They called it the “old synagogue”, and they called him the “old rav”, and he did so many things in the “old fashioned” way, that we completely lost our patience.
- So we didn’t want to sit there… when he gave his speeches in Yiddish.
- And we didn’t understand why… he still dressed in the style of the shtetl
- And we couldn’t bear to listen to it… whenever he blew the shofar.
- (Because he made so many mistakes that it honestly took forever).
And one year we even made bets about it, but that was the last time I went to the “old synagogue” for tekiot. Eventually the “old rav” lost his strength for blowing the shofar, while the younger generation lost their faith in the “old rav”. And when all of this was going on, I had it both ways, and simply lost my strength for faith all together.
The “old rav” solved his problem by retiring and moving away. The younger generation didn’t mind because they simply hired a “new rav”. But I couldn’t quick-fix the things that were bothering me back then, so I just stopped going to the “old” house of prayer for awhile and I avoided those sounds of tekiot.
Then after a few too many years, I decided to go back to the “old synagogue” for the holidays and…
- The “new rav” gave a fluent speech in English.
- The “new rav” was dressed in a tailored Italian suit.
- And the “new rav” blew the shofar so flawlessly and with such little effort, that it was over in less than ten minutes. A real improvement, we all agreed.
But this year, I catch myself wondering; while the “old” tekiot used to frustrate us, it also filled us up. And although the “new” tekiot are a pleasure, it leaves us feeling vacant and dissatisfied. Because we are no longer the impatient generation that we once were, and not a one of us these days seems to be without heartbreak or worry. And more often than not, bit by bit we have started to resemble that man who we used to call the “old rav”. We are frail and then we stumble. We make mistakes, but then we persist. We are not always fluent; we are not always at ease. It comes at great effort when we pick ourselves up. It can come at great cost when we manage to go on. And sometimes, it takes us a few tries, and then more than a few… before we get it right.
Perhaps in our youth and arrogance, we failed to understand the finer point.
Maybe the old rav was trying to teach us something, but we weren’t really ready to listen.
I wish I could hear his tekiot once more. I wish I had paid more attention.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.