When I walked into shul this past Shabbat, I noticed right off that there was going to be a Bar Mitzvah. You could tell that the family were not "regulars" at the shul by the way they were dressed. The women were rightfully proud of their boy. All of the women huddled up by the mechitzah (partition separating men and women). Except for Savta, who quietly sat a few rows behind, watching the spectacle. Eventually someone noticed that Savta was sitting away from the group and went over to her to get her to come up front. In true Jewish Mother fashion, Savta insisted she was fine sitting where she was ("It's not so important I should see my grandson being called to the Torah"). Only when sixteen different women cajoled her did she sigh heavily and agree to take the prime seat....The women then proceeded to try to kill their men and boys by throwing hard candies every time someone moved. Isaac got beaned several times, and he has no padding on the top of his head, if you catch my drift. Still, the Bar Mitzvah boy did a great job, there was a nice Kiddush and a good time was had by all.
Which brings me to the subject of going to shul on Shabbat here in Israel.
In America, I usually went to shul on Shabbat. Actually, I intended to go to shul--I would mostly stop in for a cup of coffee at my friend Chedva, who lived across the street from the shul. I ended up meeting Isaac (none-to-pleased) at the end of davening. But still I was an active part of the shul--involved in the sisterhood and in shul committees. I knew most members of the shul, whether they were my peers, or older or younger than me. We also had a fairly close relationship with the Rabbi and his Rebbetzin. It was a real "community" feeling and I loved it.
In our neighborhood there are several minyanim. Isaac immediately decided he liked the minyan at the Yeshiva and started going there. Of course this is the minyan farthest from our home and up a mountain, lots of fun in desert heat. There is another minyan here, much closer to home (and no hills!), called the Ashkenazi Minyan, but really called the American Minyan. And you know why. It's a very nice minyan, and we know many people there. But Isaac doesn't want to daven in the same type of shul he davened in back in the states. He likes the Rav there and goes on Friday night, but he doesn't want it to be his regular place.
So the Yeshiva it is. I had not gone since the chagim (yes the one's in September). I didn't know anyone there and felt uncomfortable. It's extremely noisy. But I've recently begun to feel that if I never go, I'll never get to know anyone there. I need to see and be seen. For several weeks now, I've been going. People are starting to look familiar, and I discovered that I do know some people who attend. I even realized that my neighbor attends this minyan, and she offered to pick me up this week so we could climb the mountain together.
I was delighted to get to shul early enough to hear the Parsha (in Israel shul is over by 10:30 so this is a real accomplishment). Parshat Shelach is my favorite parsha, because it is the Parsha of the Meraglim (spies) who are sent on a reconnaissance mission and come back saying negative things about Eretz Yisrael. But Yehoshua Ben Nun and Calev Ben Yefuna defend the land saying, טובה הארץ מאד מאד , (the land is very, very good). I try to live by those words.
Try, but sometimes it's hard.
Many people here are so cynical and negative, even the ones who live here, who chose to live here. It scares me and creates self-doubt in me. I am sorry to say I am guilty (of being cynical and negative) myself. But I know that the spies committed a tremendous sin by speaking ill of G-d's land, and because of their sin, the Jewish people continued to wander the desert for forty years, and that generation did not merit crossing over to the land of Israel. It is hard to live here--for many, many reasons. But I try to remember, and this parsha reminds us, that the land is "very, very good". It is G-d given, and somehow I have to make it work in spite of all the obstacles...
Don't forget to check out this week's edition of HAVEIL HAVALIM, over at Soccer Dad. Many good links worth reading.