Thursday, August 26, 2004

Remembrance of Services Past

Reading an evocative description of a Kabbalat Shabbat ritual on Zackary Sholem Berger's blog, I found myself with a sudden overwhelming desire to attend Shacharit services, something I have not done since summer camp over twenty years ago. I always loved the simple, uplifting morning service, centered on thanks and appreciation for being alive and for the honor and responsibility of being Jewish. Just as some people feel renewed after their morning jog or workout, I think I would feel more centered, less harried and frazzled, if I started the day by reciting Pesukei D'Zimra - verses of joyful praise - before I plunge headlong into my overflowing email box and flashing phone light. I did a cursory search of the few synagogues in my area and found that, as I expected, there is nothing around that remotely fits my schedule. As it is, I will just barely be able to juggle getting Bee to nursery school and Bug to kindergarten and myself to work somewhere in the general vicinity of 8:30 - I am crazy if I think I can add an entire religious service into the mix!

Even if it was possible, I'm not sure I'd get exactly what I am looking for, sitting in a cavernous sanctuary muttering along with an ancient crew of dedicated daily minyaners. When it comes right down to it, what I really want is to go to camp again. I want to wake up, pull on a pair of shorts, and join my friends singing Or Chadash - Shine a New Light - on makeshift log pews under a canopy of trees while the day's sunlight starts to creep over the hills, just like we did each morning at Ramah. Granted, we were teenagers - we griped and complained and devised ingenious ways to try to ditch services - but I suspect that I wasn't the only one who secretly loved that quiet time of reflection before we tumbled into the thunderous dining hall for breakfast and a day filled with swimming and knotting lanyards and and fierce games of gaga and Capture the Flag.

Just thinking about it reminds me that it has been so long since I have been to a service that has inspired any kind of emotion whatsoever. Sure, there's Rock and Roll Shabbat, but as much as I love all the frenzied dancing and singing and clapping to the band, it isn't really the same thing. As fun as it is, the service is just too clamorous to be conducive to any sort of spiritual contemplation.

I started to wonder if my warm memories of communal services at camp had more to do with the fact that it was a younger, more carefree time. Certainly it is harder for me to even follow the service nowadays, since I am simultaneously attempting to push nagging worries about work out of my mind while trying to keep my two toddlers from destroying the sanctuary. Maybe I am just not capable of reaching that part of myself anymore.

But then I remember a couple of years ago on a warm night in September, when our shul had a service outdoors in the Sukkah . Singing along to the guitar and gazing at the full moon through the hanging fruit and shrubbery, I felt peaceful and uplifted . . . so I know it is possible. I just wish I happened more frequently than every few years.


Post a Comment

<< Home