My Tatty Used To Put Me Over His Knee In Shul
and now I hate to daven.
Granted, the fact that I was repeatedly spanked in public isn’t the only reason I hate to daven. Take the fact that shacharis is held at like 7:00 AM. That’s like three in the morning by my standards. To get ready and make it to minyan on time, a guy’s gotta be up by 6:20. I don’t think the alcohol is even out of my system by then. I simply can’t imagine starting every day by strangling my arm with leather straps while reminding myself what drek I really am in the eyes of the Creator (and don’t you tell me that’s not what tefillah is about.
Half of davening is profusely thanking God for favors He did us two thousand years ago, and the other half is tachnun). Have you ever been inside a shul?
I’m not talking about one of those big numbers, the plush ones with the high ceilings, stained glass, nice padded pews with the shtender incorporated to the back of the seat in front of you, the sanctuary that they only use on shabbos. I’m talking about the backup shul. It seems no matter how big the congregation, whenever I show up to daven they put us in the little side shul, the one with the air conditioning cranked up year round drying up my sinuses and exacerbating the headache that the unbelievably abrasive fluorescent lighting invariably gives me.
You wanna know why I liked the movie Junior with Arnold Schwartzanegger and Danny Devito? Two words: mitzvas aseh she’hazman gramah. Not that it matters. I don’t go anyway. But it’s the principle.
And even on shabbos, davening is torture for me. I’ll force myself to go once in a while, reassuring myself that it will be worth it in the end when I can fress like crazy at the kiddush and ogle the girls. Throughout shacharis and mussaf, I’ll just try to keep my eye on the prize (leining I can handle. It is interesting and changes every week).
But davening is long- we’re looking at a minimum two, two and a half hour chunk of my morning here, and what’s a guy gonna eat on his way out the door in the morning, a piece of Entenmann’s cake maybe? By ten o’clock I’m starving and the enticing smell of cholent and kugel doesn’t help settle me any.
And why can’t we talk to the girls?
I’m twenty-six years old. The gemara says I should have been married six years ago, and Rav Chisda thinks I should have been married ten years ago. Why isn’t anyone doing anything to facilitate this here? Why are they preventing me from throwing game at shul, a public area where both me and the girl are actually doing the right thing by being there. I’m supposed to be at shul. You don’t want me talking to a nice girl at a bar, maybe, or outside a sleazy motel, but honestly, what kind of trouble can I get into in shul? A friend of mine recently met some girls at shul, and ended up going on a picnic lunch with them in the park that afternoon. I don’t know how he did it, but I’m sure it was magnificent. Like the Roger Moore of shul flirting. A smooth operator. Usually when I try to talk to girls in shul, I get nasty looks.
So I can’t sit through an entire davening. I get bored, hungry, restless, and I spend my time either talking in the back or roaming the halls, annoying the caterer or something. I used to run around like a wild animal and play games with the other kids. In my old shul there were plenty of places to go, all kinds of interesting rooms- the rabbi’s office was never locked- a creepy attic, a big basement where the kiddushes were served, and a huge yard outside. We had no sense of self-awareness back then. The shul was a maze of entrances, and we would teem in and out of them like ants. I’d run up and down the aisle in the middle of the rabbi’s speech, shemona esrei, leining, you name it. I never could stand to daven- couldn’t sit still. Maybe that’s why my dad used to patsh me so much.