So my wife and I are walking to synagogue on this beautiful, crisp Sukkot day.
Out of nowhere, I see my neighbor seemingly walking back from the synagogue.
“Hello! Chag Sameach!” I greet him with holiday cheer.
He stops short and looks at me and then at my wife.
My neighbor asks, “Where are you going?”
“To synagogue, of course,” I respond, a little bit surprised.
“Services are over!” He snaps at us curtly.
And then he says incredibly rudely and judgmentally, “You’re the only Jew that I know that wears a yarmulke and does nothing!”
At this, he strode away, leaving us standing there, bewildered, because we were on the way to synagogue, like many others. And we go there “religiously!”
We looked at each other, at first muttering some obscenities not to be named at the raw chutzpah of this guy, and then coming back to reality, one of us said, “If services are over, I guess we should turn around and go home.”
So we do just that.
The same people we just greeted when we left, we are now oddly greeting on the way back.
Then lo’ and behold, there stands our neighbor again.
And he says, “What are you doing here?”
At this point, I am flabbergasted, as the guy just told us the prayer services were over!
So I said to him, “Didn’t you just say to me that the services were done?”
And he goes as if nothing weird is going on here: “No, they are busy reading the Torah.”
Now, my wife and I are waiting for him to say something, like that he was just joking before or sorry that he miscommunicated or was rude and inappropriate.
But instead, things reached a new level of crazyness as he started to try to stare down my wife, who, thank G-d was wearing sunglasses, and finally, he gave up and walked away, seemingly frustrated that he wasn’t able to arouse a real reaction from us.
Anyway, we’re talking about this and what this all means, and then I had an insight: thankfully, nothing terrible happened, but it’s these everyday slights and provocations that can really hurt our feelings and end up pushing us away from G-d and Judaism.
Moreover, on a personal level, I realized that G-d sends me certain encounters so that I can reflect, write about them, and share with you some things that really aren’t the Torah way. We all have to deal with difficult people and challenging situations, but fundamentally and always, G-d is all good and wants us to turn to Him despite and even because of these happenstances.
While there is no such thing as hurt, insult, embarrassment, or suffering that is trivial, I hope that G-d will bless us to see past the pain of life and continue to find our way to embrace Him with all our heart, as well as to forgive our neighbors.