My family spends a lot of time in shul. A lot of time. With each baby I had, husband #1 started to go to shul more. “Honey, the baby is screaming his head off, could you please take him out of the crib?” “Um, I’m on my way out to shacharit” (That’s the early morning prayer.) And since prayer is more important than helping your wife, off he went. And really it made a lot of sense that with three sons, he had an excuse to go to shul three times a day. I think it was a heavenly coincidence that there are three prayer services a day.
The best is on shabbes, when the days are really long. One shabbes, when the boys were probably 5, 4, and 2 1/2 and were having rare jumping-off-the-wall-fun, legos were flying, puzzle pieces were being thrown in the air, and juice boxes were overtaking the house. Husband #1 stood up, and in his booming voice announced, “I think I am going to early mincha today.” I looked at him, threw my rolling eyes, and watched him prance out the door. Yes, he was actually prancing with glee.
But all good things must come to an end and mincha was over and Husband #1 had to come home, poor guy. Home to his wife and beautiful, miraculous boys. And there were still six or seven hours until shabbes was over. What to do? What to do? A few hours later, husband #1 announces that he is going to mincha. “Hey, wait a second,” I said. “I am pretty sure that you went to mincha already. Like two hours ago. I might be sleep deprived, but of this, I am pretty sure.”
Busted. Husband #1 was busted. Did he really think I was going to let him go to two minchas?? Maybe if we had four kids, I would let him get away with it, but that was never to be the case. Sorry buddy, it’s still only three prayer times a day… “A” for effort though, sweetie. “A” for effort.
Shul is a home away from home for all of my kids (and my fourth kid, aka husband #1). They not only go there to pray, but they go to learn, with each other, with the rabbi, with their father. Sometimes, their grandfather might even make a surprise appearance. They love it there. Sometimes I wonder if they love it there because I am not there, but we won’t go there.
In any event, when I had heard what happened in Pittsburgh, I probably had the same reaction that most of us had. Tragic, horrific, incredibly sad, indescribable. I listened to the rabbi of the shul speak of how he was only able to get four people out of the first few rows and the rest, aside from one who was injured, the rest were slaughtered. By an anti-Semitic madman. Armed with his own militia. In a synagogue, where people pray to God, when people ask God for help, for strength, for guidance. When something like this happens in a shul, there are even more questions to ask. Why? Why? Why? Shul is our safe place. For some, it is their happy place. Our souls are nourished with spiritually and words of Torah. And something like this happens, and what becomes of our safe and happy place? What happens to our souls? What has happened to our country?
Shul is a place to find these answers. But there don’t seem to be any that sound anything other than trite and cliched.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this, but I felt that I had to. As someone who tries not to question too much and just go with the flow, this is a tough one. And the only things I can think to say are that we can’t live our lives in constant fear. We have to keep doing the things we love and hope that nothing will happen. We can only control what we are doing, not what others are doing, and we have to have faith that it will be all right. To live any other way is just giving in to the psychopaths, and we don’t want to do that.
My family and I have been to Pittsburgh about five times on our road trips. We love PNC park and the sister bridges. We love getting lost every time we try to get to Squirrel Hill, and the community always was so friendly. But it could have been any shul in any town.
Take a minute now to pray that something like this never happens again.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is celebrating her birthday this week because life goes on. She hopes everyone finds something to celebrate this week as well.