It was 9 am and I was just about to enter the egalitarian synagogue on our kibbutz when two boys riding along the sidewalk adjacent to the synagogue, stopped and got off their bikes.
(*To understand the conversation below, it’s important to understand that these two boys live in the neighborhood outside of the kibbutz and whose families do not take part in regular kibbutz religious or social activities.)
Boy 1: “What is this building?”
Ok, I was already in shock. I responded even before the 2nd boy had a chance to. “The synagogue on the kibbutz. You didn’t know?”
Boy 2: “No, that’s the synagogue”, pointing to the recently built youth hall in which a group of people decided to form their own Orthodox minyan (prayer forum).
Me: “Actually, this is a synagogue and people come to pray here on Shabbat and holidays. This is my synagogue.”
Boy 2 to boy 1 (in a disgusted kind of way): “This is NOT a synagogue. And you know why? Girls! Men and women sitting together! Kippot (head coverings)! Tallitot (prayer shawls). Agh! This is NOT a synagogue. Let’s go.”
And, off they went.
And, as I stood there by myself, my mind went directly up to a branch.
Boy, was I stuck.
On a few things.
First, I judged those two boys… (What disrespect! What lack of manners! What lack of tolerance!)
Then, I judged their parents… (How could they be teaching their children this?… Are these the seedlings of a civil war?)
Then, I was stuck on needing to fix this problem.
True, this is not a real civil war (thank God), and no one is throwing stones at us, but this is not acceptable! This definitely could lead our community down a terrible path.
Yet, the more I practice to be aware of the branches I’m stuck hanging onto, the quicker I find myself getting off them.
And just noticing.
And just breathing.
And just recognizing that in that moment, there was nothing really to resolve.
Except for me to be present.
And, practice not getting distracted.
From just noticing what is real.
Like my feelings.
Just noticing them.
So instead, I walked into the synagogue, and when I sang “Oseh Shalom” (God will make peace for all of us), I prayed that all humans will eventually wake up to do the same.
So instead of a civil war where kids learn to despise their neighbors’ religious practices, they will learn to simply open their hearts to just noticing.