Monday, May 16, 2011

It's a mitzvah! Praying, partying at Etz Chaim

The lovely Miss Wendy and I pulled into the parking lot at Etz Chaim Sunday evening and immediately realized something big was afoot. We were going to minyon and everyone else we spotted – all gussied up and prepared to party – was attending the synagogue’s annual Gala.

While the party goers filed into the front foyer and made their way to the social hall, Miss Wendy and I managed to sneak in the back door and into the chapel. The good news is we only bumped into a few folks headed to the party. The not so good news is there was only one other person in the chapel and it didn’t look like we’d come close to getting a quorum for services – Jewish law requires the presence of 10 Jews to recite certain prayers.

Turns out the few folks we saw grabbed a few other synagogue members and joined us for evening prayers. Several of us were saying Kaddish and without their help we wouldn’t have been able to say the memorial prayer for the dead.

Mensch is the Yiddish word that I’d use to describe the men and women who momentarily put aside their evening’s plans to help us hold a minyon. In the overall scheme of things it was a small effort but said much about my faith community.

Several years ago I was in Israel on a trip sponsored by the Jewish Federation here in the Land of Cotton. It so happened that on the day we were traveling to Jerusalem it was my father’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of his death, and I wanted to say Kaddish. Although several rabbis on the trip said there’d be little problem in coming up with a minyon, we were short of the required number.

After standing about for a few minutes and managing to pull in a few extra folks on their way to breakfast, we were still one person short. Then a couple passed by and the rabbi described our problem. The bulk of the service had been finished and we only needed the man to step inside our makeshift chapel for a few minutes so we’d hit the magic number and I could recite Kaddish.

It looked like all was good to go when the man’s wife started, ah, wining that they were going to be late for their morning coffee. The man was stunned. I was stunned. The rabbi was stunned. After a little chat between husband and wife, the man joined us while the missus sulked in the hallway. It only took me a minute or two to say the prayer and we all then joined the rest of our group at breakfast. In the overall scheme of things it was a small incident but said much about the temporary faith community I had become part of for a few days in Israel.

Sometimes we take for granted our blessings and all that we have. Sunday’s minyon was a nice reminder that Miss Wendy and I stumbled onto a wonderful community and special group of people years ago.

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