you have to get up early every morning--no sleeping in, even when your on vacation. This morning I awoke at 6:15 to make sure I got to the 7:00 minyan on time. I've always associated getting up early with being a responsible adult. Second, you have to start your day doing something serious, going to synagogue.

Third, I now feel that I can go to any shul and lead the prayers. The prayer book for the prayer leader I used today did not have markings to indicate where the prayer leader jumps in at the various points during the service. But by now I've done it so many times I can figure it out. I'm now able to represent the community, any community (at least if it uses Nusach Ashkenaz) in prayer. I know the service well enough now to adjust to differences in the service than what I'm used to. (They add Morid Ha'tal in the Amidah and Ayn Kelohaynu and Borchu at the end.)

In this respect, the mourning process is like a course in accepting communal responsibility. I've learned a lot, and I'm getting closer to graduating.

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