Sunday, July 4, 2021

Cleaning a Synagogue

We went to “diner church.” This is basically when we bring the kids to breakfast and talk about a story from the Old Testament. “I like Noah,” Indy said. “Can we talk about the flood?”

But Trey had zoned off, so Mike and I mischievously told a story that directly involved Trey and Indy.

“I want you to imagine that God told Trey to take woodshop class so he could build a huge submarine at the middle school.”

“What?” Trey suddenly started laughing. “A submarine?”

“But all of the other kids thought it was crazy! And then two kinds of each animal started coming to the school! And all of the kids were like…whaaaa?”

The story went about like that until Mike made the pipes burst in the school—and it flooded while Trey and Indy stayed safely in the sub with thousands of fluffy animals (which Indy loved).

After Mike read the real story, I asked, “What did you learn?”

“That God does stuff to actually help people. He doesn’t just watch when we’re having a hard time,” Indy said. 

“Not to give into peer pressure,” Trey said, almost rolling his eyes. “But…I did sorta like the part about the submarine.”

“Elisa,” Mike said, shutting the Bible, “you’ve wanted to see the synagogue. Why don’t we go?”

It’s been a running joke now. Since I announced to friends and family that I don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, I’ve often said, “I believe in the Old Testament: I’d probably make a pretty good Jew.” Even if I do regret announcing my beliefs to the world, because it made me a sitting target, like advertising, “Hey, I’m the weak one in the herd,” I guess it’s helped me sort SOME things out.

“They have services on Fridays. Today isn’t a Friday,” I said.

But we ended up finding their schedule online, and can you believe it was their annual cleaning day—at that very moment—and the rabbi would be there from out of town! “You guys want to stop and ask a couple of questions?” I asked.

“I’m staying in the car,” Trey said when we got there. He’s definitely an independent, strong teenager.

“No, you’re coming with us,” Mike said. So, all four of us nervously edged inside and realized that only a few people had shown up to their annual cleaning day.  

“God brought you here!” A jolly looking man practically appeared—out of nowhere—then handed us brooms, dustpans, and rags. “Here’s the list of what we need cleaned.” 

Trey looked at me, dumbfounded as two people herded us into a vast meeting area where the floor needed to be stripped, swept, and scrubbed.

The first man gave us our marching orders. “Wait,” I said, “we’re so happy to be here helping, but I have some questions about Judaism and your services.”

“The rabbi will come talk to you in a little while.”

And he left. So, Mike scraped plastic from the floor, Trey and I swept, and Indy scrubbed. I can’t describe what happened as we quietly worked on that massive room, but the kids must’ve been too stunned to even complain, and after a while, I felt an amazing peace rolling over me. 

It took quite a while, and I’m embarrassed to say I sat down at one point because I felt so weak from the cancer, but just being there seemed so…healing.  

The rabbi finally came in. I told him about my cancer. “We love our Baptist church. I’ll always bring the kids there on Sundays, but this…coming to find out more about Judaism…is for me.”

“The next meeting is Friday, July 9. You can come and see what you think.” 

I told him how it seems like I’ve been on a beautiful vacation that was supposed to last a month and now it’ll be over in a few days. “There’s so much left I want to do. But now I have to figure what’s most important and what I have time for.”

“Well, we’re certainly glad you made time to come here today. We really needed the help.”

As we drove home, the kids talked about how great it felt cleaning the synagogue. “They even let me paint some of the bathroom!” Indy squealed.

Trey nodded. “Yeah, they REALLY needed us. I’m glad we went.”

I just smiled. I’m grateful we showed up when we did. That feeling of peace (and even healing) as we cleaned, well, I’ll never forget it.

Sometimes things just work out the way they’re supposed to.

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