A recent story in the LA Times got me thinking about all the crazy disruptions in this weird COVID world we find ourselves in. The author muses about “missing the comfort of ‘my’ seat in synagogue when the whole world is askew.”
“One Saturday morning last fall I arrived at my synagogue, only to discover that someone had taken my seat. I’ve never been a regular at a bar or a restaurant or even a gym. But on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, I go to synagogue. And I always sit in the same place: on the aisle, not too close to the front, not too far from the action. A couple of rows behind Ruth and Reuven, across the aisle from Cheryl, just in front of Len.”
Many might remember there was a schtick in the “Big Bang Theory” TV show where Dr. Sheldon Cooper, portrayed by actor Jim Parsons, used to neurotically drive people crazy when people would sit in “his spot” which was, in his words, ‘in an eternal state of “dibs.'”
“In an ever-changing world it is a single point of consistency. If my life were expressed as a function on a 4-space|four-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, that spot, at the moment I first sat on it, would be (0,0,0,0).”
“In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer it’s directly in the path of a cross breeze created by open windows there, and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide to create a parallax distortion, I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point,” Sheldon explains.
Yeah, I’ve sort of wondered about “my seat” in shul which I haven’t sat in for 5 1/2 months. Third row on the aisle, stage right as you’re facing the bimah. I’ve missed you, old friend! There’s a certain comfort, a routine, a sense that things are right with the world when I sit there. When I don’t things just seem a little “off.”
I’ve been at my shul for 26 years. I first got a notion of “my seat” in shul when an older generation started dying off. Bernice, Jerry, Henri and Barney were not in their old familiar places any more. It just did not seem right when others took their places. Now, there are sadly others added to that list, some of them have passed much younger.
I know rationally, my seat is not “mine.” But I wonder what it will be like when when we see it again and if we’ll ever be back to the way it used to be? Probably not, old habits are hard to break.
I’ve often mused that one year a fun Purim prank to play on the Rabbi would be to conspire with the ushers in the lobby to ask the “regulars” to sit in any seat but their regular seat. I’m sure when he realized that “something was ‘off’ we’d all get a good laugh over that.
I’ve always joked with the people that regularly sit a row behind me in shul that it just doesn’t seem right when our pod is disrupted, either because one of us was late to shul and missed the boat, or someone, “gasp”, is sitting there before we arrive, violating all social norms and customs! 🙂
One time their grandson who was about 5 or 6 at the time drew a picture of what Heaven looked like to him and she asked him about the images in the picture. “Who is that?” she asked. “That’s God”, he said…you know, the guy who sits a row in front of us? (We still laugh hysterically at that story. I am that I am and will be offering special dispensations a week from Tuesday.)
I just learned they are moving in a month or so, so when we get back to normal, things won’t be normal that way either. More new things to get used to in our future post-COVID world, I suppose.
So for now, I guess we’ll all keep Zooming. My seat is my kitchen table, one row back from the laptop.
One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we’ll all be back in our familiar places. Our spots in shul, will still be there. Maybe it will be 2021, if not sooner, when this pandemic is over. Hopefully we’re all vaccinated and this COVID nightmare will be behind us all. Hopefully there will be a new President in office. Hopefully we’ll forget about face coverings and social distancing.
Maybe then we’ll be back greeting each other in person in shul with a handshake or a hug and a “Shabbat Shalom” (or as I have conflated “Shabbat Shalom” and “Good Shabbes” to “Shababbes”).
Or, as Sheldon Cooper sighs when he returns from a three-month scientific expedition to the North Pole, he addresses his Spot by saying, “hello, old friend,” and upon settling into it, he contentedly sighs, “Daddy’s home.”‘