The importance of community

I don’t think of myself as the most social of people.  I have difficulty dealing with crowds of people I don’t know.  I hate showing up at a party where I don’t know anyone, and trying to get into conversation with people.  When I do end up at big crowded parties, I am most comfortable finding someone that I already know, and attaching myself to them.

Last week was rough for me – I had a car accident, and a few other things happened that shook my confidence.  So, I was really happy when I got invited to Friday night Shabbat dinner (that’s redundant, I know) with good friends that I know are on my side.  I had the boys with me, and we were going to be going where there are no other kids.   They protested – there won’t be any other kids there!  I suggested that they bring games or toys.  They didn’t.

We arrived, and the boys hung out together in the den for awhile.  Not sure what they were doing (I do know it involved their tablets, so probably YouTube, or video games), but I was happy they were quiet and i was having a chance to converse with the adults.  The composition of the dinner party was three couples, and me and my boys.  The three couples have known each other for decades, and I’m the new-comer to the group.  I am mostly friends with the wives, but I am fond of all the husbands as well.  As a relatively newly separated single woman, in company with people who know my estranged husband, and we used to socialize with them as a couple, there was a certain bittersweet taste to the evening for me, but, I really enjoyed sharing the evening with them.

When we sat down to dinner, the boys were quite good.  They behaved reasonably well, and enjoyed the meal.  At one point, JJ was nearly melting down, and my friend Shelly sang a song with him, with hand gestures, that got him focused, and engaged, and I was deeply grateful to her.

We drove home to Baltimore, and we knew we were going to Shabbat services at Beth Am Congregation early, because older brother S had a baseball tournament game scheduled at around noon.  My plan was to get there early for the Shacharit service (morning service), and stay for most of the Torah service, and then cut out to get to the game field.  I forgot that this past weekend was Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the New Moon, so the early service included Hallel, the recitation of psalms that celebrates every festival (and extends the length of the service).  I love Hallel, and I was so pleased to be there for it.

The Gabbai Gadol, the service coordinator, asked me to serve as Gabbai A (or B, i’m not really sure how it works at Beth Am), which meant that I was to stand at the reading table during the chanting of the Torah, and make sure that the reader pronounces each word correctly.  I told her I need to leave at 11:15am, to get S to his baseball game, and we both agreed that that should be fine.  But, there were a whole bunch of simchas (celebrations) that morning!!  There was a group of folks traveling to Israel, who warranted a special blessing.  The rabbi and his wife (another rabbi), were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary, and that warranted another blessing.  There was a lovely couple celebrating their 65th (??) anniversary, and they received a blessing.  There was a lovely couple who were there for their Auf Ruf – being called to the Torah before their wedding – and they were so clearly delighted with one another.  The best part of that celebration is that I know the mother of the groom, and she was clearly so happy with the day. And I was really happy to be there, in the middle of a community that had welcomed me for the past year, and where I have found friendship and support. 

It was getting late, and S was clearly worried about getting to his game on time. So I managed to find someone to step into my role as gabbai, and we headed out to the game. The rest of the weekend centered around the baseball tournament. I divided my time between reading a Rick Riordan book to JJ and sitting with the team parents cheering our boys. Saturday night, the boys and I went to the little sushi place across from my former apartment in Federal Hill, Kiku Sushi, and the proprieter/chef recognized us. We sat at the bar for the first time, and the boys loved watching him prepare our food. JJ got really excited to see his avocado only sushi, which he very reluctantly shared with S and me.