May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Baseball legend Yogi Berra once remarked: “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.” This Yogi-ism accurately describes the scene in synagogue immediately following davening, a wonderful cacophony of quality conversations blaring throughout the sanctuary, lobby, hallways, coatroom and kiddush room. If you seek such conversations during kiddush, you are an “eat and greet” Jew. If you begin a conversation at kiddush and then continue it in the coatroom, then you are more of a “fress and dress” Jew. If you begin a conversation at kiddsuh on Simchas Torah and then continue it while dancing in the middle of an insane hora circle, then you are more of a “nosh and mosh” Jew.

Conversations are an essential element of Jewish life. In fact, one rabbi once noted that “[t]he Talmud is really about the conversation and the conversation never ends.” The same is true of some synagogue conversations; they start at kiddush, continue during lunch, persist at shala shudas and persevere after havdalah.

One difficult aspect of carrying on conversations after shul is learning how to end one chat so that you can move on to the next. This requires sensitivity, finesse and, at times, a certain amount of audacity. Then again, sometimes you have the right to leave a conversation, especially one that is just a little too strange. Here is a hypothetical example of when it is permissible to abandon ship:

Congregant #1: Hey there, how’s it going?

Congregant #2: Well, actually, I’ve had a really difficult week. My mother was diagnosed with guilt-tripitis, my father finished his autobiography titled “Reasons Not to Have Children,” my son overslept and missed his math final because he was up all night studying for his math final, my daughter did not make the volleyball team because her name is Annette and the coach thought it would be too confusing (“Hey, where’s Annette? / The net’s right in front of you. / No, I’m talking about Annette!”), my neighbors somehow convinced a court to grant them an easement right through our kitchen, my in-laws moved in with us simply because they want to annoy us and our cat, Schnitzel, ran away because she heard me use the expression, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Congregant #1: Wow. That is all very weird and terrible.

Congregant #2: I know.

Congregant #1: Well, good luck with all of that. Would you excuse me?

Conversations in shul often have something to do with children. Here is another hypothetical example:

Parent #1: Yitzy started 7th grade today.

Parent #2: That is wonderful.

Parent #1: Yeah, but I just hope it works out this time.

Parent #2: This time?

Parent #1: Yes. He’s already failed 7th grade twice. Let’s hope the third time’s the charm.

Other conversations in shul pertain to the kiddush. Here’s another hypothetical:

Congregant #1: This kiddush is awesome! There are four different kinds of kugel and the chloent has more meat than a butcher’s convention.

Congregant #2: I’m glad you’re enjoying it and by the way, you’re welcome.

Congregant #1: I’m welcome for what?

Congregant #2: I sponsored this kiddush.

Congregant #1: But the shul president announced that the kiddush is sponsored by an anonymous donor.

Congregant #2: Yup. And I’m the anonymous donor.

Congregant #1: Well then, I’m going to keep my “thank you” anonymous too.

Many congregants also enjoy discussing shul politics. Here is an imaginary conversation:

Congregant #1: Did you hear who is running for shul president?

Congregant #2: I heard. That Mordy Kugelwitz has a lot of nerve.

Congregant #1: Why, because he doesn’t work well with others?

Congregant #2: No.

Congregant #1: Because he doesn’t speak clearly?

Congregant #2: No.

Congregant #1: Well then, what is the problem with him running for shul president?

Congregant #2: He’s not a member of this shul.

Congregant #1: That is nervy.

Of course, no synagogue conversation would be complete without mentioning the rabbi’s speech. Imagine this type of exchange:

Congregant #1: How great was the rabbi’s speech today?

Congregant #2: It was o.k.

Congregant #1: It was more than just o.k. It was superb!

Congregant #2: I don’t know how you can say that. The speech was a little light on content, don’t you think? I’m not even sure that the rabbi was fully prepared. I think the entire speech was under five minutes.

Congregant #1: Exactly! That’s what made it so superb.

Final thought: When it comes to “sations,” if you are hanging out in a steam room, it is easier to avoid conversation than condensation.

By Jon Kranz


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