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A Whole New World
"Don't let me do anything stupid," Bonnie demanded nervously.
"You'll do great. You're wonderful," Ron assured her. "You survived Rosh Hashanah."
"I didn't have to fast for Rosh Hashanah. Do you really make this bread every year?"
"Round raisin challah? Yeah, but I can make it other times during the year if you want. Round raisin challah, honey cake, and apples and honey for a sweet new year."
"It's wonderful, but I don't know what my diet would think about it. I'm not sure about this fast thing tomorrow."
"Then don't. You're not Jewish, you don't have to."
"But I'm going to convert eventually. At least I think I am. I want to know what I'm getting into. What's tonight called again?"
"From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are the High Holy Days. Tonight is Kol Nidre, it's the start of Yom Kippur."
"If Rosh Hashanah means New Year and Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement, what exactly does Kol Nidre mean?"
"Uh… I'm really not sure. Ask the rabbi. It's some prayer or something during the service."
"Great," Bonnie muttered. "I married a Jew who flunked his catechism class."
"Yeah, but you love me anyway. Let me grab the challah from the oven and then we'll head to the Schwartz's for dinner before services."
After dinner Bonnie drove to synagogue. Ron checked a pocket. "I have the tickets."
"I think that will be the weirdest part of Judaism for me."
"Yeah, reserved seating for the holy days? I don't get it."
"Hey, the High Holy Days are the only times in the year a rabbi sees most of the congregation-"
"Christmas and Easter."
"Only time the priest sees a lot of his congregation."
"Oh yeah. Well some people only join a congregation to be sure they've got a place to sit for services… Actually we do a lot of standing. I told you that, didn't I?"
"Repeatedly. It's worse than a regular Saturday morning?"
"Lots worse. It goes all day tomorrow and you haven't had anything to eat or drink. Back to the tickets, you join to make sure you've got a place to sit. Hence the tickets."
Bonnie had never seen the parking lot so crowded when she pulled in. As she searched for a place to park Ron asked, "Did I warn you about the sermon?"
"What about the sermon?"
"Well, I don't know if you should blame the rabbi for taking advantage of the fact it's the only time during the year he'll see a lot of those people or the people who pay dues just for the High Holy Days wanting to get their money's worth, but tonight and tomorrow are the longest sermons all year."
"No, pretty sure you didn't warn me about that. But you told me about that leaving services if your parents are alive thing."
"Yizkor. A fine and noble Jewish superstition. It's a part of the service tomorrow to remember those who've died. If your parents are alive it's like wishing they were dead. The rabbis say it's a silly superstition and it's not in the Talmud or anything - but you look for any excuse you can get to leave the sanctuary for awhile tomorrow and stretch your legs."
The service was as long a Bonnie had been warned it would be, but she found the holiday trope beautiful.
"You really don't have to fast," Ron reminded her as they drove home from evening services. "Healthy Jewish adults are asked to fast, not kids, pregnant women, gentiles, or anyone with any kind of health problem."
"That's okay, Ron, I really want to do it."
"Great. If you keep the fast I have to keep the fast."
When they showed their tickets at the door the next day a nervous looking member of the worship committee pulled them to one side.
"I'm terribly embarrassed to do this, but we need to assign you to new seats."
"That's okay," Bonnie assured her. "Can I ask why?"
"The seats were kind of meant for someone else."
"I'm sorry," Ron apologized. "We didn't know. No one said we were sitting in their places last night."
"Well, no. No one would have said you were in their place. Mrs. Fruchtmann is in a nursing home and someone apparently went out last night or this morning and told her that you," she pointed to Bonnie, "were sitting in her husband's spot. I think even if you were a Jew she would have still been upset."
"There's nothing wrong with a gentile in services," Ron said hotly.
"I know, I know. You have family membership. You're entitled to a place. But Mrs. Fruchtmann has been a member for seventy years. That spot was for her and her husband."
"If her husband had asked I'd have been happy to move and give him the spot," Bonnie assured her. "I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't know. The two of you are new to the congregation. But he wouldn't ask you to give up the place you were sitting - he's been dead for years."
Ron wasn't sure if he should feel amused or angry, "What kind of meshugass is this? The wife is upset because someone was in her dead husband's seat?"
"I'm sorry, I agree with you it doesn't make sense. But she is a member and it means a great deal to her. She was upset by your wife sitting in her dead husband's spot."
Bonnie chuckled softly, "She'd have been more upset if her dead husband was sitting there."