I reject the whole “G-d lives in the sanctuary”/“this is the house of G-d” notion when it comes to synagogues and churches and mosques. G-d doesn’t need to fit into some decorated box we create. But the decorated box can do a lot for us. And oh my, all I need to do is walk into the empty sanctuary at shul and inhale through my nose and I’m transported. All at once, I’m one with the hopes and fears and joys and losses and anguish and peace that lingers in this space. And I am reminded that I am not alone.
It’s a little more complex when the sanctuary is full of people, but the underlying message remains: I am here to connect, in Big Ways and little ways, and hopefully, to retain that connection until the next time.
I almost didn’t go to shul yesterday, but a little bird told me that I was missing the point. I was afraid to go lest someone who knows me personally and read my blog last week was upset with me, even though I had no evidence to support that theory. I was afraid to go because experience has taught me that there’s usually a backlash when you take a risk. And the backlash typically isn’t fun.
I was afraid to go, but that wasn’t the point. The point was twofold: 1) it was important for me to show the very support that I’ve claimed is often lacking in our community, and 2) it was important that I reconnect, because without That Connection, and without reconnecting with my family/community, I would continue to feel alone and let down no matter what happened.
I listened. And I went. The bar mitzvah was awesome and I’m really glad I was there. I reconnected on a lot of different levels. And then during announcements at the end of services, the rabbi offered an impromptu and much-appreciated mazal tov both to me and to the illustrator of Like a Maccabee (who was also there) on the publication of the book.
People did come up to me after services and offer congratulations and ask questions. The most amusing question was, “Now that this one’s published, your new novel is next, right? Right? Say yes; I don’t want to wait much longer.”
It was clear from people’s comments that they really did think I’d contributed something to the community by publishing Barbara’s book. It just took this announcement for them to say something to me.
I’m not going to presume to know why the announcement was made now, but I’m glad it was made. Well beyond the literal mazal tov, I think it makes a statement to the congregation that it’s okay to communally celebrate big events in our lives that aren’t necessarily life cycle events. And I think that’s important to hear.