I managed to go to the Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner at my shul (synagogue) on Friday. It was reasonably good. I mean, the meal was very good, and my mental health while there was reasonably good. There was set seating and I was worried that I would be with people I didn’t know and be too shy to talk all evening, but I was put opposite one of the people I usually sit with in services, the person in the community who I would most consider a friend. I have eaten at his house a few times, so I know his wife as well, who was with him. I was also seated next to the rabbi. I’m not sure whether to read anything into that. I think they just needed to slot me in where there was a space, as I was the only person over eighteen there who wasn’t with his/her spouse. Still, I don’t worry about talking to rabbis the way some people do.
The food was good. I managed to speak to some people during and before the meal, both people I already knew, like my friend, his wife and the rabbi and people I recognised by sight, but had never spoken to before. There was some social anxiety about talking to new people or just talking generally, but I managed to get through it. I shook a little to start with from anxiety (I spilt grape juice all over my plate at kiddush), but I don’t think anyone noticed and after a while I relaxed and felt better. The organisers had the good idea of serving the young children their main course first and then some of the teenage girls took them off to play or do some kind of activities somewhere else so the adults could converse uninterrupted. After the main course people moved around a bit to talk to friends on other tables and I began to feel a bit lost and lonely as the people I knew moved away. The rabbis and some of the men started singing zmirot (Shabbat songs) at one table. I went over to join them, but they were mostly singing songs I didn’t know, or words I knew to tunes I didn’t know, so I couldn’t join in.
Still, on the whole it was a success and I enjoyed most of it, although I was lucky in who I was seated with.
When I left I was feeling that I needed to get away from the crowd a bit, as I had had enough of being in a big group, but it would be nice if there were one or two people I could discuss it with. I thought of going to my parents’ house to see if they were back from the dinner they went to at their shul, but I thought that if they weren’t in, it would be a twenty minute detour in the cold and dark, which I didn’t fancy (as it happens, they would not be home for another hour or so, so I did the right thing). When I got home I was feeling a bit lonely, wishing I had a wife to talk to and thinking about various things that had happened at the dinner connected with that. As I said, I was the only single adult there and many people had children there too. The assistant rabbi had given a short dvar Torah (religious thought) where he mentioned the importance of “friends, a spouse, a rov (rabbi), a community” to focus on the important things in life and I was thinking that I have these things tenuously or not at all. Likewise, the person sitting next to me (not the rabbi, on the other side) was getting annoyed that his children kept interrupting him when he tried to speak and I was thinking “If only I could be upset that my children interrupt me.”
I did my hitbodedut meditation/spontaneous prayer for about an hour, which is much longer than usual. I usually only do about ten minutes, but I felt I had a lot to say to HaShem (God), mostly about this loneliness. I was also thinking about something the assistant rabbi said in his shiur (class) this week, about the ultimate kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name) being when a person refrains from sin in private, even though no one would know what he had done. This tied in with something I have been thinking about a lot recently, from the Babylon 5 episode Comes the Inquisitor, which turns around the idea that some people would be willing to die for a cause in public, if they would become a posthumous hero, but that true heroism is willingness to die for what is right even if no one ever knows. So I was thinking a lot about what my life means if it is lived by myself, trying to do the right thing and often failing, but occasionally doing something right and whether that is good enough, even if no one else would ever know. I didn’t really come to any great conclusions.
I read for a bit after this, as I was tired, but also a bit hungry and not ready to go to sleep, needing to ‘come down’ from the dinner and also from the intensity of my hitbodedut experience. I got to bed about 1.00am, which was rather too late.
I woke up early enough to go to shul today, but I felt too depressed and exhausted after Friday, so I went back to sleep. By the time I got up it was about 1.30pm. I struggled to get going and get dressed. I davened (prayed) a tiny bit, had lunch, davened Minchah (prayed the afternoon service) and had seudah (the third Shabbat meal). The flat was very cold by this stage, even though I had the heater on a time-switch, so I went back to bed and promptly fell asleep for another hour and a half, until long past the end of Shabbat. I might have to take a sleeping tablet tonight to avoid my sleep pattern being messed up again. I’m glad I managed to clean my flat during the week, as I was supposed to do it tonight, but I’m far too lethargic to do so. I also seem to be getting a migraine. It’s a shame that today has been difficult, as yesterday was good.