May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I don’t think we go to shul just to daven.

It’s just a theory. I’m not a rabbi, so take everything I say with a grain of salt, unless you’re reading this during the Yomim Nora’im, when you can take it with a grain of honey.

Look at the typical morning. You come into shul, and after fighting past the guy who’s using the bookshelf as a shtender, you turn around and realize that someone’s in your makom kavua. So you sit somewhere else. No big deal. I don’t personally believe that my improvement in kavana in a makom kavua is better than the guy who actually came on time to shul. Yes, there is a concept of makom kavua, which we learn from Avraham Avinu, but Avraham Avinu was the only Jew at the time, so he never had to kick anyone out of his seat.

But then, after a while, someone else shows up and finds you in his seat. So he decides to handle it using the internationally recognized method of putting his stuff down in front of you and coughing a lot.

What are you supposed to say to him? I guess you can wordlessly hold your ground and specifically not get the message no matter how many things the guy piles in your place. But not if the guy has a tabletop shtender. How come he gets to save a seat no matter what time he comes just because he stores a shtender on the table?

Somebody did that to me last week. So what was I supposed to do? Hand him the shtender? Let him walk around the crowded shul with a 25-lb. shtender trying to find a place to sit between the two guys shukkeling sideways and slamming shoulders? So I moved. But the only place to sit at that point—because he couldn’t drag himself out of bed to kick me out earlier—was a chair that was parked in front of the bookcase. So I came full circle.

Not that there are that many great seats. You can sit next to the guy who davens too loudly. And it’s not the whole davening—he just yells out random parts. And not always in line with what everyone else is saying.

And these are guys who always refuse to daven for the amud. Yet they have to keep announcing what they’re up to. Or that they remembered Ya’aleh V’yavo.

And speaking of noise, don’t forget about the kids. They won’t let you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Bringing kids to shul is great chinuch and also adorable if they know how to be quiet and shukkel in front of a page of alef-beis. But some kids just walk into shul and cry.

Do you mind? I’m trying to cry to Hashem. How difficult is your life right now, rolling into shul two hours late with your homemade pekeleh and your picture books?

“I got the wrong color lolly.”

It’s Yom Kippur. Be happy you got any lolly. I’m sitting here with besamim. And it’s not even the kind I like.

Not that we prefer the kids who show up, get candy and leave. The candy is so you can sit quietly in shul. Not so you can traipse in with each of your friends.

“I have a little sister at home. Can she have one?”

“No. Tell your mommy to buy lollies for her. They’re not that expensive.”

And then there are the temperature-control fights between the people who want the window open for air and the people who want it closed because they’re cold.

“Then why do you sit near the window?”

“So I can close it.”

“Well, put on a tallis!”

And I’m sure there are annoyances in the ezras nashim too. I don’t really know them. I know it starts with having to kick the men out when you first get there.

I’ve heard women complain about this. But this is not really different from kicking someone out of your makom kavua. And the men will get out. They won’t challenge it. But I guess it’s still annoying to have to do that. The men never have to do it when they first come to shul.

“Hey, why is the men’s section full of women?”

“What? It’s roomier!”

Of course, the noises are annoying for women too, especially when they can’t hear the chazan. And that guy yelling out random parts of davening? They have no idea he’s not the chazan.

And don’t forget the men who shmooze in the back of the shul—or at least they think it’s the back of the shul. It’s right in front of the women. Though my advice for that one is that the women should just keep pekelach on hand from previous simchas that they can throw at the men. Unless you think that’s rewarding them for their behavior. But candy does keep most kids quiet.

So women have reasons to be annoyed too, but they typically go once a week. Men go 14-21 times a week. But in case women are jealous that we get to go off to shul and have you fight with the kids in the morning—just so you know, we’re fighting too. All we want to do is daven, but all these annoying people are in the way.

On the other hand, that seems to be the whole point. The point of going to shul is to daven with at least nine other people and their various annoying personality traits. You have siddurim at home. Maybe the point of davening together is an achdus thing—learning to get along in service of the greater good. Because you know where people don’t kick you out of your makom kavua? At home.

Unless you daven at the same time as your wife.

By Mordechai Schmutter

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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