One would think Shabbat would be a simple thing. That would be someone like me, who hasn’t a clue. I got that we would be walking to Synagogue, as no mass transport till after sundown. I got we wouldn’t be cooking, I even got that I wouldn’t be checking email or surfing the net. I didn’t know we wouldn’t be turning lights on and off. Oops, I think I only slipped twice. I think. I really, really wanted to try to do things the right way. I wanted to respect the house I was in. And Deb was patient and kind with my many questions about things I don’t know but want to, and things I don’t understand, but want to.
We got up, and got ready which mercifully for me, and those around me did include coffee. Although Maya thought it wasnt’ a “hat place” meaning we wouldn’t need to cover our heads, Deb wisely chose two beautiful scarves for us to take. Her’s was perfect for her outfit, and mine was for my outfit. Which isn’t totally shocking since I was wearing her blouse. I never did have an older sister to bum clothes off of, so this was very cool for me. We set off at a comfortable walking pace and followed the directions we had been given and reached the Synagogue in good time. It was a lovely day for a walk! We got to the Synagogue and then was a bit stymied. WHERE do we go in? A gentleman walked in ahead of us, we thought, well, maybe we get to the women’s section through the men’s. We didn’t see any other door ways. We followed him in and within 2 seconds realized nope, it isn’t. We were really quick on the uptake on that one! We knew we weren’t in the right place. I don’t speak a lot of Hebrew, but sometimes it’s just knowing the right Hebrew to speak. Having sized up the situation I walked up to the gentleman we had followed in, “Sleaha, afoe?” “Excuse me, where?” Like I said, sometimes just the right two words. He was very kind, no doubt he was a bit late getting to his seat, but we followed him and he showed us the entrance to the Women’s section which was through the courtyard.
We walked in and realized the second thing, it IS a “hat place”. We whipped out our scarves and had them on in 2 seconds flat. The only other lady there was perhaps a bit older than us and we took seats behind her. The service was all in Hebrew, of course. Deb had her Siddur, which is in English, Hebrew AND best of all to me, transliterated! Transliterated for me is the Hebrew “Hooked on Phonics”. I adore transliteration. Some who actually do read and write Hebrew well are very patient with my transliteration, which is at times, wrong, and quite wrong. Others are more of the mind they hate transliteration and would I please just get on with learning to read and write. Told you I am still a doofus about it. But I am getting there. So as the service is being conducted I just kind of follow along with what Deb and the other lady do. Now here is when it gets really interesting to me. This lady doesn’t know us, at all. She must have heard Deb rustling the pages looking for the place in the book where we should be. She holds HER book up over her RIGHT shoulder but still in front of herself. So she can still read it, but the person sitting behind her, on her right could see the correct place in the book. All of our bad luck the person on her right is me. HER Siddur is ALL in Hebrew, and I haven’t a clue, Deb is still flipping through hers looking for the correct place, I don’t want to say anything it case it’s really wrong to talk in service. And so I sit there and just appreciate what a kind, very kind woman this is.
That’s not where her kindness ends. After a bit they switch to another book, the Chumash. She gets up, goes to a bookcase at the back of the room, finds two copies of the Chumash, opens each of them to the CORRECT place and hands us each one. So we too, can be a part of the service. I wish I could say I could read enough to kind of keep up. I can’t, and so couldn’t. But while Deb is pacing along being a part of, I’ve kidnapped her Siddur and am going through it. WOW, I am just blown away! This is the first time I’ve ever just gone through it, all on my own, flipping pages and actually READING it. I see that if one wants to learn to read, THIS would be the most fabulous book! The Hebrew has vowels in it. Adults don’t need vowels in their Hebrew to read, they know what the word is. Children and beginning readers need vowels. I need them so I can sound the word out. Which is why I love transliteration. But it also has what it says in English, and it’s beautiful. I am totally in love with this book. Deb and I have had a conversation about symbols that Christians tend to co-opt from Judaism. Ok, I get that. And I understand and will respect most of it. But this book, I want a copy of this book so much I’m willing to really argue, hard, as though I were looking for a Centurion tank hard. Mercifully, probably for both of us, that is not necessary. At all. It’s totally fine! I get the ISBN number off hers and after sunset get on Amazon.com, find it and email myself the link so I can order it when I get home. Within 24 hours of being home that book is on it’s way to me. And I do love it, as much as I thought I would. I haven’t actually got to the reading part yet. When it came I discovered there are explanations of prayers, history and all kinds of good information in the front, in English. I decide I want to know that too, so am almost done reading that and ready to start the prayer book part.
So, back to the service. We finish the service, and towards the end more women show up, they are dressed fancier than the three of us. It seems there is a Bar Mitzvah taking place after the service. We don’t stay for that part.
As we get ready to leave, I walk up and crouch down next to the kind lady, and tell her “toda raba”. Sometimes it’s not that you know a lot of words, just knowing two right ones can be enough I think. I really did enjoy going and was glad again, I listened to the advice of my “force of nature” friend.
We have a wonderful walk back to the apartment and when we get back Deb takes my picture. She asks if I want to hold her Siddur. BETACH!! בטח
We have a light lunch, and then I can either write in my book, read a book, or we can visit. It’s Deb’s poor luck we start to visit. For five or six hours. One would think after that she would be falling off asleep. Nope, when we are done, I curl up in a ball and am dead to the world. I wake up shortly before sunset. Deb has used the time productively and written in her book. I’ve added not one word to mine.
After sunset we eat a little, make a cup of coffee each and now cell phone use is allowed and I go outside to my palm tree to make a few phone calls and return the text messages that have come in. Didn’t tell folks ahead of time I wouldn’t be returning texts on Shabbat.
After sunset we hop on a bus to Glida Beer Sheva, the most fabulous ice cream parlor. The bus ride was fun, the walk was fun, the ice cream parlor was fabulous fun. To my great astonishment they don’t have pomegranate ice cream! THAT was what I wanted. Luckily for me, they did have mocha and coffee ice creams. Oh my goodness that was fun! We passed a store where Deb is getting a beautiful dress. All the dresses in the window were beautiful!
It was a wonderful Shabbat for me, Deb survived it, this was good. I have a new Siddur, that although it is in Ashkenazi and I speak Sephardic Hebrew it’s ok. Deb told me some of the differences, and if I get in a spot I have people I can ask for help. For a day when you don’t do much, it sure was full! And full of grace.