A new entry in The Omicron Matter – A Working Vacation. Sated with a meal, the group returns to the synagogue. Millicent confers with a local and arrangements are made for Rachael to attend afternoon services. There is usual difficulties in navigating with a wheelchair (must every building have stairs?). However, Rachael must also contend with a culture that is highly traditional and she is not.
For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the book home page is a good place to start.
This is the second half of Afternoon Prayers. I spent a bit of time researching what an afternoon service in an orthodox synagogue might be like. I cannot say that I have attended one. I will appreciate any corrections or suggestions on this matter. As for Rachael, she is struggling to find meaning and purpose in a world that is shifting under her. Here she found a small anchorage for a moment.
Thank you for your support. Look for more on Wednesday
The group returned to the “New Old Synagogue”. At the base of the stairs of the old temple Rachael looked up and sighed. Millicent talked to John and Michael and then headed up the stairs to the temple. Millicent talked briefly to a doorkeeper pointing at Rachael. The man scratched his beard and then nodded after a moment he returned with a chair and followed Millicent down the stairs. Rachael was hardly modest in the style of Halacha, but then she wasn’t married so by some reckoning she probably shouldn’t be out on the street. The man scowled at her and pointed to his head. Rachael sighed and said, “Felicity, do you have a scarf? I am not properly modest.” Felicity produced the scarf. Rachael covered her hair and scowled back at the man. He frowned but then nodded.
The chair was set down. She was placed in the chair. John and Michael took the front while Millicent easily lifted the back of the chair and the man’s eyes went wide. He protested in Bohemian. Millicent said some sharp and the man scampered up the stairs to the door. John and Michael followed the man in the outer room. Michael protested, “You won’t see the chapel.”
Rachael said, “There will be windows. It is enough. Trust me, Michael. Besides, this is how it is done here.” Millicent said, “She knows. Follow the man.”
They arrived. Rachael was placed near a window. Millicent said, “We’ll leave you for now. I expect we’ll be back in an hour.” Rachael said, “I don’t know what to say.”
Millicent said, “If I recall correctly, you start with ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. My soul longs, indeed it faints for courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
Rachael said, “Cheeky and you know far too much to not be Jewish.”
Millicent said, “I will see you in an hour.”
Rachael sat in her chair and peered through the window. She rocked to the prayers as they were sung. When she didn’t get up and others scowled, she pointed to her legs and shrugged. Some faces got gentler and that helped. She chanted as best she could when it seemed right. At then she leaned back and closed her eyes and absorbed the moment. Surely God was in this place and this moment. She thought of her grandparents who might have worshiped in temple like this. Then she thought of the Diasporas this community represented. There were a half dozen varieties of Jews in this community and each was a foreigner in their new homes. They had been the wrong people in the wrong place in the wrong time. A pogrom was coming again and now it wouldn’t just be the minorities who would suffer. Was she running away or was she facing it like the Macabees? She snorted when she remembered how well that turned out. She sat in her chair and watched the attendees leave and the vestments restored. One women in a heavy accented voice asked, “You cannot move. You will be ok?”
Rachael nodded, “Someone will be here for me. Thank you. Thank you for letting me join you.”
The woman smiled and said, “Ignore the old ones. We like to see the new faces. Join us for tea?”
Rachael smiled and said, “Not today. I will be back tomorrow. Then?”
The woman patted her on the shoulder, “I bring friends and you can tell us of your travels.”