By Matt Shapiro
On the first day of Rosh Hashana, I was reminded of something important that I frequently forget (the theme of remembering has been showing up in my life almost as much as it does in the liturgy for the holiday).
Shortly after services, someone came up to me to wish me a shana tova, a good year. I recognized her as a woman I knew from an internship I previously held at another synagogue in the area. After exchanging pleasantries (and graciously reminding me of her name, which I was blanking on), I asked her if she was new to services at Beit T'Shuvah. "Oh, no," she said, "I've been coming for a few months. I wanted to try something different and have been coming back since I first came." Since I only lead services intermittently myself, our paths just hadn't crossed yet. I chalked it up as a nice coincidence to start the year with, and made my way to the exit.
Within five minutes, I had bumped into yet another person I knew. She had participated in a program I had staffed for Jewish young adults, which emphasized the different expressions of Judaism and Jewish life and encouraged them to "step outside their comfort zone." Though she's also local, I hadn't seen her in over a year, and was completely unaware she'd be at BTS for the holiday. She joyfully informed me that she had become a synagogue member just the other week, and thoroughly enjoyed showing up because of how comfortable she felt. In her words, "I can wear spaghetti straps to the High Holidays, and nobody even cares!"
One interaction like this, and I'll consider it a random occurrence; twice, and there's something deeper going on.
What speaks to me here even more than the reminder that Beit T'Shuvah isn't just a place for addicts, but anyone looking for a connection to relevant Judaism, is that both of these women took it on themselves to seek out a place where they could find meaning and joy. We each have an obligation to find the places where those key components of life are for us. Frequently, however, wherever we find ourselves is where we stay, because of inertia, perceived comfort, laziness or fear. For myself, for a long time, I stuck with what I knew because I thought it was comfortable, even as I could feel the discomfort itching inside of me. These two interactions remind me not only of how awesome services at Beit T'Shuvah are (and, yes, they are awesome...in fact, if you didn't get to come to services with us, you can see them for yourself right here....OK, I'm done now), but of the importance of continually finding the ways in which I can access more meaning, more joy. This is something I already know quite well, yet I still need to remember it, regularly, otherwise I forget, get stuck, and miss opportunities like those that are right in front of me. Hopefully, I'll be able to actually live it regularly, throughout this year, and well into the next one.