Friday, March 14, 2008

Can you sense the struggle in my words?

It was suggested that my e-free Shabbats would be easier if I planned out in advance what my plans were. I thought, "Geepers, that's a great idea," and here I am at 1:30 p.m. on a Friday with no clue what the Sabbath will hold for me. I thought, I should make Friday nights my dinner/movie night, since I've removed myself from regular shul attendance (an ordeal and issue all its own that I might touch on in a second). But what about Saturday? The days are getting longer. I can't spend all day napping, and I sure as hell can't spend all day at the tea shop reading. My attention span is that of a toddler. The weather has been outstanding, but it's supposed to drop a major 15-20 degrees over the weekend, so a stroll along the lake isn't completely out of the question, but doesn't sound as appetizing as it would have yesterday or today (where we've topped out in the upper 50s).

What do people DO on Shabbos?

I mean, people who A) Aren't Married or B) Don't Have kids or C) Spend all day at Shul or D) Sleep all Day. There's a lot of hours in a Shabbat day, folks.

I was reading this week's Torah portion last night, and mind you, we've hopped on into Leviticus, that great book of do's and don'ts that bring us into living a life of priests, a holy nation. There was a little spiel on how the book opens in the singular and slowly moves into the plural, and the author draws on this to come to the conclusion that attendance at shul is much like this -- one enters the sanctuary as an individual, but through prayer in community, one transcends to become a part of the larger Jewish community. I read this and felt this momentary rush of utter guilt.

You see (here's where I touch on my absence at shul), I'm just struggling with this idea of the shul as a social circus. The rabbis as bureaucrats. The entire thing as a production. I want organized chaos, not organized organization. I think I'm still struggling with missing my small shul back home, where it was comfortable, close-knit, where the people wanted so very much to be there, where it felt genuine. And ever since I read that book on Conservative Judaism, well, it reminded me of all the things I've always loathed about organized religion, why for so long I was devoutly religious, but in the sense that I believed, and I prayed, and I felt connected, but I didn't need a space or people. But then I think back to how lonely it was.

It's a very confusing, very heartbreaking thing I'm feeling. I'm so strong in my Jewishness, so settled into the ground I stand on, and yet, for some reason, something is just not completely right. So I'm exploring, evaluating, doting on me, to see what it is. To see what will make it better.

I keep telling myself that once I go off to school and have Hillel, it will be much like what I am used to, a small community over Shabbat dinners and services, holiday meals and festivities, something close, something personal.

Indeed, it's frustrating.

So it's now 1:42, and I'm still stuck on my plans. I should have told the Kosher Academic I was going to invade her place tonight, but I know her husband isn't well and I don't want to catch anything with my trips coming up. So maybe I'll just pick a movie, grab a nosh, and then read. I'll force myself out of bed, try to find some way to fill the space, reflective and full of prayer.

I'll get the hang of this Shabbos thing at some point.