Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Not this year; a sour year turned sweet

I sat out under the giant spire of the giant cathedral, sitting on a fountain sipping a Westmalle Dubel in a plastic cup.  A beer that would cost me $8 was barely 2 euros here.  I sat reading The Last Temptation as the erev got closer.

I stopped at an bank to hit an ATM.  There was an older Belgian gentleman one machine over from me.  As we tapped the keys, the buttons beeped loudly.  He said something to me in Dutch.  I gave him a wide-eyed confused look.  "Sorry," I said, "I don't speak Dutch."  I held up my finger to say "one sec" as I completed the transaction to figure out what he said to me.

After completing our respective transactions, I walked over to him.  He smiled and explained that he said to me that he hoped I wasn't listening to the beeps of his pin code.  I laughed and smiled.  I said, "good-bye, my friend."

He smiled back, and said, "Happy New Year."

My eyes grew wide, as there was nothing (other than my Hebraic countenance) to indicate I was Jewish.  I smiled big and beamed a bit and said thanks back. Bedankt.

I headed back to Phillipe's bar to get directions to the Jewish area where I could find a synagogue.  He used to live in the area, so he gave me a map and showed me the directions to where there were a few.  I hopped the 7 tram on my way to find Rosh Hashanna services.

I got off the train and walked a few blocks.  I stopped the first Orthodox fellow I saw and asked him in Hebrew where the synagogue was.  He asked which one? Ashkenazi? Sephardi?

As I was standing there, another fellow in a yarmulke walked by.  He said something to the fellow and the other guy said to come with him.  We chatted a bit, I explained what I was doing here, and how I was looking for services.  He was on his way to Chabad.

He asked what I was doing here, so I said I had been living in Paris.  He remarked, "Paris is beautiful.  Although it was much better 20 years ago."

"Why?" I asked.

"Twenty years ago, there were no Arabs and Blacks," he casually replied.

I put my hands to my ears, and looked up in the sky.

"Please. Stop." I said, as my whole countenance became downcast.

I knew then and there that the Messiah would not be coming this year.

Not that I was expecting Him.

I said,Lord, Lord, hear me prayin'
Lord, Lord, hear me prayin'
Lord, Lord, hear me prayin'
All on that day
-Nina Simone, Sinnerman

We went to the synagogue, and after a little grilling I was let in.  It was a Chabad service, not my favorite as I quickly remembered.

I can't say I enjoy the disparate nature of Chabad services.  I find no community in the scattered communal prayers with rapid mumbling of the prayers.  I enjoy the congregational services of Conservative and Reform, or Traditional, much more.  I will admit feeling a bit lost in their services; I would imagine the same if they came to one of mine.

The Young Judaean word would be ruach, spirit.  I wasn't feeling the spirit of this service.  People stopping and starting praying.  People chatting.  The fellow who brought me was discussing the diamond business with his friend.

There was a Jew from England, who had just arrived.  He had arrived to Antwerp yesterday, he was hoping to find a place to stay with the synagogue for the night.  He hadn't found one, and had been up all night.  He did not look well.  I gave him my map, and pointed out for him a nearby hostel.  It was something he could afford.  We had some coffee and discussed the differences of the service.  He didn't really understand the concept of a congregational service like I had in mind, he thought it sounds like something Christian.  I explained that it wasn't (even if it is held in a church...).

I decided I had enough, and I left.  This was the second consecutive service I left, but it was the second Chabad service.  The last one was in Rio.

I left with Madame Simone in my ear.

Where you gonna run to?

I caught the tram back to Bar Buenos Aires.  My friend Phillipe returned from the Royal Antwerp football match, and some of his friends joined.  We sat drinking gueze, a self-fermenting sour beer.

I decided to turn a sour new year sweet, so I headed back into the bar and grabbed an apple and some honey.  I sliced up the apple and brought with it a dish of the golden miel.  I explained to the Flemms that this was the Jewish New Year, and to make a new year sweet we had to eat apples and honey.  They liked the apples and honey.

I poured the remnants of the bees' treat into my sour beer and drank to a sweet new year.  Isn't that what life is all about? To turn the sour sweet?

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