Some background: A family friend is a Chabad-Lubavitcher. Has been for years. Through this connection, I’ve been a guest at multiple shabbos dinners, a couple of Pesachs, a sukkot or two, and lots and lots of delish gefilte fish. I wrote about some of this here. The conflict I described was that as an atheist and a generally ethical person, I’ve found it difficult to reconcile my desire not to support one of the more sexist, homophobic (and at times racist) sects/cults I’ve ever heard of and my desire to validate those whom I care about. And to be honest, there’s something about the somewhat strict ritual that we goyim are welcome to participate in that is intensely comforting. I think, especially as a bit of an OCD sufferer, it’s the fact that in ritual there’s order. Usually very exact order that has a huge burden of sacred obligation attached to it. The weird thing about that is despite my lack of belief in HaShem, somehow awareness of that sacredness makes it even more satisfying to the OCD to perform the rituals as they’re prescribed. In fact, I’ve noticed a touch of pride when I know that I’ve performed them correctly and a touch of disappointment when I’ve been told that since, as a goy, I’m not obligated, it doesn’t really matter if I perform them correctly.
Last night, I dreamed that I went to a service in shul (temple). It wasn’t anything particular like Rosh Hashannah, just the regular deal. Ironically, despite my above-cited experience, I’ve never been inside a shul so actually have no clue how the regular services go down. The only real details of the service that I remember were this family friend reading from the Torah and all the guys (women and men are separated in shul) sitting there and occasionally nodding. Nothing too crazy.
A co-worker was with me. Maybe I invited him. Who knows? At first, all went well with the service and the fact that my co-worker was there. Then I think he started to ask questions. Simple things like, “What does that mean?” I don’t remember any specific examples. I answered patiently, but with an air of maybe he shouldn’t ask much more.
Then I think he started laughing. Not necessarily in a mocking tone, but more out of awkward gigglishness. That didn’t matter to me. I told him to shush. He piped down for a while. The family friend continued unabated.
My co-worker acted up again. Kind of like a pre-teen boy who just can’t sit still. I tried to explain how this was important, sacred, how he needed to be quiet,.be respectful.
My co-worker’s unruliness grew, my embarassment grew, my frustration grew, and then, as I started to come to, the scene faded.
The thing that felt really odd to me, though, was that as I was waking up, the emotions still lingering, I felt very annoyed and defensive. I felt like telling this co-worker that, basically, he’d disrespected my friend and, by extension, me. I started to realize, of course, that it had been a dream and so no offense had taken place.
But I still felt it.
It’s an odd bag. As I mentioned in the article, I’m never sure where the line is or how important it is to be respected. Humans engage in ritual and sacredness for a reason. We attach vigorous emotions for a reason. I guess I’d like to think I’m immune from that, but I’m clearly not.
A few weeks ago, I found out that my friend’s daughter had been bat mitzvohed. I was a little disappointedl. Kind of wish I’d been there despite the fact that I probably woudln’t have been allowed. Kind of disappointed. To support a multi-ist cult/sect. I guess I wanna have it a little of both ways.