Sunday, April 03, 2005

44. Travel agent, part 7

This synagogue, unlike my own or the one I went to as a kid, where we had no rich people, subscribed to the traditional fashion show model. One must wear one's most conspicuously expensive outfits to High Holy Day services. So that we, the hired help, would not get confused with congregants trying to fulfill this mitzvah, the singers were costumed in long, bright blue polyester choir robes, beneath which we wore white blouses, black skirts, and dark hose. (The men got to wear pants.) If we should, God forbid, remove the robes, our true identities would still be known.

I don't mean to sound nasty. Everyone was really nice and friendly, and I understand the importance of sartorial custom. But after experiencing the kind of Judaism that doesn't have a dress code, it was a challenge to dive back into those frightening waters.

On Rosh Hashonah morning we huddled around a small bima in front of the congregation, who sat moribund in gold plastic folding chairs. These people did not, at first, seem to be enjoying themselves, nor did the cantor, as rivers of perspiration flowed like the Jordan down the sides of his head. But we sang with all our heart and volume, and by the end of the service most of the congregants were still awake. We were a resounding success.

We did it again on Yom Kippur, the unabridged version, with Musaf ending after 3PM. This was my first experience fasting while also expending a few thousand calories of energy--we sang during every prayer, mostly at the top of our lungs as we tried to match the volume of the heartthrob operatic tenor. The room started spinning at the end of the service. We had an hour and a half break before N'eila, and I was about to go home and sneak a nap and an apple when the bass pulled me aside.

"The diner, Third Avenue," he whispered.

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