I attended morning minyan at Congregation Beth Shalom this morning. I arrived 10 minutes early, with Father-In-Law’s tefillin in hand. I have no idea how to put it on, but was hoping someone at the service would help me out.
I was the first to arrive, even before the lay leaders. When they let me in, I put on a tallis and simply sat for services to begin. The couple leading the service were quite nice to me, asking where I was from, if I was here for a yarzeit, etc. I explained that I am converting at the end of the month and that this was my first morning minyan experience. They were pleased and welcomed me.
The men who arrived with me as the service began did not don tefillin, so I set it aside for the time being. A 1/2 hour later, I looked behind me and saw 8-10 men who had arrived late....and they all had tefillin on. So, I did not get a chance to ask anyone to help me, but maybe another time.
The service itself was more rushed and routine than the services at Kol HaNeshamah. I have a difficult time being in a service where I feel the prayers and rituals are being rushed, in order to get out on time. But, I also understand that for a daily routine, it is just that. Routine.
But, at what point does prayer become routine? To me prayer is akin to meditation, a method to take some time to connect with Hashem and let worldly distractions go to the wayside.
These feelings aside, this morning was the most welcomed I felt at Beth Shalom. In the past, I have felt like an outsider, especially because no one would ever speak to me or my husband much. At first I thought it might the gay thing, but they have a number of same-sex couples. I realized this was an old congregation and most folks had been there for a long time, some for generations. This probably contributes to habits of being an insular community.
I did enjoy the service, and will probably return sometime this week or early next week. I am also going to join an Orthodox minyan soon, to have that experience as well.