The little monkey has been very excited all week. Her school class had practiced quite a bit to lead the Shabbat services Friday night. It’s her weekend with her Dad, so she asked me if I was going to attend and if the Man would be accompanying me. I told her we would, and she was happy, but she kept asking about it. The day came and as usual on Fridays, my mom picked her up from school and though she knew I was at work, she wondered when we were going to arrive.
We had our little pre-Shabbat picnic of hummus, pretzels, challah and fruit, and despite having nearly all her friends there, she stuck to me like glue. At home, she always talks about missing her friends, but at the picnic, she would not play with them or sit with them. She ate with us, and when she was done, kept hugging me and buried her head in my chest as I rubbed her back. It was then I spotted her little crush.
“Monkey, look, there he is…do you want to go say hi?” I asked.
“Ahhhhh! If he comes by me, I’m going to scream!!!” — I guess that was her version of no.
Every time he’d come close she would hide. Most of the other kids were running around, with enough energy to power several large cities, but not mine. She kept asking when her Dad would arrive and I told her he was on his way. Traffic, honey. He’s stuck in traffic and will be here soon.
The time came to enter the sanctuary and at that moment, her Dad arrived to join us. The teachers were tasked with the difficult job of getting excited, tired preschoolers corralled to the front rows, so they could do their job of leading. This was not the easiest feat to accomplish. Some kids didn’t want to sit away from their parents. Some wanted to continue walking around…or running. Mine wanted to stay in Dad’s arms briefly, but was convinced by her teachers to go up front.
We snagged a row of seating that had a decent view of her several rows ahead. As the Rabbi tried to grab our attention with her microphone, signalling the beginning of the service, I saw the little monkey look back in search of a friendly face. I made sure she saw me, and was rewarded with a coy little grin. I could feel her being comforted even from rows behind.
The song leader began the service and I watched to see if she was singing. I was surprised to find she wasn’t — especially odd because she loves to sing, just about anywhere. She was nervous and a little overwhelmed, something I could tell even from a distance.
When the big moment came for them all to stand up in front of us and lead, she looked for friendly faces again. She saw us and visibly relaxed into her songs, doing the movements she was taught and singing so loudly at times I could her voice above the others.
She conquered her fears. She sang past them.
It was then that I began to think about all the people in the room. In the last week or so, in addition to the global incidents, there have been a few local incidents of hate against my fellow Jewish people. Things that honestly I thought would be eradicated by this point in time, but are still not. It makes me so sad to know that there are people out there that get off on instilling fear in others and expressing so much hatred and ignorance. How much fear and ignorance must live inside their hearts about themselves to make others a target? Some people might say they don’t have a heart, but I am not one who believes that. It’s ignorance, behaviors that are taught, hatred that is taught, not born.
The people in that room are part of a community that needs to plan to be extra careful now, not only when worshipping as they choose, but when doing normal, everyday things like walking in the street, getting a frozen yogurt, or grocery shopping. But no one would have known. There was too much laughter, kindness and celebration. It was comforting to me to hear this.
They conquered their fears too. They sang past them.