He looked as if her were constipated though that was not the case, his face was frozen in this half grunt half intent concentration as he maneuvered the small tip of his eye glasses into the mine in search of some golden goodies to deposit onto the floor next to him. He concentrated very intently as he wiggled the tip of it into the depths of his ear as he tried so desperately to come up with something for all his work.
On the other side of the room, I saw a man rubbing his hands through his hair methodically and the same each time. He took his thumb and two fingers and sort of cut his hair with them. Almost like he was “air salonning”. He then shifted his weight and tried to start a new task, not thinking of anything better to bide his time he immediately shifted back to his hair playing.
I then looked across from me and thought to myself that er picking must be the new thing when shull gets really boring. Someone had decided to remove the air wax from their ears with a set of car keys, he was getting real deep until he noticed me spacing out and staring at him at which point he immediately stopped and looked back down into his chumash.
I was also incredibly bored and after looking at the two guys picking their golden ear wax and analyzing everyone’s motives behind the shoes they were wearing I had resigned myself to scrutinizing the calluses on my left big toe that had become very large for some reason. I then shifted weight and looked at my right heal which due to the wearing of sandals all the time had become hard as the foot of a hippie that never wore shoes at all. I then sought to count all the little dots on the blue carpet and then started reading this weeks parsha. The best thing that ever happened on tisha ba’av was when I figured out that eicha was in the back of the Stone Chumash, oh the joy of figuring out that I could read the short eicha and while they droned on in mournful tunes could go to the juicy battle scenes of the ten plagues. If that wasn’t enough I could always go to shir hashirim or megilas esther which were situated right near eicha.
We all sat on the floor, and we all wore goofy shoes always an entertaining thing to look at. Does the Rabbi of the shull always have to wear the goofiest shoes? Is that his way of saying that e is humble and lowly like the rest of us, or does that just happen to be the case with many shull Rabbis?
I then had this semi –epiphany which is probably only possible when your thoughts have nowhere to go since there is nothing to do but look around and think. Crocs were probably created by a Jew who was sick and tired of cheap sandals and canvas shoes that had no cushion. This brilliant enterprising Jew probably figured he would make a small batch and distribute them around his shull, maybe instead of benchers at a shull dinner or something. Someone from the shull then wore them to some popular hip hangout and the rest is history. Though for the first time in history of man we Jews do not have to look like freaks when walking to shull on Yom Kippur. No longer shall we have to endure the agony of looking like wall street lawyers on their power walking lunch breaks. No longer shall we have to endure feeling every crack in the sidewalk as we solemnly walk to shull on yom kippor. In fact Yom Kippur might even be a fashion statement for some who want to experiment with different colors of crocks.
But then again every shoe had their time. The most popular shoe of all for tisha ba’av and yom kippur purposes is the old school canvas skater shoe. These were of course very popular with pretty much everyone in the 60’s and 70’s. I wonder if that created controversy being that back in the day we were more afraid of secular culture then we are now. I am not talking about charedim here- I am talking about those who lived through the War- they either ripped off the yoke of Judaism or kept it securely intact fending off fashion and other such nonsense. Did they cringe when they saw a non-Afro wearing white dude who happened to be wearing a kittel walking to shull in canvas Converse sneakers, “oy vey he looks like a goy and its yom kippur.”
Teva of course knew exactly what they were doing when the excluded leather from 90% of the sandals they make. They knew how to corner the “I want to wear comfy shoes on tisha ba’av and Yom Kippur and I don’t want to look like a dumbass” crowd. This of course could only be done by Jews who knew the minds of other Jews, the creators of Crocs on the other hand could not have known that since their shoes make “everyone” look like dumbasses, at least now we all fit in, rather then the token guy in a fancy suit with white shoes.
Do the folks who wear the goofiest shoes possible or the few “caught with only socks” guys do it on purpose? Or does this happen every year, they swear they will make the trip to payless or Wal Mart and buy some cheap synthetic leather look alike shoes for the holiday and totally forget and are resigned to wearing thick white socks with the lines at the tops or their bath slippers.
I felt almost guilty wearing the shoes I wear every day, granted sitting on the floor in sandals is not the most comforting affair, but still, I walked into shull with high confidence amongst those in socks, crocs and dorky white shoes who had to suffer on their way into and out of shull. During shull we were all equals, but what about when they went to work. If they were psychologists I guess it would be alright since the patient never sees them any way. Funny thing is that if I had to wear those dorky canvas shoes with no soles I would have to drive in leather shoes- you see I buy shoes solely based on their ability to push my hard to push clutch pedal down, if the sole is too soft, it bends right over the pedal which means that shoe shopping is a arduous affair.
The greatest thing about eicha in my opinion is the fact that when you get really bored like any holiday with a megilla, you will inevitably as everyone does start to skip pages and see how long they have to go. On purim its painful when you realize that there 15 pages left and 20 more haman banging times. On Tisha Ba’av its great when you look and realize that the whole darned thing is only 5 perakim long. Even though we probably realize this every year, I and many of you I am sure will pick up the book you are looking in on and count how many pages are left. Some may let out a yelp of joy when they discover its short length while others my smile to themselves as they read about the horrible destruction.
This is not to say that shull goers do not suffer. A carefull look around will reveal that everyone is indeed suffering. From the ear pickers, the folks who feel the need to shine their glasses with a dollop of saliva and their woolen tzitzis, the people who get up every three minutes to stretch, the folks who cannot figure out a way to keep their legs from falling asleep and the folks who instead of reading eicha- jump to Shir Hashirim because they cannot stand the suffering. Being in shull during tisha ba’av is one of the hardest things simply due to the fact that since shabbos has not arrived yet, those stacks of shabbos emails, shull bulletins and other reading materials are not available. Add to the fact that even if they were available you would have to step over and on dozens of people in order to reach the tables where they are stacked up.
In other words, even if you are not prone to get Shull Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD) on a normal shabbos, on tisha ba’av pretty much everyone besides the folks who are reading eicha and the ones who can somehow relate to abstract events that happened thousands of years ago enough, to cry and whimper over, will inevitably succumb to a bad case of SADD.
I will be posting up a follow up article about the ways you know you have SADD.
Here is a link to last years tisha ba’av post