Saturday, February 6, 2010

Last Night on Shabbat

By Susan Esther Barnes

Usually, as soon as Friday night services start, Jose clears away the trays, cups, and other items from the pre-oneg. But last night more people came than we expected, and with extra chairs to set up, and prayer books to find and hand out, and dinner to get ready next door, it didn’t happen.

By the time I noticed the leftovers were still out, the service was half over. I began to clear away the plates, but as I went back for a second load I realized that despite the fact it is early February, with so many people packed into the synagogue, it was too hot and stuffy inside. In ones and twos, people were getting up and helping themselves to the water that was still left out. I thought to myself, “Oh, that must be why none of us thought to clean that up earlier; people need it now.” It felt like it was no coincidence.

Then I began to wonder whether there was enough water left, so I walked over to check. Standing there was a woman who had lost her father last week. “I can’t be in there right now,” she said, motioning toward the sanctuary, “I don’t feel part of the joyous mood.” We talked a bit about how, since she had been sitting shiva, this was the first time she had been past her own driveway this week, and about how when someone close to you dies it seems that your world stops but somehow the rest of the world keeps going, and it’s hard to get back in synch with everyone else.

I asked her whether she was planning to go to the dinner after services. She said no. Instead, she planned to gather her family around her, and read aloud to them from the condolence notes and cards she had received over the past week. She explained that her family had seen who had come to pray with them as they sat shiva, and she wanted them to understand that support comes in other ways as well. It felt right.

While I was helping to clean up after dinner, I happened to stop to chat with a woman and her family. I had never met these people before. It turns out the woman was visiting from Maryland, and was going to have surgery here soon. I asked her daughter-in-law whether she had notified the synagogue about it. She said no, because “she’s just visiting.” I told her, “Perhaps, but you’re related. And you’re not just visiting.” She gave me permission to let the synagogue know, and she looked grateful that someone would think of doing that. It felt like my stopping to chat with that particular family was no coincidence.

After dinner, I went to Shabbat Unplugged, where a group of us sang with Dan Nichols. At one point, he revealed that two weeks earlier he had sung at a memorial service for a 17-year-old boy who had died. He said after the service the boy’s mother told him the service was both beautiful and horrible, and he was trying to figure out how to process that. After we sang a bit more, he told us that singing with us was helping him to heal. It felt right; it was a holy moment.

On the way home, I thought about a man I know named Angel who often says he believes the universe is unfolding the way it’s supposed to. I certainly felt that way last night. Not that it’s a surprise. It was, after all, Shabbat.

No comments:

Post a Comment