Monday, August 15, 2011

Hi, I'm Yehuda

Random Strangers

It amazes me how the acts of random strangers determine so much of my life. On Tisha Ba'av (a day of public mourning for the destroyed temple of Jerusalem), I began to walk in the general direction of the two shuls that I knew, without any clear plan as to which one I would attend. I ran into a family getting into a car, obviously on their way to shul, so I asked them for a recommendation. Turns out that they were going to the Carleback shul (Kinor David), one of the two shuls. I rode with them, and that determined where I davened on Tisha Ba'av.

In shul, after I finished Maariv (Evening service) and waited for everyone else to finish, after which we would read Eicha (Lamentations), I quietly told the Rabbi that if he doesn't have enough readers for Eicha that I could read a chapter. He looked at me in a humoring way and thanked me for my offer but assured me that they had enough reader by now (of course). Two minutes later I saw him confer with someone, and he suddenly signaled to me that I should read chapter 2. Heh.

The person who read chapters 3 and 4 (out of a total of 5 chapters) was the guy who drove me to shul.

Friday Night

I spent my first shabbat in Raanana. Tal elected to stay home from shul, so I went on my own.

This time I met someone on the street and followed him to a shul, which turned out to be Lechu Neranena, the other shul I happened to know. I sat down to wait for Mincha (afternoon service). For some reason, I hoped that someone would notice that I was new to the shul and alone, and come over to welcome me. There are very few shuls that this would happen; I'm sad to say that this wasn't one of them.

On my left were a group of "talkers": 50-70 year old men, speaking in English and joking amongst themselves. They had all the copies of the weekly "Torah Tidbits", which I like to read for the advertisements. I went over and snagged one, hoping that this would engender conversation, but other than a quip about my requiring membership privileges to take a copy (a joke), I still didn't get a greeting.

A few minutes later the gabbai (shul organizer) asked if anyone wanted to lead Mincha. I waited a few moments to see if anyone had a chiyuv (obligation), but no one did. The gabbai asked again, and it was obvious that the "talkers" weren't going to volunteer, so I did. It took a few moments to get the gabbai's attention, but eventually I did and I lead Mincha for the shul. I figured that would be a honorable way of drawing attention to myself.

Afterwards, I sat down directly in the talkers section, but other than one or two yasher coach's ("well done"), still nothing. Well, I guessed the subtle way wasn't going to work.

So, after Maariv, I turned to the person next to me and said, "Hi, I'm Yehuda. I'm new here. Do you know any families with girls aged 17 to 19 or so for my daughter to meet?" [1] And thus began a conversation. He pointed to a family next to me, and it turns out that the boy next to me had a 17 year old sister. But his father was not home that shabbat. When asked if I have other children, I told about Saarya (my son) who is in yeshivah Yerucham, and the guy called to a man two seats away whose children also go to Yerucham. Yes, they knew Saarya.

I still had to bluntly ask if I and Tal could come for dinner that evening; but once I asked, the offer was generously extended. In truth, I had dinner enough for Tal and myself in our new home, but it was store-bought since I don't yet have a working stove/oven. Dinner was delicious and generous, and the family was very nice.

Next day I went back to the same shul (Lechu Neranena) and the gabbai came to me near the end of shul, told me he was impressed that I volunteered to lead Mincha, and that he had thought I was somebody's guest, not a new resident. He told me about all the shiurim (lectures) and kiddushes that followed services. I went to one and he introduced me to many of the other people; nearly all from the talkers section, all of whom stayed for the kiddush and the shiur (English gemara in Masechet Bava Metziah, a section from the Talmud). They all said hi, individually asking me about where I came from, where I moved to, what I did, where my kids were, etc. Suddenly, I felt welcome.

Between the 60 or so people, they downed at least three full bottles of single malt scotch, lots of kugel, herring, humus, and crackers. The beer came out during the shiur. There was a speech by the guy who sponsored the week's food and drink, thanking everyone for coming, and praising the community and the kiddush club for being just that: a community, a neighborhood, and a family.

The gabbai walked me back almost to my home, telling me about the various classes and a local mixed English and Hebrew kollel (learning community) that is open all week, every day. And that I was most welcome. And that he will be away next week, but would like to have me as a guest after that.


I had Abraham and Sara over for lunch. A and S are former Jerusalem members now living in Raanana, just like me. They have a cute new baby.

After lunch we played a full game of Tichu. Tal and I started off well, eventually gaining a lead of 660 to 240. Our luck ran out, and Abraham's gumption rose. He called and made at least three Tichu's, and we ended up losing.

Tal then convinced A and S to play Mau, a card game I pretty much loathe [2]. Tal was the only one "in the know" against the three of us who weren't, and it wasn't quite as excruciating as most of my experiences playing the game. We even had some laughter. I won the first game. My new rule, though a tad annoying, also elicited laughs during the second game. However, that was enough Mau for A and S.

They left, so I didn't get a chance to teach them Team Hearts. Some other time.

[1] I added the last clause to assure him that I wasn't a creepy man who wanted to meet 17-19 year old girls.

[2] Though not as much as Fluxx ... ok, maybe as much.

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