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Entry 10 -- Legitimate Prayer and Other Prayer
I come out of the kitchen to catch some air on the warm Thursday morning in time enough to see Orel and Rabbi Abib in the driveway struggling to fit a tarp over Rabbi Abib's disabled clunker. It will be the better part of another week before he has the money to buy a new tire for the poor car which meanwhile sits in what should be our backyard all exposed to the elements.
"I found raccoon turds in my car," Rabbi Abib explains. The tarp is to keep the wildlife out as well as the rain. I don't ask where Rabbi Abib bought it. It turns out it was doing nothing in the workshop behind the main shop so Orel is lending it to the rabbi. Orel can be good hearted sometimes.
I am making tilapia parmesan for supper for tonight. I do have extra fish. Fish may be expensive but we can afford tilapia. We can afford a few extra pieces too. "Mr. and Mrs...." Rabbi Abib begins and then stops. "Aliza and Orel, if we held services would you come to pray?"
I never forget that Rabbi Abib is still a rabbi and an active one. Getting fired doesn't get you defrocked.
"I'm not much for services, and I've forgotten all my Hebrew," says Orel who in fact never knew any Hebrew to begin with.
I also had almost no religious education. I've been to synagogues five or six times and found them boring. Of late, Oisin has started to read the little white grace after meals book after supper. I see no harm in this, but that's not praying a whole service, being called up to the Torah being in a minyan or anything like that.
"You can always learn," Rabbi Abib does not give up. The only way to tell him know is to be very explicit about it which is what I should do.
That I don't do it is probably why I am writing all this down. We can pray in English according to the Rabbi and learning to read through a prayer book and understanding the parts of a traditional sabbath service is not that difficult.
The question is do we believe. Maybe I believe in God. I think Oisin believes and I know Orel does, so the question is not whether we believe in a deity but whether sitting through a religious ritual does anything. It's been so long since I've had to do it, I only have painful and unpleasant memories, but I'm not fifteen any more and I'm not in some strange city, paying a final debt of kindness knowing the friend of mine whom we were burying would have felt as strange as I did at his religious funeral service. Going to a service because you choose to and your oldest son has shown some interest is different. Going when you are in your thirties is different from going when you are fifteen. I think of all this and then against what should be all better judgement I agree. I ask Orel if he minds.
He says he may be late in getting the store closed. Friday nights are busy.
"I don't get off work until around 9pm so I'm going to be late too," sighs Rabbi Abib. "We are all going to be late but better late than never."
Back in the shop, the business phone rings. I go to answer it. It's Ruth Goldfarb and she sounds very unhappy and upset.
"What's the matter?" I ask.
"That imposter rabbi."
"You mean Rabbi Abib?" I say.
"He's not a real rabbi."
I blink. "How do you know?"
"He doesn't have a congregation."
"I know that, but you can check out his credentials. He's really an ordained rabbi. He got fired for political reasons and he now works as a security guard."
"Great," groaned Ms. Goldfarb.
"Well, he's a real rabbi. Now what happened?"
"He wants us all to go to his services, except he has no synagogue."
"Did he ask you to host them?" I inquire.
"No, he has an apartment over the Vietnamese bakery near where you live."
"Why don't you offer to host the services?" I find myself asking. "Your living room is a lot nicer than the rabbi's apartment."
"Because...We spent time and money going to Louisville to have Joshua bar mitzvahed. Once a month we still....Don't you understand?"
"You forget my husband and I are both blue collar people who live in an apartment over our store. It's different for us."
"Yeah.... We don't need class conflict."
"No we don't. If you don't host the service Friday, I can have the boys clean up the living room and host it at my apartment."
"He's legit but....it's just not right."
"That he's a poor man. He's an educated man. He works. He doesn't complain. He might lead better services than someone who is more secure, don't you think."
Ruth Goldfarb laughs. "My husband will be irate," she sighs. "Well maybe not. I'm the one who worries about keeping up appearances. It's a wife's job you know."
I'm glad I'm just a girlfriend at this point. I smile which Ruth can't see. In the end she agrees to host Friday's service and I realize that late tonight I have another cake to bake. We will need something to eat afterwards. I remember that form the synagogue both times I went. They always serve food after services.