Sometimes disasters have silver linings and one good thing leads to another.
I had stopped going to shul on Shabbat many years ago. Why? I didn’t find the services particularly inspiring. Furthermore, while I’ve always enjoyed the Torah reading and text study, I’m not really that “in to” prayer. Moreover, there were always more important things to do on Saturday mornings, and a two-plus hour commitment just seemed a bit much.
But then Oct. 7 happened. On the following Shabbat, it seemed unimaginable to be anywhere else but shul. I craved the comfort of community. I had to be with my people in an environment of shared grief. And, coincidentally, it was the beginning of the Torah cycle. The Book of Genesis is so compelling. Week after week I continued to attend.
My regular attendance at Shabbat services coincided with another positive development: my desire to bring my toddler grandson to services with me. While my daughter had no particular interest in taking him to shul, she was perfectly happy for me to do so.
This new routine has completely transformed my Shabbat experience. I belong to an extremely child-friendly Conservative congregation with a dedicated corner in the back of the sanctuary brimming with toys and books for young children. There are also periodic toddler services. My 2-year-old grandson, Abe, loves to sit and play with the toys and books either alone or alongside other children. In the meantime, he’s taking in the sounds and sights of Shabbat. He particularly enjoys the more rousing prayers at the conclusion of the service.
Abe really likes walking and running around the perimeter of the sanctuary exploring all its nooks and crannies. He’s been up on the bimah gazing at the Torahs in awe. Some weeks he and other children parade around the sanctuary with their stuffed-animal-like Torahs receiving admiring looks from fellow congregants.
Of course, like any good Jew, Abe’s favorite part of the morning is the kiddush. He climbs onto a seat at the circular table and happily indulges in egg salad, bagels and cream cheese. He socializes cheerfully and non-verbally with young and old alike. Indeed, my daughter and son-in-law have now started to come to kiddush as well to join us, which only makes me happier, of course!
As Abe’s adoring Bubbe, I could not be more delighted. It’s an entirely different experience to view Jewish ritual through the eyes of a young child. It’s fulfilling and fun. I feel more connected to my own Jewish childhood, and it makes me feel the Jewish Dor l’dor generational experience in a visceral way. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my family are now six generations at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline. I can see that I am making memories for my grandson, while transmitting tradition, and exposing him organically to the joys of Judaism through all of his senses. He’s getting his first taste of his Jewish heritage both literally and figuratively.
Would any of this have happened but for Oct. 7? I hope so, but my own visceral need to be with my people coincided with a strong desire to wrap my grandson up in the welcoming embrace of the Jewish community. Every Saturday morning, he hears Hatikvah sung at the service’s conclusion, a post-Oct. 7 practice.
So a major catastrophe in Jewish and Israeli history has led to a personal silver lining. Sharing communal Jewish life and love of Israel with the next generation has enlivened my Shabbat experience. No wonder Judaism puts so much emphasis on teaching our children. The truth of the matter is it reinvigorates and deepens our own adult connection.
I look forward to many more years of going to services with my favorite new shul buddy, my grandson, Abe. His 2-month-old cousin will be next!
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