The First Time I Went to a Synagogue

I checked my outfit 3 different times, changing clothes and kept pestering the kids to get them ready.  Mr. Safek nervously tied his tie.  It had been a little while since he’d gone to the Synagogue.  I didn’t understand his apprehension.  After all, I’d heard it was a holiday party.  This should be fun, right?!

“What holiday is it that they’re celebrating?” I asked between swipes at my son’s face with a wipe.

“Shavuos,” he answered, retying his tie for the third time, frowning into the mirror.

“What is that anyway?”  I asked, having no idea.  He mumbled some response that probably was really helpful, but I was too distracted.

We walked through the sticky heat of what was already summer in Jacksonville, Florida, to the nearby Chabad house.  It was small, mostly there for the college students nearby, but there was a young, friendly, energetic Rabbi my daughter immediately nicknamed “Rabbi Smoothie” because she had trouble pronouncing his last name and she really thought he was the coolest.  We didn’t yet know about Mr. Safek’s safek-ness.  At that point, for all any of us knew, he was Jewish.  I swelled with pride when he got an aliyah, even as I struggled with the Hebrew letters in the Siddur.  The kids played with other kids.  I listened to the story of the giving of the Torah and dreamed that maybe, just maybe, one day we could belong here, all of us.

Shavuos was the first Jewish holiday we celebrated, all those years ago, before all the twists and turns.  I already knew then I really wanted to convert and for us to be a Jewish family, but that’s really about all I knew.  I came to our Chabad house wide-eyed, like a child.

I feel like, this year, I have been able to regain some of that childlike wonder and joy that I had lost somehow along the way.  As I pick through my recipes, looking for what will survive in the RV over the Yom Tov, I’m able to find that same freshness and enthusiasm again.  I’d lost that in all the tears and disappointments.  My relationship with Judaism had become one more of duty and commitment and less one of joy and love, like a pendulum that had needed to swing more in that direction, but had swung too far.

Each Shavuos we receive a gift of the Torah anew.  This Shavuos, I really do feel like I’m receiving it again and looking at it with fresh eyes again.  That is a HUGE gift!


4 thoughts on “The First Time I Went to a Synagogue

  1. Usually I read your articles when I get them by email and this time I felt I had to comment to say shekoyach! Really enjoyed this. Remind me why you won’t be spending it in shul this year?

    PS you and I need to talk about Chabad some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment! Yes we DO need to talk Chabad sometime!

      We will be in shul. We’ll be there both days and staying in the Shabbat RV in the shul parking lot. Unfortunately, I’m still working out the power issues with using a crock pot or plata in the RV over Shabbos or Yom Tov, so I have to be creative with foods.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So far, I think we’ve been about a month now staying in the RV on Shabbos. It’s not quite the same as being at home and we’re still figuring out how to handle things without breaking halakhah, but it’s enabled us to observe Shabbos and it’s been wonderful.

        It’s interesting how little things you don’t think about when you’re in a house suddenly become issues. For example, we can’t run the water pump on Shabbos because we don’t have the correct power hook up and fear draining the batteries. I never knew how much power a crockpot actually draws until we did this.

        Basically, it’s a lot like camping every Shabbos, but we’re still so thankful that our Chabad house allows this and it’s an option for us!


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