I wish this Tisha B’Av in Los Angeles was also meaningful. Despite attending classes in preparation for the day, I found myself feeling less than prepared. When I walked into shul for Maariv, I already felt sick to my stomach and I knew I was setting myself up for failure.
I looked around the synagogue. There were only about four little old ladies sitting in seats. The rest of the women were already spread across the thick, carpeted allergy-inducing floor around the seats. I took a seat in the back. And it felt like everyone was staring at me. Or maybe I was staring at them? Perhaps, this is what my husband once called the “social” discomfort of being handicapped after his yeshiva spent a week studying disabled people and Judaism?
I piled four siddurim (prayer books) in my lap and propped them up as a makeshift book stand in my lap. I refused to get up for the Amidah figuring that if I hurt myself during that portion of the davening by standing up and holding a book in my hands, I wouldn’t be able to make it through Eichah. But as it turns out, I only barely made it through Eichah anyway.
Through Eichah, I tried to focus on the reading in front of me but found it difficult. I felt so uncomfortable high up there in my little seat. Thankfully, my husband had slipped me a book with English and Hebrew translation that was different than the two being used by the rest of the congregation. But unfortunately, I had no way of knowing where the rest of the congregation was in the reading even when the rabbi, thoughtfully, called out page numbers. Oy.
After Eichah, the davening (praying) seemed to go on forever and I couldn’t recognize any of it to find my place in my book. I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into a sadness that had nothing to do with Tisha B’Av. It had everything to do with being the girl who always had always had the right answers growing up, being dubbed by my whole family “the smart one” for most of my life, and now being Jewish and feeling like a fraud. Taken down a notch, now “the stupid one.”
When the pain finally crept its way down from my face, into my neck and nestled itself into my leg, I decided to leave. Didn’t even realize that services were almost over. I made it down the block and around the corner before I started sobbing. Feeling so confused about my place in the world. The Jewish girl, the rabbi’s wife, the convert…who knows all about Tisha B’Av but still can’t follow services. The girl who feels at home at Judaism but who, sometimes, feels so alone.