The story of my first visit to a Shul

The first time I visited a Shul, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d read countless articles about services, and how to behave, and even what it would be like- but I still had no idea what my experience would be.

As far as first times go, it was pretty great. I loved it. I felt close to G-d, and close to the people around me. I was amazed, star-struck even. Suddenly, everything looked and felt very different. But over time, things changed. I began to feel the odd one out; the black sheep. I was worried about the finer points of Halacha; they weren’t. I acted in a way which at first was marked as decidedly strange, but I later realised was traditional. I was acting like an Orthodox Jew in a non Orthodox Synagogue.

So, I moved on. I found an Orthodox Synagogue. It was beautiful, if quite far away, and I loved it. Some of the best people I’ve met have been from that amazingly beautiful Shul. But it wasn’t for me. I realised pretty quickly that I get on better in a hemishe environment; somewhere were everyone knows everyone, the Kiddush caters for 20 people (not 200), and we sit on separated by a mechitza, as opposed to up on a grand balcony! Eventually, I found just the place.

My change of direction was accompanied by an increasing interest in Chabad Chassidism. I was amazed to find a Chabad house just a couple of miles away from me. I stumbled access it by accident, and was astounded that I’d never thought of going there before. It was perfect for me. I ended up switching immediately, and I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Modern Orthodoxy is great, and there’s a lot to be said about it. But I found that it’s very best attributes- innovation, and embracing modern technology, to name just two- are also shared by Chabad Chassidism. Additionally, I greatly admire Chabad’s kiruv work, and in my experience, Chabad feels so much more hemishe and close knit than modern Orthodoxy. I could write all day about why I love Chabad so much; I think I’ll have to dedicate a post to why I chose Chabad!


2 thoughts on “The story of my first visit to a Shul

  1. This is how I’ve felt as well. Converts and conversion candidates are called on to hold to a pretty strict interpretation of halakhah both to complete their conversion and after. That is SO much easier for me if I’m in an environment where that is a goal for everyone than if I’m an odd duck in a shul that is much more permissive. I feel more comfortable with the level of tznius I must hold and my hair fully covered if that’s either more the norm where I am or at least the goal that most of the women are working toward. Yet, at the same time, I don’t feel like I can choose to completely disengage from the world, as appealing as that sometimes seems.

    I love the way that Chabadniks open their arms to all Jews, accepting them where they are, yet also strive to hold true to Torah for themselves. They very much engage with the modern world, yet also are bold enough to choose not to give in to its pressures. I really feel like that’s an Orthodoxy that I can find balance in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now, I am torn in two when it comes to Chabad. I don’t want to say anything against them, but be wary- things aren’t always what they seem. I can’t go into the topic on a public comment, maybe later I’ll tell you more… 😉


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