Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tugging My Strings

Well before I left for Israel, and well after I got back, I was feeling a void religiously and spiritually. It happens. We all know that it comes in stages. For months we'll feel connected, tied to G-d and the community and our spiritual strings are happily tugged day and night. And then, out of nowhere, one day we realize that the strings are covered in dust and cobwebs and their limpness leaves us feeling empty. Of course the "we" and "us" is really me. The other night I told Tuvia this. I mentioned that I was feeling kind of empty. I realized that I hadn't written about anything religious in some time on the blog (though, I guess to some it might seem like I have). It seemed like everything I had written was pop culture or politics or just general "blah blah blah." It's been a long, long time since I've written a d'var Torah and probably even longer since I sat down and read through the parshah. I used to be on the ball, head-first, my strings were active.

So I was looking forward to shul on Friday. Tuvia and I drove over to the Orthodox shul, arriving a little bit after minchah had started. I remembered to take my transliterated siddur with me, since I'm not so comfortable with the regular Artscroll just yet. Add to this that the shul's siddurim are in much-loved shape, I figure better I batter my own copy rather than their's.  I found my place quickly in the women's section, opened up my siddur, jumped to where we were, and began to daven. The men's section was loaded with men in varied kippahs, some in black hats, some with payess, some with beards, some meandering about. The women's section was empty except for me until another woman showed up next to me. But I was so in the zone the entire service that I missed things going on on the other side, missed any missteps or air bubbles in the service. I read the words with strict devotion, I threaded my tongue around the syllables, hoping to find that passion, to feel the tug of those strings, and it happened. Slowly, but surely.

After the service, we headed over to our Shabbos dinner hosts' house, where we were joined by another couple and a family of five. Overall, there were 13 of us at that Shabbos dinner table, noshing salad and challah and kugel and pie. Conversation flowed from Israel to the local Jewish day schools, from school to Nebraska and Wisconsin. The hospitality was good and Midwestern, which is what I'm used to. The host reminded me so much of the Kosher Academic, which is probably why the entire experience was so comforting and at-ease. I didn't feel like I had to act a certain way or say certain things. It was exactly what I needed to continue the evening. The strings continued to be pulled, I was alive again. With the blessings and the kippah-headed men and the challah and the bensching ... I missed all of these things.

I think I just miss the full Shabbos experience: services, conversation, the meal, the wine and the blessings, the feeling of the evening and the day, the real rest and focus. Luckily, the people at the shul are so kind, so welcoming that we've been invited back for Shabbos dinner and the full-day Shabbos experience.

This week, I'll be here on campus for my first Shabbat at Chabad in weeks. Nay, probably in a month and a half. I'm excited to hook back up with the campus Jewish crew, but I am also disappointed that I won't be making challah and lighting the candles and enjoying Shabbat with Tuvia, but all good things come in time.

Until then, I'm shining my strings and hoping they continue to lead me on and on and on ...