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!