Friday, June 15, 2012

Growing Up

Mrs. Yid and I have decided to join Beth Elderly! (I'm still trying to figure out a better name for them, but for now, it is what it is). I sent the shul admin guy an email saying "after five years, it's time to make it official."

As part of this making things official business, we decided to finally attend a Saturday morning service. It was fine, maybe not as fun as Friday night, but nice. Lots of people were out of town for a shul event so we definitely stood out, but we got lots of encouraging smiles from the regulars. One fun (?) moment came when the shammes handed me an aliyah card. I had about fifteen minutes to totally overthink things and decuple-check the transliteration of the blessing in my siddur, and was feeling fine as I went up to the bimah. I have done aliyot before at a few cousins' Bar Mitzvahs, so I wasn't exactly going in blind.

And yet, as soon as I was up there, I became a stumbling boob. It was as though I'd never read transliterated Hebrew before (granted, it was written old-school Ashkenazi style, but still-- I've seen that before). I think it might have been a little stage fright (which also never happens to me, but go figure). I stumbled through the blessing, stood around awkwardly during the reading, and then tried to run away as soon as I could (the cantor ordered me back up for the rest of the reading, go team!) When they finally let me slink away, everyone on the bimah shook my hand and the shammes said, "See, you got through it!" Technically, I suppose.

Telling the rabbi about it the next weekend at Young Guard Havdalah, I said, "You know that part in Judges where 'the spirit of the Lord entered into Samson'? It was like the opposite of that."

Still, I think this was healthy. For a long time I've had low-to-mid-level anxiety about wanting to appear like I know what I'm doing. For better or worse, when people see my beard, my hat, and Mrs. Yid's scarves (and lack of pants), they make some assumptions about our knowledge or observance level, and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed to admit how little I know. It's important to me to not only be Jewishly literate and competent, but also to not feel like I'm somehow putting people on by wearing a frumish costume or something when I can't even read Hebrew. While I know eventually I really just need to get over the embarrassment/anxiety factor, I think part of what's going on here is also that it's hard to do things out of your comfort zone. It's hard to admit you don't know as much as other people. It's hard to acknowledge your own shortcomings. But that's also how you grow. So, while we may not go every week, I think I'll be sticking with Saturday services. I'll even go up for another aliyah when they ask.

Which I hope will not be for a while.


Antigonos said...

You can't read Hebrew? Lissen, if my mother managed to conquer the aleph-bet at age 70 ( she wanted to read her grandson's name), you can too!

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

I'm working on it (I've gotten halfway decent sight-reading names, since I need to read tombstones for genealogy purposes). It's one of my goals for the summer. And given that so far I have no summer jobs lined up, I'm optimistic I may actually get somewhere with it.