Picking up the “awesome” theme from the other day. This morning I got up before dawn and stumbled over to one of the local synagogues to meet up with a few other bleary-eyed Sephardi guys to pray Selichot.
I’ve been doing this since Sunday (my first Selichot service ever – say a Shehechianu, everyone!) although we started at a more reasonable 7am on that day (as well as Monday since it was Labor Day). Yesterday and today, however, was the “real deal” – the groggy and froggy singing that I’ve heard people talking about for a few weeks.
My contribution, it turns out, was to bring “the awesome”, in the form of my two boys (11 and 8 yrs old).
No, they didn’t count toward the minyan, but believe me when I tell you they COUNTED.
Even though they were unfamiliar with the prayers and the tunes (hey, so was I!); even though they spent half the time watching the other guys instead of looking in the Siddur; even though they shuffled their chairs and tapped on the table and fidgeted their way through 45 minutes like any 2 boys would… Even so, their presence had a palpable impact on the group.
The guy blowing shofar blew louder and longer because he saw the wonder reflected in their eyes. During the “round-robin” readings where each person takes turns singing a verse in Hebrew, the men sang just a bit fancier as they watched the boys heads whip around to see how such a sweet voice could come from our wrinkled and stubbly faces.
It was like a Sephardi version of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, the story where Mike and MaryAnn could dig just a little bit better the more people watched them.
Before and after the service, several guys incredulously asked me “how did you get them to leave their bed and come?”.
“We get hot chocolate!” they announced, holding up their mugs.
It was a trick I had heard about last year while we were in Israel – synagogues making a community event out of Selichot, waking up together, serving pastries, tea (and yes, hot chocolate) so that rather than struggle through a month of obligation, people looked eagerly forward to (and then wistfully back at) the month of Elul.
In the original “awesome” post, Redefining Girlie asked:
There was a time when you were five years old,and you woke up full of awesome.[…]Do you still have it?The awesome.