Posted on: December 26, 2010
It’s true. I ordered Chinese food on Christmas afternoon. The original plan was to make some eggs and enjoy a mimosa while watching endless episodes of The L Word on Netflix. I opened Mirs’ fridge to find that she was out of eggs and anything else with which to make brunch and instead opted for the “traditional” Jewish Christmas meal-Chinese food. The food came within 30 minutes of ordering and was pretty sub par but, it got the job done. I spent the majority of the afternoon on Mirs’ couch and the later part of the day on my friend’s couch watching the NBA marathon on ABC. I have to be honest, it was a pretty okay day.
I think that if I were at my parents house with my mother’s three Christmas trees and the presents and the big dinner that I would’ve felt more nostalgic. Instead, it felt like any other Saturday. I worked the night before and enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner with friends before going to bed. I didn’t get to light my Shabbat candles, by the time I made it home it was 11PM. I’m not sure how comfortable it would’ve made me or how odd it might have felt to light them on Christmas Eve but I can honestly say that I felt OK. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t depressed. I was OK.
I’ve been reading a really remarkable and inspirational book by Rueven Hammer called Entering Jewish Prayer-A guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service. I’m in Chapter 9, The Amida, and it sounds cliché but I’m surprised at the amount of strength the book lends. I was reading another book on Jewish Prayer called To Pray as a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin and could barely get through the first few chapters. Both men, to my knowledge, or Orthodox but Hammer’s book reads in a more down-to-earth, easy to understand, and most important-interesting way. I find myself quite engrossed in what I’m reading, even more inspired to learn Hebrew, but in awe of the English translations that I’m reading. I mean, every Shabbat in shul I hear the words being read in Hebrew and I’ll be honest that I’m mostly so enthralled with the sound of Hebrew being chanted, the cantor’s voice, or trying to read the transliterations that I don’t actually know what I’m saying or more accurately praying. Having 30 minutes on the subway twice a day to read the prayers in their entirety as well as Hammer’s and The Sages interpretations of the prayers, the reasons why we recite the prayers, and the importance of Jewish prayer is beyond description.
I’m fully aware that in Catholic Church or Episcopal Church the liturgy is the same each week with the same passages from the Bible that are read from here to England. I just never knew why we did the things we did in church. With Judaism I’m captivated by the Hebrew while I’m in shul, that’s for sure, and honestly didn’t care what I was saying because I was certain that I was praising God’s name. Now, I feel a better connection to the prayers that are recited each Shabbat because I understand them. I mean, I don’t understand them like I can talk about them comfortably here but I understand. When I’m done with this book and take a breather from prayer to read another one of the dozen books I got from Amazon before taking another stab at Donin’s book.
I’m feeling good, though, on this December 26th with December 25th behind me and Purim ahead. Thanks to all of you for your kind words you’ve posted as of late on my blog. It’s so comforting to know that there are Jews out there, born or by choice, who care enough to read and share. Thank you.