It isn’t easy making people happy.
Years ago, a lovely man from my community used to say, “Is there anything that is making you happy?” If you wanted to, you could complain about absolutely everything. But where do the complaints stem from the most during this time of year? The time of year when we spend a lot of time inside a synagogue?
You would think it would be who gets to lead the services. From what I hear from synagogues all over the country (and probably the world), this becomes a big bone of contention. People who have led services for years who were asked to step down. People who should be asked to step down but aren’t. People who lead the services but shouldn’t because they are the last person you want representing you before God…
Perhaps they should have a reality show like American Idol for chazzanim, but, alas, that is not the topic of this year’s complaint winner. This year, the Oscar for Most Epic Fail in Synagogue is…the temperature.
Not the temperature outside, mind you, but the temperature inside.
I will only be discussing my synagogue, specifically, because I wasn’t in your synagogue. For all I know, in your synagogue the temperature is regulated according to each individual’s needs. The thermostat senses you are eight months pregnant and overheated? The air automatically goes on full blast. The thermostat senses that you are a bit chilled? Out comes some heat.
Yes, perhaps that is what your synagogue is like. But not mine.
It seems that not many people were happy this High Holy Days season. Over Rosh Hashanah, it felt like the tropics. I brought along my handy dandy hot flash cloth because it looked like I was running a marathon while standing still — a neat trick, by the way. And over Yom Kippur, while praying for all that you pray for, I thought that it was going to snow. Inside. Also a neat trick.
The fun thing about when it is too cold in my synagogue is the fashion show of wraps and shawls. As opposed to the overall fashion show of what everyone is wearing. Everyone but me, of course. (Without my fake crocs and J Jill dresses, who am I?) Different colors and patterns. Flattering ones, unflattering ones…a bevy of styles. Heavy wool, lightweight cotton — you name it and someone is wearing it. But for the men, apparently, it is a whole different ball game.
Men, for the most part, wear suits. So if it is cold the jacket stays on, and if it is hot, off comes the jacket. Apparently, many of the men weren’t happy with the temperature either. Though when I heard of these complaints, I was wondering if these men got an earful from their wives and that is why they were complaining in the first place. Maybe I am mistaken, but I have never heard a man complain about the temperature. In any event, that was the main complaint.
So I ask these people — what is the synagogue supposed to do? Send out a survey asking people their ideal room temperature? As someone who is married to an individual who is on the frugal side, the temperature inside our house is probably a lot warmer or colder than most, in order to save money on the heating/cooling bill.
Many years ago, I wrote a column about how actual steam has to be rising from the carpet in order for husband #1 to put the air conditioner on. Actual steam. And everyone’s teeth have to be chattering simultaneously for the heat to be turned on. Everyone’s teeth. (And someone may or may not have to develop and actual cold or flu.) Yup, good times.
I am still not sure how they are going to fix the situation with the temperature. There is no good answer because someone will always find fault with whatever solution arises. But that is the way it is.
Studies have been done showing that when you have a positive mindset, you become a more positive person. Smiling actually helps release chemicals in your brain that put you in a better mood, and when you compliment instead of criticize, everyone feels better. Yes, if only people followed these studies.
What lesson do we learn from this? I have no idea. Studies usually are wrong. But next time you want to complain about something, maybe smile first and see if the complaint goes away.
Or just put on a coat.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is getting ready for her favorite time of year, when eating meals outside in the sukkah means having the neighbors hear all of your screaming…